Expats in Bahrain ‘living in climate of fear’
Manama, January 23, 2013
Bahrain's expatriates say they are living in a climate of "fear and panic" as a result of never-ending street violence, according to a report.
They claim some areas have become "no-go zones" and many were forced to move house to ensure the safety of their families, added the report published in our sister newspaper the Gulf Daily News.
Their concerns, documented by the Bahrain Federation of Expatriate Associations (BFEA), have been submitted as evidence to a major parliamentary inquiry.
Due to start in the House of Commons shortly, it was set up to investigate how London deals with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Scores of top international British figures who have lived and worked in the Gulf - including diplomats and retired military officials - have already submitted extensive written evidence to the inquiry.
"Tyres are burnt everyday and incendiary devices placed at major junctions and highways around key traffic routes, creating serious traffic delays and producing dangerous toxic fumes," said the BFEA in its evidence.
"Another tactic that generates fear is the constant attacks on police patrols with Molotovs. As these patrols operate on highways and within residential areas, this often means there are incidents where civilians are inadvertently hit by Molotovs.
"However, it becomes more sinister when a driver or passer-by refuses to remain in place and tries to flee to safety while they are subjected to a proximal tyre burning and this often results in them being attacked directly by the rioters.
"There have been several documented cases of expatriate families being attacked in their motor vehicles by heavy rocks, iron rods and Molotovs.
"Vandalism and defacing of people's properties and cars are increasingly common, along with destruction of traffic lights, street lights, garbage trucks and vile graffiti on churches, schools and community property. Blowing up of gas cylinders has resulted in some residential areas becoming virtual 'no-go zones' for expatriates, who are forced to relocate at great cost to themselves to ensure the safety of their families."
BFEA said while incidents of street violence passed without major consequences at first, they had recently become more sinister.
"Warning notices to expatriates have been placed in some villages," it said. "This was followed by indiscriminate placing and detonation of bombs and incendiary devices.
"On November 5 last year five such devices were placed in areas predominantly populated by expatriates and these were detonated without any warning. Tragically, this led to the death of two expatriates, the serious injury of another, damage to several vehicles and community property.
"The discovery of other similar devices in the days that followed led to a climate of fear and panic."
BFEA says many expatriates were now considering whether to stay in Bahrain while some have already left for other Gulf countries or returned home.
"This has been a very difficult decision for some families as many have been in Bahrain for decades. Many are well-established members of the community and have invested heavily in properties, businesses, seen their children born and raised in Bahrain and very much feel safe, valued and comfortable," it said.
"If this continues, it will leave a great void in the community - both socially and economically."
According to BFEA, expatriate businesses have reported severe losses due to the effect of the violence and bankruptcy was a realistic threat for many.
"Many expatriates bought properties in Bahrain with a view to becoming permanent residents," it said. "Due to the unrest, these developments have halted and many have lost their life savings as a result. Many have no other funds and no other home and they fear for their family's future."
The BFEA said more than 600,000 expatriates are living in Bahrain, making up 51 per cent of the total population, but their views were often not considered.
"Among other consequences, this disparity in presenting facts accurately, thoroughly and impartially leads to a gross level of confusion for those not present in Bahrain which is ultimately damaging Bahrain's image in the outside world," it said. – TradeArabia News Service
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