Finally, Finian Cunningham explains the relationship between Britain and the Bahraini Royal Family.
Back in 2002 my partner worked in Bahrain for 6 months and I went over there with him. It was an uncomfortable time for me, a Western woman with time on her hands. I soon discovered that it wasn’t a good idea to walk around the streets in western dress unaccompanied by a man.To do so brought overt disapproval from Arab men, some of whom would spit in the gutter as I passed. I once attempted to order a meal in a restaurant and was told they didn’t serve unaccompanied women. I understood for the first time from first hand experience what discrimination felt like, But not all Arab men were so prejudiced and we made some good friends, not just Bahrainis but Iraqis, Iranians and Jordanians, even a few Saudis who would travel over to the island at weekends because at the time there was no ban on alcohol. We also met a lot of expats from all over the world – Americans, Australians, South Africans – it was a very strange episode for me. We were there in the hiatus between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq and there was a sense of impending change, of one era ending and another more uncertain era beginning. We were living in a district of Manamar called Juffair which was close to where the US Fifth Fleet were stationed. A nearby bar we frequented was always full of off duty American military personnel. They were generous with their money and tight lipped with information but it became obvious that more and more of them were being deployed there and they were nervous and jumpy. There was always a contingent of Military Police hanging around keeping a watchful eye on them.
The ordinary man in the street Bahrainis we met, even then, were unhappy with the Royal Family. At that time there was no hint of organised protests although once they got to know us better they confided stories of ‘disappeared’ people and political prisoners. I was glad to leave, to be honest, which we did in the August before the Iraq invasion the following March.