Editorial: A Successful Campaign
2022-11-04 - 8:30 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The Bahraini government's attempts to exploit the Pope's visit to polish its black record and portray itself as an incubator of tolerance and religious pluralism have failed. Anyone who watched the coverage of the Pope's arrival by news agencies and international media outlets is well aware of the government's failed attempts.
Bahrain's proactive opposition campaign has succeeded in putting its concerns on Pope Francis' visit schedule and preventing the regime from singling him out and making him a coverup for its violations. On the other hand, the "slumbering" state media was forced to enter the media battle, but found itself late and fell into a defensive position.
The opposition media and the human rights community created a cumulative wave that reached the most important media outlets and international press, which led the Pope to address in his speech the need to respect human rights, abolish executions, and stop religious and sectarian discrimination, exactly as stipulated in the Bahraini Constitution. As a result, the main piece of news today and yesterday in the international media was about human rights and discrimination against Bahrain's Shiites and not as the regime planned the visit to be, i.e. an opportunity to present itself as a patron of religious pluralism.
The Pope's speech was better than expected by the most optimistic, and even members of the Gulf ecclesiastical community, such as Bishop Paul Hinder, expected the Pope's advice, if given, would be in private sessions. However, the Pope chose to speak out after witnessing a rising wave of violations by the Bahraini regime, especially since there are 60 journalists who accompanied him on the plane, some of whom have covered the papal activities since the 1970s.
The Pope went further and tackled the unjust war of Yemen in which Bahrain is participating, stating frankly: "I address a special and heartfelt thought to Yemen, tormented by a forgotten war which, like any war, does not lead to any victory, but only to bitter defeats for all [...] let their weapons be silent, let us commit ourselves everywhere and truly for peace." The Pope said all this in the presence of the Bahraini king, who has sent his two sons with his jets to attack and starve the people of Yemen. The Pope even stated that he "prays for Yemeni civilians, children, the elderly and the sick."
The opposition's activity was not limited to media reports, but the Pope was officially handed letters from knowledgeable Bahraini bodies explaining to him the situation of the country and the magnitude of the oppression that a large sect is suffering, not to mention that only last year he had met with the supreme Shia authority in Najaf. Meanwhile, the regime has failed to summon any acceptable local or regional Shiite leadership to the occasion and has limited itself to the same pariah scholars, whom the regime can control and is used to inviting to such occasions.
Instead of enjoying positive coverage, the "slumbering" state media and spokespersons found themselves busy responding to Al Jazeera and other channels and answering their intense questions, most of which concerning human rights violations and persecution of Shiites. The Bahraini king himself was even forced to make a statement after midnight to comment on the Pope's speech and say that "Bahrain is dedicated to affirm, maintain and abide by human rights."
The state media who had intended to remain quiet appeared to be floundering and deeply provoked. The appearance of Al-Bilad naturalized Yemeni correspondent, Ibrahim Al-Naham, on BBC was one of the most miserable and pathetic appearances. He was extremely triggered to the extent that he exposed his blatant ignorance when he said, "I should correct you; Bahrain is a kingdom, not a state." The BBC broadcaster replied by saying: "Thank you for the correction, but the kingdom is a country as well," which turned him into a mockery.
The Bahraini regime wanted to make the Pope's visit a promotion of a false image of itself, but what happened was quite the contrary, as the visit was an opportunity for the opposition to explain their position as well. The diplomacy on which millions have been spent as well as the tactics of currying favor with religious institutions in the world for advertising purposes, such as launching the "King Hamad Chair for Coexistence" at an Italian university and the establishment of the "King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence", were all for nothing and made useless in the Sakhir Palace yesterday after the Pope's words sounded like a bomb whose impact reached screens across the world and occupied the headlines of news agencies.