March 23, 2011

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has condemned reports of a series of violent attacks on migrant workers in Bahrain over the last week, amidst a military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

An article in the Gulf Daily News printed on Sunday said that 34 migrant workers from Pakistan and Bangladesh had been injured in attacks over the previous six days. [1]

“Because of the security conditions in the country right now, we are unable to independently investigate and verify these specific cases,” said Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

“However, any violent attacks on peaceful migrant workers who are in Bahrain simply to earn an honest living are entirely unacceptable, and those who committed the crimes must be held accountable.”

Just over half of the resident population of Bahrain is made up of foreign nationals, many of them low-income earners from South Asia.

A large portion of Bahrain’s security forces, who have been involved in the violent suppression of anti-government protesters in recent weeks, are also foreign nationals, or recently naturalized citizens.

“It is difficult to judge the motive of the recent attacks on migrant workers, but we do not rule out the possibility that they may have been xenophobic revenge attacks,” Rajab said.

The BCHR also reiterated its demand for the Bahraini government to end its long standing practice of recruiting foreign nationals in to the state security forces and military.

According to an article printed in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper on Monday, over 1,000 Pakistanis have been newly recruited to serve in the Bahrain National Guard, and are expected to arrive in Bahrain in a month. [2]

“The Bahraini authorities has been using these foreign nationals to carry out human rights abuses in the country,” Rajab said. “Their recruitment creates feelings of hostility between Bahrainis and migrant workers, the vast majority of whom are honest hard-working people.”

Over 20 people have been killed since political unrest began in Bahrain five weeks ago.

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1 - '34 Asian are injured', Gulf Daily News, March 20, 2011

2 - '1,000 Pakistanis recruited for Bahrain forces', Dawn newspaper, March 21, 2011