A visiting American government official was ordered to leave Bahrain immediately after he met with a few prominent Shi'ite opposition leaders earlier this week.
According to Bahrain's state news agency BNA, Tom Malinowski, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour had “intervened flagrantly” in the country's internal affairs.
The small oil-rich island kingdom is a strategic US ally and has long provided a military base for America's navy in the Middle East.
Bahrain, ruled by the Sunni al-Khalifa family, has been facing criticism for its human rights record, ever since the military cracked down on Shi'ite Muslim-led protests against the government in 2011. Low-level protests have continued to simmer, with the country's majority Shi'ite Muslims complaining of political and economic marginalization and demanding more power from the Sunni-led government.
Malinowski himself explained in a tweet that has so far been retweeted 255 times and counting:
Seems #Bahrain government decision not about me but about undermining dialogue. Those committed to reconciliation should not be deterred.
— Tom Malinowski (@Malinowski) July 8, 2014
Human rights activist Ahmed Ali, who lives in Cardiff, in the UK, says:
— Ahmed Ali احمد علي (@ahmedali_) July 8, 2014
This pro-government newspaper was owned by the Bahraini King's media advisor Nabeel Alhamer, who previously tweeted [ar]:
البحرين تعتبر مساعد وزير الخارجية الامريكي لشئون الديمقراطية وحقوق الانسان شخصا غير مرحب به وعليه مغادرة البحرين لتدخله في الشئون الداخلية
— NABEEL ALHAMER (@nalhamer) July 7, 2014
Bahrain considers the US Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor as an unwelcome person and he should leave Bahrain for interfering in its internal affairs
The move was met with an international outcry. In a series of tweets, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth, notes:
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) July 8, 2014
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) July 7, 2014
And he adds:
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) July 8, 2014
Leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, just released from jail after serving three years for a tweet, said this to his 231K followers [ar]:
سيبقى الصديق مالينوسكي شخص محترم وان ما حصل له في #البحرين هو مؤشر على نزاهته وشرفه وان طرده اليوم سيزيد من احترام الناس والحركة الحقوقية له
— Nabeel Rajab (@NABEELRAJAB) July 7, 2014
My friend Malinowski is a respectable person and what happened to him in Bahrain is an indication of his honesty. Getting expelled today will increase the respect people and the human rights movement have for him
And US-based George Washington University Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication fellow and commentator for the BBC and Daily Beast Philip Crowley clarifies:
What is most remarkable about #Bahrain expelling Asst Sec Tom Malinowski is its clarity. No one can pretend Bahrain is open to reforms.
— Philip J. Crowley (@PJCrowley) July 8, 2014
On the other hand, pro-government netizens voiced their support for the move. Member of Parliament Khalid Almalood told his 2,700 followers on Twitter [ar]:
مساعد وزير خارجية أمريكا المطرود كان مدير منظمة هيومان رايتس ووتش التي كان نبيل رجب ضمنها والتي كانت تكتب تقارير سيئة عن #البحرين للعلم فقط
— MP Khalid Almalood (@kh_almalood) July 8, 2014
The US Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor who was kicked out [of Bahrain] was the director of Human Rights Watch, which Nabeel Rajab was part of, and which wrote bad reports about Bahrain
The Riffa Youth Group tweeted to its 25.5K followers:
نشكر وزارة خارجيتنا لقرارها الشجاع بطرد مساعد وزير خارجية أمريكا للشؤون الديمقراطية وننتظر شجاعة أكبر وذلك بطرد السفير الأمريكي من البحرين
— قروب شباب الرفاع (@shababalrifaa) July 7, 2014
We thank our Foreign Affairs Ministry for its courageous decision to throw out the US Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and are awaiting more courage for it to kick out the US Ambassador from Bahrain
And this is not the end of it. Leading opposition group Al Wefaq member Ali Alaswad, who has 64.1k followers, tweets:
— Ali Alaswad (@am_aswad) July 8, 2014