Bahrain expels senior US diplomat for meeting with Shiite Muslims

Bahrain's foreign minister, bowling for diplomats / Photo: Bahrain Foreign Ministry
Bahrain's foreign minister, bowling for diplomats / Photo: Bahrain Foreign Ministry

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2014 — Bahrain expelled U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski from its borders today in what could be the beginning of an international incident. AP reports, “Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry says that a top U.S. official has been declared persona non grata and asked to leave the country, just one day after meeting with a leading Shiite opposition group.”

The government’s statement says, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain has confirmed that US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski, is unwelcome and should immediately leave the country.”

New York Times columnist Nick Kristof immediately retorted via a series of tweets:

The Bahraini government immediately attempted to spin the decision, but could only muster a brief statement, saying “The government of Bahrain asserts that this should not in any way affect the two countries’ relationship of mutual interests.”

The apparent reason for the expulsion is that Malinowski met with Wifaq, the main Shiite opposition party in Bahrain. Wifaq officials expressed surprise, stating that it was common for U.S. diplomats to meet with all sides in a conflict. Shiites make up more than two thirds of the Muslim population of Bahrain.

Some believe that the move of the Bahraini government was spurred by twitter user RemVmeR, who has been referring to the meetings between the United States and the Wifaq political party as “encouraging terrorism.”

The account appears to belong to Vladimir Remmer, a writer for the “Gulf Daily News,” which describes itself as “The Voice of Bahrain,” likely belying connections to the government of Bahrain. The Twitter account is also known for posting pro-Russian and anti-U.S. tweets.

The Bahraini government has received significant criticism over its treatment of its own citizens, including a multitude of reports from human rights organizations. The expulsion of a high ranking U.S. diplomat is the latest in a series of snafus by the government.

The State Department lists an impressive bio for Malinowski. “Tom Malinowski was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on April 3, 2014. Previously, from 2001, he was Washington Director for Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s leading independent international organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights.

“From 1998 to 2001, he served as Senior Director on the National Security Council at the White House, where he oversaw the drafting of President Clinton’s foreign policy speeches and strategic communications efforts around the world. From 1994 to 1998 he was a speechwriter for Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, and member of the Policy Planning Staff at the Department of State.”

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