Five Deaths among Bahrainis Stranded in Iran: Manama Abandons Its People
By Hussein Kourani
Actions taken by Bahrain’s Al-Khalifa regime against its people no longer come as a surprise. The latest of these actions involves the overt and public neglect of its nationals in Iran, who were visiting holy shrines in that country.
The authorities in Manama are refusing to bring home 2,130 Bahrainis stranded in the Islamic Republic. Some of those are suffering from illnesses other than the coronavirus and five people have already died. Death is now a more realistic prospect than returning home for Mashhad’s sick and infected visitors. With each new death, despair and frustration grow.
Ibrahim Al-Madhoun, a former member of Bahrain’s opposition Al-Wefaq movement, told Al-Ahed that Manama is deliberately refusing to cooperate with Iranian authorities to facilitate the return of Bahraini nationals.
According to Al-Madhoun, Bahraini authorities adopted a strictly political approach, holding Tehran responsible for infecting its citizens with the coronavirus. They are even accusing Iran of bringing the virus to the Gulf region while ignoring directives from the World Health Organization that obligate each country to assist its citizens, especially those infected with the virus.
Al-Madhoun confirmed that the death toll among those in Mashhad had risen to five. Family members of the deceased informed Bahraini authorities of their critical condition, but the latter were reluctant to bring them back to their homeland.
Meanwhile, other Gulf countries including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar agreed to bring all their nationals back from Iran. The former member of Al-Wefaq added that the number of people who were repatriated thus far stands at around 100.
Hassan Qambar, a Bahraini journalist, believes that Manama is stalling. On March 4, one of the Gulf states offered to evacuate the stranded Bahrainis and expressed willingness to provide a private aircraft for this purpose. However, Manama rejected this initiative amid instigations by various parties, most notably the Bahraini Parliament. For his part, the spokesperson of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Abbas Mousavi expressed Tehran’s readiness to facilitate the evacuation process of the stranded visitors.
Qambar pointed out that "Bahrain did worse than refusing to cooperate. It directed the Ja'fari Endowments Administration to bear the financial burden of the stranded people as well as leaving them there. The country’s opposition groups labeled the behavior by the authorities as sectarian. The most obvious reason for this move is definitely the political rivalry between Manama and Tehran unlike Canada that was forced to communicate with China to evacuate its nationals from there despite the severing of ties."
According to Qambar, the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that it would start with a plan to evacuate its nationals from Iran on February 28, but this hasn’t actually happened.