Foreign AffairsWritten evidence from Marilyn Collins

(Marilyn Collins is a semi-retired event organiser; Committee member of the Bahrain Society and Member of the Awali Reunion Society)

Association With Bahrain

August 1951-aged 7 years.

Arrived in Bahrain with brother and parents. Father worked in Maintenance department of Bahrain Petroleum Company from 1948. Family lived in company town Awali situated roughly in the centre of the island.

August 1956

Returned to UK (Glasgow, Scotland) for secondary school education.

Summer 1958 & Summer 1959

Spent vacations in Bahrain with family.

November 1986

Returned for first time after leaving in 1959 and it was such an emotional experience I felt that I could not be alone in feeling thus. If that was the case, then using my knowledge and experience in event management I felt that I would be well placed to arrange to take others on trips down memory lane to relive their memories of very happy times.

When I circulated my idea to members of the Awali Reunion Society and the Bahrain Society (also known as the Bahrain/British friendship Society), it proved to be the case that many others were be as keen to return as I was.

The above societies are based in the UK and their members are Bahrainis and expats who worked in Bahrain, going back many years. Members also come from the second generation of expats who, like me, think of Bahrain as their second home. Both of these societies are strictly non-political and exist purely to foster and promote friendships between friends of Bahrain and its people. The Bahrain Society also befriends and assists, when requested, Bahraini students furthering their education in the UK.

October 1993 to date

Over this period, I have organised and accompanied over 700 ex-pats in small groups on “trips down memory lane”. Some have travelled back with me on more than one occasion. These visits have not been part of my business and were always done “for love” with no profit motive. I gain only from seeing the pleasure such visits brought to those who participated.

Present day

I spend at least one week a year either on my own or with groups visiting Bahrain and plan to continue to do so for as many years as I am able.

The last group visit I organised was in October this year and there were 19 people of mixed ages from a teenager to two octogenarians who were very happy to go to Bahrain and experience the new as well as make visits to the old Bahrain of their memories. Although a few were a bit apprehensive as to what they would see in Bahrain, all were pleased that the hospitality and friendship of the people they met in shops, restaurants etc. were just as they had always remembered. None felt in any way threatened during their 6 night stay. I visited several merchants in the Manama souk who bemoaned the fact that the uncertainty was keeping away customers and, as a result, their businesses were in jeopardy.


I have to speak as I find and, through my travels to many parts of the world, nowhere have I met such warmth as I do from the people of Bahrain—friends and strangers alike.

So far as living conditions etc. are concerned, they have improved enormously since I first arrived there in 1951 when many villagers lived in barastis (houses made of palms) and the sanitary conditions were very basic. Nowadays no-one lives in barastis—new towns have sprung up where people all live in “proper” houses. Families have free health care, there is free education for all children, up to and including university. As a businesswoman I take pleasure in the fact that women in Bahrain have freedom to study, to work and succeed in whichever career they care to follow. This is not new, that has been the case for as long as I can remember.

Religious freedom is, and always has been the case in Bahrain. There is a church in Awali which is regularly used by Roman Catholics and Anglicans as well as Non-denominational congregations. I am aware of a Jewish community in Bahrain as well as several churches in Manama with thriving memberships including an Anglican Cathedral. Again, this is not new, this has been the case for as long as I can remember.

Events in February last year shocked and upset me, particularly the coverage by television news media. I questioned at the time, and indeed still do that if reporters on the ground falsely call the Pearl roundabout a square (for what reason?) how can they be trusted to report truthfully and accurately on actual events? It is a small thing perhaps but, I feel, an important one.

The so-called Arab Spring, as it relates to Egypt, Libya and Syria etc. seems to me a world away from the Bahrain I know and love. For one thing, Bahrainis have had a vote for 11 or 12 years—it is work in progress and who of us who have had votes for many, many more years can say “hand on heart” that we have it right!!

As I see it, Bahrain, like the rest of the world, has progressed hugely in recent decades. There is always room for improvement and, if allowed to do so without outside interference, I hope those tasked with dealing with this are allowed to do so in consultation with all of those who are prepared to put the people of Bahrain first. Although I am aware that there have been many calls to “the opposition” to come to talks on the way forward and, so far they have not done so. The peace loving gentle ordinary people of Bahrain deserve better.

This is, I know, an emotional statement for which I make no apology. I love Bahrain and have many friends there (I know not whether they are Sunni or Shia) and would be devastated if the progress of the last 60 years or so is destroyed by those who wish ill to Bahrain and its people.

When asked many years ago what reason I could give for my love of Bahrain and I was able to say without hesitation, “the people” and my opinion has not changed since then.

I have never been to Saudi Arabia so am not able to comment on that country.

12 November 2012

Prepared 21st November 2013