By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
MANAMA, Bahrain – Earlier this week, American celebrity Kim Kardashian arrived in Bahrain to promote the new Middle Eastern franchises of the Millions of Milkshakes chain. Her visit to Bahrain brought delight to Sheikh Khalifa and his regime, anger to hardcore Islamists, and mixed emotions to many human rights activists.
Bahrain’s human rights report card has been far from stellar over the past couple of years. The regime’s security forces have tear-gassed and killed protesters, detained and tortured demonstrators, tortured and jailed medics who helped the demonstrators, and its government has changed the law to curtail freedom of expression and has revoked the citizenship of individuals.
Many human rights activists like Maryam Al-Khawaja were hoping that Kim Kardashian would actively use her presence in Bahrain to shed light on the human rights tragedies that were taking place within the country. Such people would ultimately be disappointed as Kardashian, or at least her twitter personality, would be used as a propaganda tool of the regime.
Instead of highlighting injustice, she documented her encounter with camels in the desert and her glass of camel milk. She also tweeted, “I just got to Bahrain today. This place is incredible! Prettiest place on earth!” which was re-Tweeted by Bahrain’s foreign minister.
Furthermore, she Tweeted, “Thanks Sheikh Khalifa for your amazing hospitality. I’m in love with The Kingdom of Bahrain.”
Tweets like these upset the likes of the Washington Post’s Foreign Policy analyst March Lynch who believes that, “Kardashian’s visit generates positive publicity for a Bahraini regime which carried out an unspeakably brutal crackdown last year, continues a fierce campaign of repression and has been utterly unrepentant.”
In the end, however, Kardashian’s visit would expose some of the human rights violations that take place in Bahrain. Upon her arrival to the country, fifty hardcore Islamists were waiting for her, carrying signs like “God is Great.” These protesters denounced her presence stating that she had a “bad reputation” and believed that “it is not part of Bahraini culture and traditions to receive [a] reality star.”
These protesters were dispersed by teargas fired by riot police which has become a normal practice when individuals gather to demonstrate.
Kim Kardashian may not have intended to take part in the revealing of the Bahraini regime’s human rights abuses, but her notoriety turned the tear-gassing of the Islamic hardliners into a newsworthy event. For this reason, human rights activists can be happy that Kardashian visited Bahrain.
For further information, please see:
Avaaz Daily Briefing – Kim Kardashian Sheikhs Things up in Bahrain – 5 December 2012
Washington Post – Why People are so Upset About Kim Kardashian’s odd Visit to Bahrain – 3 December 2012
Al Arabiya – ‘Prettiest Place on Earth’: Kim Kardashian in Love with Bahrain – 2 December 2012
Guardian – Bahrain Police Deploy Teargas at Anti-Kim Kardashian Protest – 1 December 2012