Leaked documents show that a British research institute has been receiving millions of pounds in cash from Bahrain over the past five years, despite the fact that the Al Khalifah regime is under international criticism over its widespread human rights violations.
According to a report published by the Guardian on Tuesday, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which is a global think tank researching political and military conflicts, is accused of undermining its independence and secretly receiving 25 million pounds from the government in Manama since 2011.
The confidential documents indicated that the research institute and the Bahraini royals agreed to “take all necessary steps” to keep most of the donations secret.
Reports said the sum accounts for more than a quarter of IISS’s income
The Bahraini donations have allegedly been used to fund an IISS office in the Arab kingdom, and to finance annual conferences on Middle East politics attended by the country’s heads of state and other international figures.
The London-based institute has dismissed the reports.
The revelation comes at a time when the British Prime Minister Theresa May is on a two-day visit to Bahrain to expand ties with the Persian Gulf country following Brexit. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is also due to deliver a speech at an annual conference in the Bahraini capital of Manama on Friday.
Organized by IISS, the Friday conference is called the “Manama Dialogue”, and as the documents show it is “the central pillar” of discussions about security in the Middle East.
“The Bahraini government is willing to spend so much on the IISS and the Manama Dialogues because they allow the government to portray itself as modern, liberal and business-friendly, in contradiction to the evidence of torture, abuse and political disenfranchisement that has been so well documented by countless credible organizations already,” Bahrain Watch human rights advocacy group said.
“Any organization should be concerned about receiving donations of such a large sum from a single donor, but they should be even more concerned when that donor is an autocratic government with such a terrible track record for human rights,” it noted. “Although the IISS will claim that it has maintained its independence, the facts suggest otherwise. Almost 30% of the Bahraini delegates at the 2015 Manama Dialogue were members of the Al Khalifa royal family.”
Manama has spared no effort to clamp down on the dissent and rights activists. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to Bahrain to assist the Manama government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown on anti-regime activists.
Bahrainis protest London support for regime
In a separate report on Tuesday, people in Bahrain held protest rallies to condemn Britain’s continued support for the Manama regime despite its appalling human rights record.
The protesters in the Abu Saiba village in Bahrain’s north shouted anti-UK slogans and trampled on the British flag following May’s visit to the Arab kingdom.
Aside from aiding Bahrain in its ongoing crackdown, Britain has drawn great criticism for striking major arms deals with Saudi Arabia, despite the regime’s months-long bloody military onslaught against neighboring Yemen.
Several human rights groups have urged May to raise concerns about rights violations in Bahrain where the Saudi-backed regime forces have been unleashing a brutal crackdown on dissent since 2011.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since, with scores of people being killed, and thousands including several rights defenders imprisoned.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.