White Supremacy at the Water Cooler

By a Bahraini Woman

The one memory of my grandad connected to British-Bahrain relations always makes me laugh. It was tragicomic really.

He used to work the Bahrain Oil Compancy (BAPCO) in the 1950s or thereabouts,  which was a massive employer at the time. Ever defiant, he engaged in an act of resistance that shook the British establishment to the core.

He drank from a water cooler designated for British people only.

Following this transgression, he was promptly chased by a British guy from management,who also deployed security guards to chase after the errant water thief.

In what would become known in the family as the great escape, my granddad hid in one of toilet cubicles, standing on the actual toilet so they can couldn’t see his feet when they looked under the doors. He stayed there for an hour or two until they gave up, and then made his escape.

I am not sure when water coolers were ‘desegregated’, but there was a hierarchy. British first obviously, then Indians, then cattle class – the Bahrainis.

My Dad also worked at BAPCO, and said segregation was more an unspoken rule in his day. They didn’t specifically identify the classes, or who could go where, but they all knew.

Oh yeah, and apparently there was a rule where British female secretaries were banned from ‘befriending’ Bahrainis, especially males, and they would get fired if caught. I’m not sure of the specifics but that story always sticks with me.


Thirsty Work: Oil workers at BAPCO

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