US Embassy policy on human rights 'exposed'
Manama, May 18, 2014
A basic flaw in the way the US embassy compiles its controversial human rights reports on Bahrain has been exposed by a former assistant to the ambassador.
Embassy insider Mohammed Abdulhameed Kayani has broken his decade-long silence to reveal exclusively to the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, how Washington's diplomatic mission in Bahrain is really run.
The 39-year-old Bahraini decided to speak out about what goes on behind closed doors at the embassy after reading the latest annual US State Department Bahrain Country Report on Human Rights, "which is biased and unsurprisingly comes as no great shock to me," he said.
Kayani was a political assistant at the US embassy in Zinj during the later half of 2002.
His role saw him attend anti-government rallies and meet opposition figures to compile reports on the political situation in Bahrain - which made him feel like "a spy in his own country," he told the GDN.
This year's US report, which was put together using information sent back to Washington by the embassy in Manama, first hit the headlines in March when activists and legislators hit out at its lack of credibility and transparency.
Then, earlier this month, the Interior Ministry produced its own response debunking the "totally ludicrous" report point-by point.
Kayani said it was "typical" of the embassy to produce a report without "verifying the facts on the ground".
An over-reliance on locally recruited labour - who are too easily influenced by the opposition's agenda and hold too much sway over the US government's official view of Bahrain - lies at the heart of the problem, according to the former political assistant, he pointed out.
"Having worked as a political assistant with the US Embassy earlier this millennium, I know the amount of misinformation the US State Department is fed from its local satellite in Bahrain," he said.
Institutionalised bias towards the opposition was a real problem for the embassy during his time there, Kayani claimed, as the then ambassador - Ronald Neumann - received the majority of his information about the political situation in Bahrain from an attache, who in turn relied on the political assistant.
Because the assistant was hired locally and had the sole responsibility of monitoring the Arabic media, this person could potentially wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the US government's official view of Bahrain, stated Kayani.
"According to protocol at the US Embassy, all local media is monitored by a political assistant, who is recruited locally," he said.
"It is his job to read all newspapers starting with Al Wasat first - orders from above - and file all information pertaining to Bahrain's political arena and any other subject pertaining to the US and its policies in the region," revealed Kayani.
"My analysis and reading into events was equally important as the political attache's, as he would scribble down notes to compile his own submissions to his bosses.
It reached a point where I was convinced if I had told him it was cloudy with a chance of meatballs, he would have probably stood out in the yard, knife and fork in hand!"
Kayani described his job role as "the official feeler for all political happenings taking place in Bahrain."
"From monitoring elections to attending opposition rallies, I was the guide and he (the attache) the tourist," he said.
"It is not rocket science then, that if a political assistant belongs to an anti-government inclined sect, his reports will be biased against the government."
When the time came to compile the annual human rights report on Bahrain, Kayani said his superiors would insist on interviewing so-called "political prisoners" and focusing mostly on the views of the opposition.
The resulting reports were almost always "opposition heavy," he said.
"From a neutral point of view, if you hired a Sunni, the outcome would probably be the same, albeit the report would probably be more a case of 'business as usual.'
"It is high time the US State Department realised that its country reports are highly flawed, and only as good as the people who compile them.
"In this case, unsubstantiated evidence and total opposition propaganda."
Kayani left the embassy after a matter of months for greener pastures, mostly because he "did not feel entirely comfortable with the nature of the job I was being asked to do," he said.
"I personally found it to be teetering on borderline treason," he remarked.
The US embassy was embroiled in its fair share of controversy in the months leading up to Kayani's appointment.
In April 2002 the then ambassador, Neumann, was censured for requesting a minute's silence in solidarity with Israeli civilians at the opening of the Bahrain Model United Nations Assembly.
Later that same month, riots took place in front of the embassy resulting in the death of protester Mohammed Jumaa.
Despite repeated attempts, no one from the US Embassy was available for comment when contacted by the GDN.-TradeArabia News Service