President Donald Trump wants to temporarily ban refugees and immigrants coming from predominantly Muslim countries. But he has made some notable exceptions, mostly comprising of Muslim nations with which he shares either business or political interests.
In fact, if a Muslim-majority country benefits Trump in any way, he is even willing to ignore factors like human rights violations. The most recent example in this regard is that of Bahrain — a small, but wealthy, Arab monarchy in the Persian Gulf.
Here’s how the U.S. Department of State describes the state of human rights in Bahrain:
“The most serious human rights problems included citizens’ limited ability to change their government peacefully; lack of due process in the legal system, including arrests without warrants or charges and lengthy pretrial detentions, used especially in cases against opposition members and political or human rights activists; and restrictions on free expression and assembly.
“Societal discrimination continued against the Shia population, as did other forms of discrimination based on gender, religion, and nationality. The government at times imposed travel bans on political activists in conjunction with arrest charges and in some cases continued to enforce them after authorities had dropped charges or pardoned the individual.”
Other issues include lack of judicial accountability and labor workforce abuse.
Yet, in spite of the aforementioned human rights violations, the Trump administration is reportedly set to sell 19 Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft and related equipment worth $5 billion to Bahrain.
Now, although former President Barack Obama said “America is a close friend of Bahrain,” his administration had pulled the arms sale due to the dismal state of Bahrain’s human rights record.
However, things have changed now that Trump is in charge.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has notified Congress that the State Department “intends to waive human rights conditions attached to the sale of fighter jets to Bahrain,” CNN reported, citing Senate Foreign Relations spokeswoman Micah Johnson.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the POTUS is notorious for his willingness to associate with autocracies, especially the ones that like to punish free press.
Bahrain is a Shiite-majority nation that’s run by a Saudi-backed Sunni monarchy, which has been in power since 1783 and controls all political and military affairs. As mentioned in the State Department’s excerpt above, friction simmered between the masses and ruling family for years over unequal rights and distribution of power and the situation spiraled out of control in 2011 when the Arab Spring reached Bahrain.
The Shiite majority began a civil disobedience against its rulers and since then there have been many anti-government protests and attempts by the government to quell those protests. As a result, freedom of speech has suffered a great deal in the country.
Journalists face a five-year jail term if the royal family deems anything that’s offensive to its name or religion. Since 2011, several journalists and bloggers have been jailed. In 2014, Reporters Without Borders even described Bahrain as the "kingdom of disinformation,” adding the country to its "Enemies of the Internet" list.
Since Trump also likes to discredit critical press and spread conspiracy theories as “news” to further his agenda, it is understandable why, despite his Islamophobic leanings, he is willing to overlook Bahrain’s vices to strike military deals that will benefit his administration.