Here's something interesting that was in the GDN a few days ago. Apparently, the now-dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights will be sending a shadow report (to accompany the government's official submission) to be considered during the session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in Geneva next month.
Below are some of the points made in the shadow report, as reported in the GDN on Jan 26:
"In reality, the authorities have not taken effective legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures to give full effect to provisions of the convention [on the elimination of racial discrimination]," says the shadow report.
"The national legislation does not contain explicit provisions prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic and national origin.
"The convention is not yet invoked before the courts.
"There are no special mechanisms to monitor the application of guarantees of non-discrimination laid down in the law."
Those behind the shadow report say no progress has been made in establishing a National Human Rights Committee to monitor the fulfilment of Bahrain's obligations under the convention.
They also criticised the process of obtaining Bahraini citizenship because of distinctions between Arab and non-Arab applicants; the fact that a Bahraini woman cannot pass on her nationality to her child if she marries a foreigner; and alleged discrepancies in awarding passports to foreigners depending on their gender.
"In connection with the implementation of article seven of the convention, there have been no serious efforts to intensify human rights education and training of law enforcement officers, teachers, social workers and public servants," continues the shadow report.
It also criticises the treatment of foreign workers, whose lives may differ considerably depending on where they come from.
This is especially true for domestic workers, such as housemaids, who are not even covered by the Labour Law, it says.
"The law guarantees equal status to all workers," says the shadow report.
"In practice, migrant workers coming from developed countries enjoy higher wages and better privileges than [Bahraini] citizens of the same job and qualifications.
"On the other hand, migrants coming from developing and poor countries receive lower privileges.
"Moreover, there are around 45,000 so-called free-visa workers who are considered outlaws and live at the mercy of their sponsors, who sell them black-market work visas and charge them a monthly ransom to stay in the country."
I commend the BCHR on this report. Judging from these excerpts, the shadow report seems to be quite a comprehensive account of the various forms of racial discrimination that exist in Bahrain, and more worryingly, that the government has not yet taken enough serious steps to change the situation. I'm going to try to get my hands on a copy of the full report... if any of you have it, please drop me an email. I hope the government (and our as-of-yet useless parliament) begins to think seriously on all of the points listed in the report, rather than deny them as being untrue or exaggerations.
On that note, whatever happened to the draft law demanding an end to sectarian discrimination in the ministries of defence and interior? On June 9, 2004 it was reported that the parliament approved of the draft law, only to be withdrawn in October. I was hoping that it had just been deferred for rewording, but I haven't heard any news of it since. Does anyone know if the law ever made it back in any shape or form?
And here's a perfect example of the deeply ingrained racial discrimination that exists here. Some Bahraini workers held a demonstration at the Ministry of Labour last week complaining about being underpaid. One of the workers, Saeed Al Eskafi was quoted in the GDN as saying:
"The company only gives BD100 as basic salary and BD100 for accommodation, as if we were expatriates."
It is these types of irresponsible and unchecked statements that I feel are the most dangerous. Obviously, the government alone can not solve all of Bahrain's racial problems. Families and community leaders also have to recognize the problem and step up.