Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Going back to the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Duarte Pacheco's first visit to Bahrain, one can realize what the government wishes to promote by hosting the 146th Assembly of the Union on its land.
"We are in a country witnessing a democratic renaissance." This is what former Speaker of Parliament Fawzia Zainal told her guest Pacheco (November 6, 2022) when she received him at the House of Representatives, which does not represent the Bahraini people but rather the ruling family.
Bahrain's ruling family determines which loyal citizens are eligible to run and vote, and prevents political parties from running in their sham elections.
Bahrain's democratic renaissance means that opposition political parties have no place in the political sphere, and that tens of thousands are barred from casting their ballots in elections that are tailored to those who govern.
The government dissolved Al-Wefaq, the largest opposition party, along with Wa'ad and the Islamic Action Society, and removed their supporters from voters' lists, even after it distributed constituencies in a way that deprived them of their real representation in parliament.
Is this the democracy promoted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union? Does Pacheco know that democracy is nothing more than a charade in Bahrain? Or was the man dazzled by the royal hospitality, so he worked to promote what the government wanted to achieve from hosting this conference?
Pacheco attempted to parrot the claims of the Bahraini authorities that the country is a shining example of peaceful coexistence and an ideal place for discussions on combating intolerance.
However, the question remains: does Bahrain's reality match these assertions?
A country cannot be deemed as combating extremism if its school curricula contains Takfir content, declaring the majority of its population as infidels and inciting against them. Similarly, the government media cannot claim to combat extremism when they accuse the Shiite community of treachery on a daily basis and incite to strip them of their civil and political rights.
In the country that Pacheco claims is an appropriate place to fight intolerance, the security forces are trained with the belief that Shiites are infidels and that they are a threat to the security and future of the country, and on that basis foreign forces are brought in to confront them.
Then, is it possible to fight intolerance by demolishing Shiite mosques, depriving them of practicing their religious rites, arresting their religious and political figures, while forcing others into exile?
Pacheco is undoubtedly aware of the numerous human rights violations and lack of freedoms in Bahrain, as evidenced by international reports and indicators. However, he has chosen to align himself with the ruling regime and has failed to uphold fundamental values.
The President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union was in or on his way to Bahrain when His Holiness Pope Francis was calling for constitutional obligations to be put into practice so that "religious freedom is complete" and equality of dignity and opportunity is achieved as well as "effective recognition of every group", and so that any form of discrimination disappears, and human rights are not violated.
While His Holiness was not swayed by the luxurious royal hospitality and remained committed to defending his principles, Pacheco may have been impressed by the hospitality of the ruling family and missed the chance to uphold the principles of his union.