Royal wedding invite angers Bahrain activists

Activists condemn Al-Khalifa's invite to British royal wedding, which comes in midst of bloody crackdown on protests.

    British royals with Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa aboard a British naval vessel off Bahrain coast in 2007 [EPA]

    The crown prince of Bahrain will not be attending the wedding of the UK's Prince William and Kate Middleton in London next week, as criticism of the violent suppression of opposition protesters continues.

    Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, was one of more than 40 foreign royals invited to attend the British royals' wedding in Westminster Abbey on Friday.

    Human rights advocates, however, were quick to condemn the decision to invite al-Khalifa to the ceremony.

    A palace spokesperson announced on Sunday that Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa cannot attend the nuptials, though he declined to provide details.

    Al Jazeera's report on the controversial monarchs on the UK royal guest list

    Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera that protesters were expecting the British to take a "tough stance," rather than invite those accused of grievous human rights abuses to the high-profile celebrations.

    "Calling our crown prince at a time when people are being killed … for demanding their political rights and peacefully protesting, is extremely disappointing," he said in a phone interview.

    "They're losing the hearts and minds of the people in this region."

    Like similar protests movements across the Middle East and North Africa, Bahraini demonstrators have been demanding democracy, human rights and freedom of speech since mid-February.

    Al-Khalifa's regime has responded to the calls for constitutional monarchy by deploying massive numbers of troops.

    Hundreds of doctors, nurses, teachers, unionists have been beaten, sacked or forcibly disappeared in recent days, Rajab said.

    "Unfortunately I'm banned from travelling otherwise I'd be travelling there [to London] to protest outside the wedding," Rajab said.

    In Bahrain, where a Sunni minority monopolises the political power, the government has cast the popular revolt in a sectarian light, arguing that the Shia majority is being supported by Iran and Hezbollah. 

    Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent security forces to Bahrain to help crush the uprising.

    Royal invitees from elsewhere in the Arab world include heads of state from Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Kuwait.

    Reacting to al-Khalifa's inclusion on the guest list, a spokesperson for Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organisation, told Al Jazeera that there has been a "dramatic deterioration" in human rights conditions in Bahrain over the past month.

    "We would expect any government hosting senior representatives of the Bahraini government to use this opportunity to press strongly and publicly for the government to halt its crackdown on freedom of expression, which has included the arrest of at least 500 people, whose whereabouts are in most cases unknown," he said.

    Amnesty International has called on North American and European governments to be as vocal about human rights in their small Gulf ally as they have been in support of opposition uprisings in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.

    "Do you accept that the murderer of his people Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa heaping among the guests at a royal wedding on the land of Britain?" wrote Y-Shaheen El Heloo, an activist who contacted Al Jazeera via email.

    Activists on Twitter were also vocal concerning the invite.

    "I call on people of conscious all over the world to condemn the invitation of #Bahrain's prince to #RoyalWedding," @MariaSelba wrote.

    @tunis_demor, meanwhile, asked: "Can concerned Britons get #Bahrain Crown Prince arrested at the #royalwedding using universal jurisdiction law?"

    On Friday, Physicians for Human Rights, a US-based NGO, issued a report condemning Bahraini security forces of "systematic attacks" on medical staff.

    Al-Wefaq, the leading Shia opposition party, accused the authorities of razing some 30 Shia holy sites since it imposed martial law last month, many of them historic buildings.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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