The “star” recently travelled to Bahrain on a nice junket to promote…milkshakes:
Anybody with a brain or eyes knows that Bahrain is a brutal, US-backed dictatorship. Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy writes:
Kim Kardashian’s December 1 trip to Bahrain to promote milkshakes brought all the Middle East tweeps to the yard. Her visit attracted both delerious young fans and a raucous protest (reportedly cleared away by the time she arrived), with conflicting accounts as to whether she actually ended up mixing a tear gas flavored milkshake. The Middle East twitterati had a field day of outrage and humor over the news, with pretty much my entire Twitter feed (and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister) retweeting her now deleted “OMG can I move here please?” tweet. It’s easy to poke fun at Kardashian. But did Kanye’s girlfriend really do anything different than those foreign policy wonks willing to participate in Friday’s 2012 Manama Dialogue?
Kardashian went to Bahrain and Kuwait to promote “Millions of Milkshakes.” She evidently had a great time, declaring at the end: “Thanks Sheikh Khalifa for your amazing hospitality. I’m in love with The Kingdom of Bahrain.” For this, she was roundly mocked by Bahraini opposition and Middle East commentators. Bahraini activist Maryam al-Khawaja posted an open letter to Kardashian inviting her to meet with human rights activists during her trip. The one bright note, such as it was, came from @Therwees: “Kim Kardashian tweeting about Bahrain makes more news than actual Bahrain.”
Kardashian, much like April’s controversial Formula One race, generated 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.
The Bahraini regime has responded in at best a pro forma way, seeking to project an image of compliance without actually making any serious reforms or imposing real accountability. Human Rights Watch recently concluded that Bahrain had failed to implement most of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry — an assessment shared by the Project on Middle East Democracy, which a few weeks ago found only 3 out of 26 recommendations implemented. Cherif Bassiouni, who had previously defended the BICI process, now argues that “a number of recommendations on accountability were either not implemented or implemented only half-heartedly. The public prosecution has yet to investigate over 300 cases of alleged torture, some involving deaths in custody, and there has been no investigation, let alone prosecution, for command responsibility, even at the immediate supervisory level, of people killed in custody as a result of torture.”
Bahrain’s regime has focused far more over the last year and a half on a public relations pushback than on addressing its real political deterioriation and human rights disaster. It has spent heavily on PR firms to rehabilitate its image, and anyone who writes or tweets about Bahrain has become quite accustomed to the inevitable responses which follow. Holding the controversial Formula One race in April was a key part of the attempt to demonstrate to the international community that Bahrain had returned to normal — a portrayal somewhat undermined by the burning tires, furious activists, and critical media coverage which followed. (My all time favorite video response remains this “Epic Fail” from Katy Perry.) This Index on Censorship story suggests that whatever her personal intentions, Kardashian’s visit falls into the same category of attempts to rehabilitate Bahrain’s image without any meaningful policy changes. That protests and tear gas disrupted the international media coverage of her visit as well is therefore in some ways a promising sign that the reality of Bahrain’s ongoing repression and failure to deal honestly with its recent past has not yet been washed away.