US Rep Jim McGovern Issues Statement on Refusal of Bahraini Government to Grant Him Access to Bahrain


Date: Aug. 21, 2014
Issues: Foreign Affairs

Rep. McGovern expressed disappointment at the news that the Bahraini government refused to grant him a guarantee of access to Bahrain.

"Not allowing me access to Bahrain serves to prove that the Bahraini ruling elite does not believe in its own claims of progress toward peace and reform. As became evident with the recent expulsion of the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Tom Malinowski, Bahraini government seeks full control over the narrative about their country and does not tolerate any voices of dissent. I was eager to meet with all sides of the tensions in Bahrain, to gather first-hand accounts from all perspectives. It seems, however, the Bahraini government was afraid that the reality on the ground will differ too much from the reality they try to paint to the American public here in the U.S."

"Silencing disagreement has been an eagerly used tactic by the Bahraini government, both domestically and internationally. They did not want me to meet with the representatives of Bahraini opposition, likely, out of fear that meeting with a U.S. official could further boost their legitimacy. But preventing me from traveling to Bahrain is a senseless and unproductive step. With or without me in the country, silencing opposition will never work as an effective strategy for long-term peace and stability."

"The U.S. has a direct interest in stability in Bahrain -- our Fifth Fleet is stationed there. Therefore, we cannot continue turning a blind eye to Bahrain's reluctance to engage in a meaningful dialogue with its opposition. The need for a meaningful dialogue is urgent. But with key opposition and civil society leaders in jail and with no senior government officials present at the table, the dialogue that would deliver long lasting solutions is impossible. History teaches us time and time again -- we need to seize a chance for a peaceful political solution, while one is still possible."

Rep. McGovern recently made several requests to Bahrain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a guarantee of access to Bahrain for himself, one of his staff, and Brian Dooley, Director of the Human Rights Defenders program at Human Rights First. Rep. McGovern planned a fact-finding mission and sought to engage in discussions of the current situation with all involved parties -- Bahraini government, opposition, and civil society organizations. Bahrain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed to provide a guarantee that Rep. McGovern would be able to travel to Bahrain.