Letters: Saudi forces in Bahrain to help


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The Independent Online

In response to the article published by Robert Fisk on 14 June, and with reference to previous articles, features and opinions published by your newspaper, the Information Affairs Authority in Bahrain would like to go on record opposing the newspaper's skewed perspective and factually incorrect bias that have provided the basis for the assault on Bahrain and its people.

Using columns, features and news to publish misinformation in repeated attacks on our people and rulers amounts to libel and will be treated as such in accordance with the law.

With reference to Mr Fisk's column on Tuesday, the Kingdom of Bahrain retains the right to apply the law as necessary, regardless of the position and sect of the defendants.

The fact that the people mentioned in his column were medical personnel does not put them above the law. It is for the courts to decide their guilt or innocence, rather than the media, especially those who do not have direct access to the hearings. Regretfully, what Mr Fisk has written is based on slanderous hearsay and ultimately questions the credibility and ethical foundations of his approach to the matter.

With regard to his false allegations that Bahrain has been militarily invaded by Saudi Arabia and is under occupation, please note that the Bahraini government appealed to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Peninsula Shield forces to enter the Kingdom and help protect vital strategic interests during the days of violence and security unrest. GCC Forces came to Bahrain upon an invitation from Bahrain under a pan-GCC agreement and as the result of a commitment that goes along with its strategic allied partnerships. They were neither occupiers nor invaders.

As for the alleged destruction of places of worship, no "ancient Shia mosques" have been destroyed. The Kingdom of Bahrain has a long history of appreciating and preserving its cultural history. It will continue to do so. However, in accordance with the law, illegal structures have been dismantled. They belonged to both Sunnis and Shias, if your newspaper wishes to specify sects. As per the law of the land, all unlicensed constructions have been and will be removed.

Mr Fisk's accusation of people being fired upon from helicopters lacks credibility and is completely fabricated. We are sorry that such erroneous information has not been verified for the sake of the truth. Just like most of the information your daily has been publishing about developments in Bahrain and the people here.

After Mr Fisk's unbalanced coverage of the events in Bahrain, including his assertion on 19 February that there were credible reports of 60 bodies seen in refrigerated trucks when the GCC roundabout was cleared, the Kingdom of Bahrain will continue to be ready to provide facts and figures to those keen on balanced reports and will no longer remain silent to malicious onslaughts and allegations.

Foreign Media and Press, Information Affairs Authority, Kingdom of Bahrain

* Robert Fisk in Bahrain: 'They didn't run away. They faced the bullets head-on
* Robert Fisk in Manama: Bahrain - an uprising on the verge of revolution
* Britons being flown out of Bahrain
* Bahrain protestors driven out of Pearl Square by tanks and tear gas
* Robert Fisk: The dumping ground for despots welcomes another
* Robert Fisk: I saw these brave doctors trying to save lives - these charges are a pack of lies


All part of the natural order

With regard to feeding garden birds, there is room for a sensible and responsible stance between Christine Perkins's "reliant on hand-outs" condemnation (letter 13 June) and Steve Clarke's "all the help they can get" commendation (letter 14 June). This is to vary the amount of food made available according to the season, but never to stop it altogether.

As a serial bird-feeder, I regard my contributions as part of the natural order rather than artificial hand-outs, so that seasonal variation is just like nature, only more rational. The fact that in addition to being fed the birds give me so much pleasure is a bonus I would not willingly forgo.

Colin V Smith, St Helens, Merseyside

Hooked on handouts

Christine Perkins warns us that we should not feed garden birds continually during the warmer months otherwise they will become reliant on handouts and the young never learn to fend for themselves.

Well that is what I have always thought, but the instruction on my packet of blackbird food states: "Once you have started to feed the birds DO NOT STOP as they will become reliant on your help."

Is this a ploy to persuade me to keep buying the stuff, or does the supplier know something that Christine and I do not?

Rob Saines, Holt, Norfolk

Worms turn

About 30 years ago I was advised that the then current practice of stopping feeding for the summer should be abandoned, because with the dry weather there was the need of water, and with the worms being further below ground level they were out of reach for birds, such as blackbirds, which need them.

David Wilkie, Port Erin, Isle of Man

Final straw for teachers

Pensions are part of the unique, unwritten contract with government that is taken on trust by teachers ("Teachers strike over pensions", 15 June). When significant changes were made in 2008 we were promised that they were "once in a lifetime" and the pension scheme was secure and viable.

