Who's Responsible for Keeping Hundreds of Bahrainis in Iran for Over a Month?

2020-03-24 - 8:23 p

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Despite the campaigns launched by families of Bahrainis stranded in Iran, which were joined by dozens of activists, the government of Bahrain doesn't seem to be concerned about bringing them back. It has become clear that every time it uses excuses to keep the citizens suffering there without letting them know why.

Since the coronavirus outbreak in Iran last month, neighboring gulf countries have rapidly evacuated their nationals and provided them with the best possible health care. This happened with nationals of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait, where citizens of these countries who were in Iran were checked in decent and sometimes luxurious hotels or resorts, even with the lack of tourists, which means that most hotels would be empty.

Meanwhile, Bahrain has done nothing. It ignored the threat its citizens in Iran face and did not evacuate them. Due to the cancellation of commercial flights to/from Iran by Gulf airlines (via which Bahrainis travelled to Iran), some managers of religious tour groups have attempted to charter private planes to send the visitors from Iran to Bahrain directly. They; however, were surprised by the fact that Bahraini authorities refused to give them permission to land in Bahrain. A number of officials argued that they did not have places dedicated to such a big number of citizens who will be subject to mandatory quarantine.

Days later, on social media, it was revealed that the quarantine sites the government had established were a set of tents similar to refugee camps, yet none of the stranded Bahrainis objected, as everyone wanted to return to Bahrain, even if the authorities were trying  to humiliate them as much as possible.

After the first evacuation flight on Oman's Salam Air, the operation suddenly stopped, when authorities said more than 70 returnees were infected with the virus. What were the authorities expecting from keeping citizens in a country where the virus had widely spread!

Meanwhile, five citizens have died in Iran due to lack of medication and health care (the Iranian authorities could not provide health care, with the enormous pressure on their medical services due to the outbreak of the virus and the infection of more than 20,000 Iranians). Appeals were launched by families of stranded Bahrainis, but the authorities preferred to ignore the matter.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was completely absent from the scene as it issued no statements or explanations. The ministry staff were ignoring the calls of the families of those stranded in Iran (based on higher directives), and the new Minister Abdulatif Al-Zayani has not yet made any statement related to the issue, although he had no problem delivering a fervent speech last month in Geneva defending Bahrain's terrible human rights record in an attempt to whitewash it.

The campaign, which began on social media, brought the Ministry of Health out of its silence. It said that Oman Air (Salam) refused to evacuate the rest of the Bahrainis from Iran; however, so far no one knows why the Ministry of Health was held responsible to deal with an issue that is supposed to fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

So far, no one knows why the authorities refused to use the national carrier (Gulf Air) whose aircraft are piled up at Bahrain International Airport, with more than 80% of destinations cancelled due to the Coronavirus. The argument that Gulf Air planes cannot be sent to Iran due to the severing of diplomatic relations is flimsy, especially that Bahrain had transferred Bahrain national team fans in December 2019 to Qatar to encourage the team in the finals of the Gulf Cup despite the severing of diplomatic relations with Doha.

The authorities have tried to turn the issue of those stranded in Iran to a sectarian matter. The King of Bahrain has directed the Jaafaria Endowments to contact those trapped there and cover their housing and food expenses. The Health and Labor Ministers issued statements against Iran and said that the lack of transparency was the cause of the virus outbreak.

The issue is crystal clear and does not require much analysis. Those actually responsible for keeping citizens stranded in Iran and who refused to return them are the king and royal court. However, there is no logical explanation for this lack of action. It seems that the whole issue is nothing more than hatred and an attempt to punish Shiites who visit Iran.

Arabic Version