She also took issue with the report’s suggestion that the government should address “the grievances of groups which are, or perceive themselves, to be deprived of equal political, social and economic rights and benefits.”
Nonoo said: “The Shiites are treated the same way as everyone else. ... They have the same level of education that’s available to any other Bahraini in Bahrain. Health care is available to them, as it is available to anybody else in Bahrain.”
Nevertheless, she said, there will be reforms. “We are moving forward. We don’t want to move backward.”
Opposition and humanitarian groups say the Bahraini government is not acting quickly enough to implement the economic, political and constitutional recommendations made by its own commission. The government has fought back with a Web site listing recommendations it said it is implementing.
This Feb. 14, riots in Manama marked the one-year anniversary of the Bahrain uprising, and the ruling dynasty blanketed the streets with troops. That same day, Nonoo’s office presented her response to the anniversary: a blog that aims to be “a resource for discovering events in Bahrain.” So far, the content on Nonoo’s blog mostly has been about prominent Bahraini women, racecar teams, her out-of-town trips and speaking engagements.
In April, Nonoo defended her homeland in a letter published on The Post’s editorial page. “Bahrain has developed a police code of conduct, installed video cameras in all interrogation rooms and accelerated the retraining of thousands of police,” she wrote. “These changes are only a down payment on the full reform program Bahrain has committed to.”
Her letter appeared a few days before the April 22 Formula One Grand Prix, Bahrain’s showcase event on the international car racing circuit. Thousands of protesters took to the streets, and a prominent activist was killed at the scene of the clashes. But the race — which was canceled last year because of similar protests — proceeded.
On May 1, Nonoo blogged that she had visited Bahrain in April, criticizing “misleading news reports” for not portraying protesters’ violent tactics. She also spoke to more than 100 people at an embassy-hosted event for the Association of International Educators. “Through confronting a very difficult situation, Bahrain has become a better and more democratic nation,” she asserted.
Thus, offering defenses and issuing denials has become the new imperative for the ambassador whose appointment was once called “a bold move.”
Some observers have sympathy for Nonoo and her attempts to walk this tightrope.
“It’s very rare for a serving ambassador to give you a different read from what the party line is,” said Des Roches, of the Center for Strategic Studies. “And it’s harder for her in that she is a woman and an ethnic minority.”
Simon Henderson, a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a friend of the ambassador, said Nonoo is “as frustrated and desirous of some sort of breakthrough as is everybody else.”
“Whatever goodwill the Bahraini government got by sending a Jewish woman to Washington has been completely overtaken by events,” said Slavin of the Atlantic Council.
“Now, it’s an impossible situation for anybody sent by Bahrain.”
Julia Duin is a contributing writer for the Magazine. To comment on this story, send e-mail to email@example.com.