Now we are hit with Mr Gove's triple whammy – pay more, retire later and receive less. The danger is that newly qualified teachers, facing the financial pressure of student loans, paying for housing and 9 per cent of their salary in pension contributions, will just opt out of the scheme. Who thinks of pensions when they are in their 20s? This will lead to the collapse of the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

As for our "gold-plated" pensions, we can now join our colleagues in the private sector in the race to the bottom as final-salary pensions are jettisoned, except of course for the chief executives. And there is no sign of MPs abandoning their platinum-plated pensions, courtesy of the tax-payer.

After three decades of being dumped on from a great height by successive governments, being branded as incompetents by the media and hounded by Ofsted inspectors, maybe the outrageous attack on our pensions will be the final straw.

Richard Knights, Liverpool

It would appear that teachers and other public sector workers are to be punished for the errors of others and for a financial situation not of their making.

The average teacher pension is £9,000 at the age of 55; this is hardly "gold-plated", as many right-wing papers and commentators continually like to say. Compare this with Sir Fred Goodwin's pension, which he took at the ripe old age of 50. He left with £342,500.

Not only that, but teachers may well be expected to work to 68. Does anyone really want to be taught by a teacher who is 68 years old? Life expectancy for teachers drops significantly for every year they work past 55, and I can't see many surviving until 68. So maybe this is the plan: work them until they all die in their classrooms and save on pensions.

Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex

What overseas aid can achieve

As Jemima Khan points out in her article (12 June), immunisation is one of the biggest success stories. The welcome decision by Mr Cameron to raise the UK's payment to the Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunisation, and thus contribute to the increase needed to vaccinate the remaining fifth of the world's population against vaccine-preventable diseases, is both humane and sensible on economic grounds.

Polio not only kills children in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria but it maims in sometimes a horrible way. Those children are the hope for tomorrow and will, with our help, go on to contribute to improving life in those countries. What a waste for children disabled by polio to have to live their lives knowing that but for a small investment they could have lived a more fulfilling and productive life.

We in Britain protect and provide for every human being from cradle to grave. Why shouldn't those less fortunate have that right?

Terry Pugh, Baildon, West Yorkshire

It is commendable to give aid and charity when one can afford it, but David Cameron has pledged around £10bn per year in overseas aid and this money has to be borrowed, interest paid on it and eventually paid back.

Meanwhile in this country, because of the massive rise in domestic fuel prices we will once again have the poor elderly dying of hypothermia, and the list of the very poor who will be seriously affected by the cuts in government spending could go on for ever.

Mr Cameron as a millionaire can afford to make grand gestures without feeling the squeeze, but the people at the bottom of the ladder in his own country are the ones he should be protecting.

S Silgram, Blackburn

Energy market helps the spivs

Congratulations to Mary Dejevsky (Notebook, 15 June) on highlighting the great lie that competition in utilities is for the benefit of the customer. Those people who have the time and stubborn persistence to negotiate the deliberately opaque system of price comparisons are being subsidised by the majority of customers who don't, can't or won't play the system.

The situation is worse in the small business sector. The law at present allows energy companies to charge small businesses hugely inflated prices by locking them into long contracts at premium rates if they fail to cancel an existing contract. Many one-person businesses do not have the time to monitor their agreements. Failure to notify a company by a specific date can mean increases of 50 per cent or more on a new 24-month contract, with agreement being assumed by default. This has to my knowledge and anger caused hardship to more than one single-person business.

The great buzzwords of the age, competition and choice, are for organisations with dedicated departments or for Apprentice-style spivs. The rest of us just want someone to deliver our services at a reasonable price (and at the same price my neighbour is paying).

Tony O'Sullivan, Darlton, Nottinghamshire

No excuses for rape

Peter Lewis (Letter, 14 June) defends Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's attack on the recent Slutwalk protest (13 June) with some amateur evolutionary psychology.

These naïve women, he argues, should wise up to the fact that dressing sexily is very dangerous. Men have a "hard-wired" propensity for rape, particularly towards women who flaunt their sexuality, because the sight of such women stirs up feelings "over which [men] have no control".

Despite being male and frequently subject to feelings of desire, I've never committed rape and never will – because I know it to be a despicable and inexcusable crime, regardless of what the victim is wearing. No doubt most other male readers feel the same.

