MP Bob Stewart tells campaigner to ‘go back to Bahrain’
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A torture victim has complained to police and the Conservative Party after an MP told him to “go back to Bahrain” during a confrontation. Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, alleges the comments made by Bob Stewart amounted to racial abuse.
But the MP for Beckhenham, in South London, has apologised and denied his comments were racist. He says that his intention was to suggest the activist should be campaigning in Bahrain.
Mr Stewart told him: “Get stuffed. Bahrain is a great place, end of. Go away, I hate you. You make a lot of fuss, go back to Bahrain.”
Mr Alwadaei challenged the MP over donations from the Bahraini government, asking: “How much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime?”
Mr Stewart responded: “I didn’t, now you shut up you stupid man.”
Then, with a dismissive wave of his hand, he added: “You’re taking money off my country, go away.”
Mr Alwadaei’s branded the exchange an “incident of racist abuse” in a police report following the row outside the Foreign Office’s Lancaster House after an event hosted by the Bahraini embassy on Wednesday.
In a statement to the media, he added: “I don’t believe I would have been told to ‘go back’ to the country that violently tortured me if it weren’t for the colour of my skin.”
“No-one should be subjected to racial abuse, particularly for holding an MP to account for accepting lavish gifts from one of the world’s most repressive regimes.
“Stewart is acting as a mouthpiece by publicly denying its notorious and extensively documented human rights abuses – abuses which have been condemned by the United Nations.”
The Index on Censorship gave Mr Alwadaei an award for his campaigning in 2020 and described him as having undertaken “vital” work since fleeing Bahrain nine years earlier for taking part in anti-government protests.
Mr Alwadaei, 36, says he was injured by the Bahraini police and subsequently imprisoned and tortured, and sentenced by a military court over his participation. Mr Stewart is the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Bahrain and has accepted paid-for trips from the gulf state.
He told PA news agency: “My mistake was to actually be goaded into reaction, and I apologise for that. I also apologise if anybody thinks I was being racist – I was not. I meant go back to Bahrain, which is a perfectly safe place, and protest there.
“If anyone thinks I’ve been racist I honestly didn’t mean to be, and I apologise if they think that, and I wasn’t.”
Mr Stewart, a former British Army officer who was stationed in Bahrain in 1969 and has represented Beckenham since 2010, praised the gulf state as a “wonderful place to live”.
He added: “You can worship anything you like in Bahrain – you can worship a tree.”
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Parliamentary records show Mr Stewart registered flights, accommodation and meals worth £5,349 during a four-day trip to Bahrain in November last year paid for by its ministry of foreign affairs.
A separate entry covered by the Bahraini government shows another trip to visit an air show and meet its foreign minister being worth £1,245.56.
Mr Alwadaei has complained to Tory party chairman Nadhim Zahawi saying the MP’s comments violated the party’s code of conduct on “minimum standards of behaviour”.
He also wrote a complaint to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone, alleging Mr Stewart’s remarks breached the MPs’ code of conduct.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: “We have an established code of conduct and formal processes where complaints can be made in confidence. This process is rightly confidential.”
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