Bahrain is a place I know well, having lived there for a year from 2003 to 2004. Therefore, when I read Fahad Desmukh’s article in the ‘Guardian’ from 18 June 2011, it wasn’t difficult to agree with him when he wrote that the Al-Khalifa regime is “trying to pit abused foreign workers and working-class Bahrainis against each other to justify its brutality,” and that this new concern by the regime for “its” expats welfare stands in stark contrast to its lack of outrage in the past when those same foreign workers have suffered from abuse by their employers.
Nevertheless, representing 54% of Bahrain’s resident population, and constituting the bulk of the workforce, this, mostly south Asian, population has been viewed with animosity by many in the Shia community and to some extent their attitudes vis-a-vis the Pakistanis, who are employed in the riot police and military in large numbers, while the Shiite “majority” in Bahrain is excluded from the security forces, can be understood. Indeed, opposition activists estimate that up to half of Bahrain’s approximately 20,000-strong national security apparatus is made up of Sunnis from Pakistan, Jordan and Yemen.
Nevertheless, 10,000 mercenaries do not represent the expat community in Bahrain and it is important for everyone in Bahrain to unite against the real enemy. That enemy is the Al-Khalifa elite, which with the help of its friends in the GCC, Washington and London, will divide and rule and ride out the storm of protest by “implementing cosmetic changes. However, in order to unite against the common exploiter it is important for expat workers to recognise that their interests lie in joining the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), it is important for that organisation to protect the rights all of its workers, including ensuring that no migrant worker can be deported for joining a union, and it is essential that all attacks, attacks which only help the Al-Khalifa regime, on migrant workers stop immediately.