Research on sex crimes, on the other hand, suggests that most rapists would take "I couldn't help myself, she was wearing a short skirt" to be a valid defence. They also tend to share the misogynistic contempt for "sluts", "slappers" and "whores" – that is, women who freely express their sexuality – which has been so evident in the writings of socially conservative critics of the Slutwalk protest.

To combat rape, we should challenge these pernicious, attitudes, not endorse them.

Andrew Clifton, Edgware

I find Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's charge that the women who go on Slutwalks are all naive, middle-class girls with no experience of the real world rather hard to believe. Women from any background can be the victims of rape and domestic violence. The use of words like "dollies", "whorish" and "slappers" is another attempt by Alibhai-Brown to infantilise and demean the women on the march.

We do a great disservice to the victims of male violence and the majority of decent men by pretending that men are turned into mindless lust-machines by a scantily clad woman. Articles like this only serve to shift the blame on to the victims of male violence, rather than placing it where it belongs – with the men who commit it.

Tom Deadman, White Ribbon Campaign, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

Cliché crusade challenged

Reading John Rentoul's diatribe against modern clichés (14 June), I am reminded of a training course I once facilitated for employees, encouraging them to think outside the box in order to proactively pursue problem-solving as a means of continuous improvement.

One of the gentlemen informed me in no uncertain terms that he felt he was only there due to a top-down BOHICA and wanted to get back to the knitting in his hands-on environment, describing it with a stream of acronyms and abbreviations that would have been impenetrable to anyone outside the industry.

We all use jargon in our everyday jobs, and management jargon is perhaps the most derided, but to its practitioners it adds a richness of understanding and illustration than no amount of dusty brevity can convey. If there is a sin in its use, that would be by practitioners who use it little understanding its meaning, David Brent style, or who fail to tailor their own level of communications to the intended audience. But going forward, what's not to like?

Just thought I should run that up the flagpole.

Des Senior, Great Amwell, Hertfordshire

This idea, that anyone can control the development of the English Language: get over it!

Martin London, Henllan, Denbighshire

I believe that Rentoul's List will come to be considered a seminal work.

Ron Malings, Rhyl, Denbighshire

Don't blame 'les rosbifs'

The issue of maisons secondaires in France is not quite so straightforwardly one of expat ownership (John Lichfield, 14 June).

Where we live in the Roussillon, spare houses owned by locals (French, Spanish, and Catalan) probably outnumber those owned by "rosbifs". Certainly, if a deeper north European pocket looms, local buyers may be shunned, but cultural tradition, tax avoidance and Napoleonic law tend to ensure that when a family member dies, selling the house is often the least popular option.

Families hold on to houses when they are vacated, to ensure there is one available for each of their offspring as they grow up. Or, to avoid handing a slice to the taxman, they just keep the house – as a pied-à-terre for country or coastal holidays, or to store their logs and tools in, or just their old car in its garage. In situations where a family home is kept for emotional reasons, or if several inheritors can't agree, the house is closed up and left to crumble.

Expatriates pay the same rates and property taxes as the locals each year, for the whole year, even if they are there for only a few weeks, so an additional tax is unjustified and should be challenged in the European Court. Why not tax neglected and abandoned houses – they are worse for the village than those lovingly restored by expats.

Clare Galloway, Lansac, Languedoc-Rousillon, France

Driven to suicide

Dominic Lawson writes powerfully about the dangers posed to vulnerable people by the campaign to legalise assisted suicide (14 June). But he has nothing to say on the economic policies of the government he supports, which are forcing many disabled people to consider such an option.

Alongside the collapse in social care, the current welfare reforms will remove benefit from even the most severely disabled adults if their partner works for more than 24 hours a week, pushing the physical and financial burden from the state to the individual, in line with this government's small-state approach to welfare.

It can be no coincidence that the growing pressure for a change in the law comes at a time when the safety net which protected the most vulnerable from "survival of the fittest" capitalism is being removed, leaving many in despair and fearful of the future.

Charles Hopkins, Norwich

Still over here

Robert Sutherland Smith quotes the Second World War catchphrase, "over-sexed, over-paid and over here", referring to American GIs (letter, 15 June). How is it, some 66 years later, they are still over here, occupying many bases up and down the country? And why is it that the US deems it necessary to have permanent military bases in all countries it has visited, either through invitation or invasion? Isn't it time they went home?

Geoff Naylor, Winchester