Joan Smith's article on Bahraini politics ("Bridging the Gulf: Bahrain's big experiment with democracy", 12 September) is as dismaying as it is deceptive. Framing the analysis in terms of a process of political liberalisation under challenge from political Islam diverts attention from the ruling al-Khalifa family's policy of divide-and-rule. Far from being a successful "modernising experiment", the last elections in 2006 were marred by allegations of vote-rigging on a massive scale, and recent weeks have seen a repressive crackdown on human rights activists and political opponents ahead of the next round of elections on 23 October.
Activists returning from a human rights seminar at the House of Lords organised by Baroness Falkner in August were arrested on arrival at Manama airport and held in solitary confinement and tortured; one detainee alleged he was hung from his wrists while being beaten. The state-controlled media has begun a campaign of misinformation to persuade popular opinion that these activists were orchestrating a plot to overthrow the government. The detainees include a British national, Jaffar al-Hasabi.
It is disingenuous and disappointing to see an article containing statements such as "political exiles have been allowed to return home" appear in a newspaper renowned for its campaigning stance for human rights and its opposition to illiberal and authoritarian regimes.
Dr Kristian Ulrichsen, Centre for Global Governance, London School of Economics, London WC2
I am a Bangladeshi man living and working in Bahrain for the past six years. I understand that Bahrain gives equal rights to women as well as to men. Women can travel alone anywhere in Bahrain without fear. Also, democracy in Bahrain is growing and is a good example for democracy among other Arab countries, which they can follow.
Mohammed Abu Sayed, Sugeya, Kingdom of Bahrain
Most of the time I agree with Janet Street-Porter's views, but I find her take on the Wayne Rooney and prostitute situation bizarre (12 September). You cannot write an article about the "sex trade" without serious reference to sex-trafficked women or pimped "lower-class" girls, and women hooked on drink and drugs and fear. JSP is exceptionally naive if she thinks that the Belle de Jour clones she writes about only take money from "young and attractive" punters. Wake up Janet. They are not fussy. They are prostitutes. These assignations are not a try-out for a hot sexual relationship. They are seedy encounters with sordid, grubby, pathetic men who, by the way, ought, at a very minimum, be outed in their local paper if they are found using brothels housing sex-trafficked women. The idea that there are "respectable" men around who want sex with a frightened, terrified, unwilling girl thousands of miles from home who clearly does not want it, is something society ought to be addressing.
Jane Crossen, Knutsford, Cheshire
I refer to Simon Read's article, "Leave our cheques alone even if we don't use them" (12 September). I opened an account with Santander when I retired last year. I was amazed when I went into my local branch and found that a cheque would not be issued for an amount below £1,000. I complained, saying I considered it a security risk if I had to accept cash (£500) and walk down the high street with notes in my pocket. I was given a standard response about the way Santander carries out its business.
It seems to be the case nowadays that organisations run to their own convenience, while telling their customers that they are continually looking to improve the service. The sum of £1,000 is not "low value" to everybody!
Terry Sykes, Ilford, Essex
Sarah Sands is wrong ("Shake my hand and give yourself away", 12 September). The evidence clearly shows that the factors that decide health and longevity are mostly your position in the poverty/ affluence gradient across society. Genetics is mostly irrelevant.
Colwyn Jones, Consultant in dental public health, Edinburgh
Pavan Amara can't have seen an American crayfish ("Village fights back by killing and eating its alien invaders", 12 September). Only last night, on a camping expedition, I was involved in trapping and eating crayfish, and can assure you that the illustration is not "many times life-size"; it's roughly the right size. Think "small lobster".
Terry Walsh, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Surely Prince Charles deserves some credit for his interest in the world around him and is at least trying to do something to improve the environment. If he was a hard-drinking, womanising layabout, then you would have something to gripe at. It is so easy to snipe at people who are unable to reply.
M Drage, Wigston, Leicestershire
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