06 December 2007

The Butcher Of Bahrain

Photo taken from the Bahrain Youth Society For Human Rights

The following chapter is from my first novel that I wrote about ten years ago. It was a fictionalized version of my time as an expat kid in Bahrain. It was far too ambitious and pretentious but I'm hoping it will provide a worthwhile reference for my next project which is the non-fiction version. Anyway, this chapter is the protagonist being informed about The Butcher of Bahrain or The Scottish Beast, who is very real. His name is Ian Henderson. He served as Head of Security for Bahrain for many years, after being deported from Kenya for his part in suppressing the Mau Mau. Many of the major Human Rights groups hold him largely responsible for the torture and suppression of pro-democracy activists in Bahrain during the 1980s and 1990s.

A young Bahraini boy told me...

Chapter 7

“... The Scottish Beast is alive and very much present here in Bahrain. I don’t know whether the actual living Beast is still here himself, but his presence, his magic, his power, his control lurks in every crook, cranny and corner of this island. You can feel it when you are down the market haggling over Hamor, when you apply for a driving licence, when you pray in the mosque on Friday or when you try and relax with your family at home. The Beast’s name is HU... HU... HE... HE... HEN... ahh I don’t want to say.

He is very tall and skinny for a beast but as ugly as any beast you have ever read about. He is pale, such pale white, with silver hair. He looks very old and frail but his power is as strong as it ever was. I think the source of his power is the huge tusk that hangs from the top jaw. It looks so very sharp, that is if you are able to get a glimpse of it. From most angles the tusk shines a brilliant white that blinds the rest of him from view. He has many such mechanisms to keep himself out of sight.

I hear that he was born in a very cold place called Scotland but somehow he ended up in Africa. It was in Africa that he transformed into a beast. Some people say it was the temperature change that sent him crazy. Anyway in an African land called Kenya he was in charge of killing people who got angry. These were people who had no food and no jobs. People who were asking for help but getting nowhere. The Scottish Beast made sure that these poor people did not disturb the rich people. His work in Africa came to an end one day and on his way back to Scotland he ended up here in Bahrain. This is when things went bad. Very bad for the poor people of Bahrain.

Once again he worked for the rich people. I think he was the body guard of the government and all the sheikhs. He makes sure nobody could get to them and that nobody can upset them. I don’t think it is bad to have somebody to protect you but the poor people never had body guards and still don’t have anybody to protect them. Some people say that he even controls the police and the army and all this control has made him even more crazy. They say that with his craziness has come supernatural powers. Powers to read people’s minds and listen in on any and every conversation taking place on the whole island. You could be enjoying some breakfast with your mother in your house, in any village before going to work or school and the Scottish Beast would be able to hear everything you said and sometimes he is even able to hear your every thought.

He listens to every telephone call and has copies of everything, absolutely everything that is ever written down. The scariest thing is that he could appear at anytime anywhere. He could be floating under your roof just before you go to sleep. Next to you on the bus. Behind you when you buy vegetables in the market. Under the sand of the football pitch as you play.

I have heard that he was the one responsible for taking away one of my uncles, out to a secret island. My uncle was locked in a grey cell and beaten with sticks by men who work for the Scottish Beast. My uncle is free now but he won’t tell me much about what happened to him. Lucky men who have been imprisoned on the island but now are free say that the Beast just stands there and watches during torture sessions. That he barks orders at the guards to abuse prisoners. They say that before they were freed, they heard him shout some mysterious words and then the guards pulled every one of my uncle’s fingernails out.

My uncle was lucky, his friend who was taken away at the same time was not so lucky. The Scottish Beast stuck a glass bottle up his bottom before pushing him out of a helicopter. They say my uncle had to watch his friend fall to his death. My uncle said that as the Scottish Beast let go of his friend his friend smiled and when his body hit the desert surface his soul was released and did a beautiful dance before flying above the helicopter.

My uncle told me in a dream that he wished he could have joined his friend on his flight to freedom. He used to be a fisherman and a pearl diver. He used to spend all day at sea and come home with a big smile and plenty of food for my whole family. Now all he does is sit at home in the dark staring at the wall, too afraid to go outside. Because of his meeting with the Scottish Beast my uncle is now too afraid to visit his favourite place, the sea. Can you imagine being too afraid to sail on those lovely waters? I think you would like my uncle. Maybe one day in a better world you and him will meet each other and sit down for tea. I think he will have a good story for you.

I am telling you this because as I was watching you take pictures I heard some snarling. Don’t get caught my friend. Its best if you get home to your family but please do not forget all that you have seen. You have witnessed more than most foreigners but for now maybe it is best you keep quiet. If the Scottish Beast catches anybody here at this moment in time, he will do more than pull out their fingernails.”