14 November 2018 – Today is the first day of the Bahrain International Airshow (BIAS) which runs until Friday. We at Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) are concerned by the participation of a number of companies in the airshow, which may amount to implicit support for the Bahraini government. The government has been condemned by international human rights organizations for committing widespread and systematic human rights abuses, as well as by members of Congress in the United States and parliamentarians in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the European Parliament for suppressing civil and political societies and restricting fundamental rights.

There are dozens of companies participating in the airshow, among them Airbus, BAE Systems, Bose Products, DHL, Xerox, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce. But we are particularly worried about the participation of the Arizona Commerce Authority – the State of Arizona’s “leading economic development organization” which is overseen by the governor – and the State of Missouri. States and their commerce and development departments and agencies should not use taxpayer money to support foreign governments, like Bahrain’s, that have been credibly accused of jailing political prisoners, human rights defenders, targeting journalists, and engaging in systematic torture of dissidents. To that end, we have sent letters to a number of the corporations attending, as well as the Arizona Commerce Authority and the State of Missouri requesting they halt their support for the airshow and their assistance to the Bahraini government.

“The Bahraini government regularly uses international events, among them the Formula 1 race and the Bahrain International Airshow, as a way to showcase its open-ness to business and cooperation with international corporations and business norms and to divert attention from, and whitewash, its systematic human rights abuses,” says Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The timing of the airshow this year is even more concerning because it comes only 10 days before the country’s parliamentary elections, which will not be, and cannot be, free or fair, due to the government’s systematic suppression of civil society and political opposition groups.”

Given these circumstances, we are increasingly worried that the Bahraini government is using the airshow as a cover against its rights abuses, and that participating companies and government bodies are assisting this whitewashing. We urge all participants to re-evaluate their engagement with the airshow and publicly condemn the Bahraini government’s human rights abuses.