Bahrain’s National Hero is an American

13 May, '06

Fawzi Julaid, the manager of the National Democratic Institute leaving BahrainNot a lot of people valued Fawzi Julaid‘s input into the shaping of Bahrain’s fledgeling democracy nor understood his efforts until he was practically deported off the island, treated like one of the thousands of illegal and run-away workers, rather than a valued person who has worked tirelessly to inculcate democracy’s mechanisms in Bahrain.

Even his country’s ambassador seemed hesitant to give him a hand; at least this is what one understands from Liz Campbell’s comments when he says that the previous American ambassador to Bahrain and the Administration are going to be unhappy to see Mr. Julaid treated in this heinous manner.

I keep asking myself the question “why”? I really do not understand what prompted the government to behave in this way. Why would it want to replace an institute which has wide public acceptance with a quixotic entity that is more bluster than actual experience.

And how can the newly formed Bahrain Institute for Political Development even come close to the vast experience of the NDI, and institute born off a working democracy? Ulterior motives must have been the only factor which was considered when they attempted to chase the NDI out of Bahrain, without any thought given to modern communication infrastructure which ensures that anyone can work and deliver timely opinions and help remotely, across countries and time-zones. That, demonstrates to me yet another disconnect that this current government is nothing short of dinosaurs employing ancient techniques to subvert the path of reforms and democracy drawn and implemented by his majesty the king.

Why now? I have expressed an opinion previously that this move might be directly related to the NDI requesting a monitor status for the forthcoming municipal and parliamentary elections scheduled to happen any day now, as the government through its Ministry of Social Affairs have done the very same thing to the Transparency Society, another entity which requested the very same action.

They obviously have failed in both attempts; the Transparency Society has recently elected its board so there is no reason for it not to resume its mandate, and the NDI have clearly said that the office in Bahrain will not be closed, and that they will continue to operate in Bahrain via Mr. Julaid regularly physically visiting the island, but more importantly keeping in contact with all political societies in the island, and if a seminar or workshop need to be done, then those could easily be done in another country if physical presence is required, or virtually through the internet and telephones.

So what does the current government gain from all of this?

My very simplistic reading of the situation suggests that:

1. Put the breaks on democracy at any cost, even utilising somewhat respected persons to do the dirty work; all they achieved there is the complete discrediting of those people who might have really contributed to this country’s progress.

2. Besmirch this country’s reputation; as an Arab and a Bahraini I am mortified that a guest of this country, formally invited by his majesty the king no less, to have been treated in such a discourteous manner. This is bad form at its worst and I hope that Bahrainis are not going to be looked at by fellow Arabs and the rest of the world as simply are rude and oafish.

3. Discredit the democracy that we have been fighting to build since 2001.

4. Fast-track the return of the State Security Law with all that entails (that would make the recent events in Cairo look like a picnic!)

Someone please put me right if I have misread the clues here.

Mr. Julaid, you have been a credit to this country and I, as a Bahraini, profusely apologise for your rude treatment. Rest assured that virtually the whole country, all those who value democracy, are completely with you and would welcome you back with open hearts and arms.

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Comments (16)

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  1. tooners says:

    wouldn’t you have liked to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in the offices of the people who had something to do w/ getting rid of this guy!! it’s a shame that the current U.S. ambassador didn’t handle it better or, atleast, take a stand against it.

  2. Ingrid says:

    Tooners, who knows what is discussed behind the scenes re. the American ambassadar. I am boggled each time Mahmoud reports on something that literally is (going) backwards. I particularly liked his post on the differences between the state of Mecca and the state of Medina (do I say that right?sorry if my memory is off). With other words; do you create a state for muslims, or an Islamic state? It seems that so many now are so much more polarized than before that from the itty bitty democracy that you had, there are forces (in front and behind the scenes) who are determined to turn it into the latter..
    Ingrid

  3. abuRasool says:

    I take yours and many other friends’ words for it. The guy must be really a terrific human being who happens to work for a not-so-terrific organisation. I dotted down some of my reasons for not liking the work carried by NDI s and other US-government sponsored organisations in our region. (check alWaqt on Tuesday, if intersted).
    Yet, I do not support deporting any person or imposing a ban on any organisation or their activities. What we need are alternatives, specially homegrown ones. And, being realistic, what harm can a couple of dozens of these organisations do compared to the US-military (including Nuclearpresence in our country and region. AbuRasool

  4. mahmood says:

    I defer to your experience and analysis Sir. You are much more experienced in reading these things than I am. I was commenting on the method he was expelled, and what I have seen and read of his involvement in the political preparation scene in Bahrain, as to the political aspect of the NDI or the motives of the American administration by their various programs for the region, no, I completely and utterly defer to you.

    I’m at a loss for example as to why Bahraini newspapers apparently refused to accept training/development donations from organisations such as MEPI, while I know the the Journalists Association – headed by Al-Shaiji – apparently is the only one which did! Can you shed some light on the dynamics of these things? What’s your take?

    I tried to trace your article in Al-Waqt but unfortunately they seem to have a problem with their archive retrieval procedure.

  5. abuRasool says:

    I am truly humbled by your words (There is some measure of irony here: I belong to a generation that shouted in late 1960s: “Never trust anyone over 30”) 😉

    I agree with you. Mr. Fawzi Guleid does not deserve this humiliating treatment. No one should be deported (or punished in any manner) without proper judicial review by the proper authority.

    Could it be that Mr. Guleid is made to pay for Bahraini royals’ displeasure with delays in approving the FTA? Or, with the ‘unforgivable’ ommission made by Ms Rice in her speech during her last visit to Bahrain? (she saluted Moza of Qatar, of all people, without mentioning her Bahraini hosts or their spouses). Or is it something else more sinister or sillier?. I do not know. But I believe it is very low to make a junior public servant pay for any royal displeasure. Get the bigger fish
    ما يقدر على الحمار يقدر على العدّة

    I agree also with your reference to the double standards re MEPI and the money and other forms of support accrued thereof. I have always been against ‘external funding’. Homegrown activities are more effective and provide longer term solutions than dependence on foreign donors. ( Just look at some shining examples from India). But, I also understand the other logic: What harm can be done a few dollars dispersed here or there by a foreign donor in a country that leases its territories as bases for nuclear-powered aircarft carriers?
    AbuRasool

    PS. It is tomorrow’s alWaqt.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Is there any way to get this Al Waqt article in English? Or at least get an idea about what it says?

  7. mahmood says:

    Here’s the article in Arabic, I’ll translate the gist of it when I get a chance today:

    عبدالهادي‮ ‬خلف‮‬‭

    ‬ NDI – ‬

    ثمة اتفاق عام بين جزء بارز من النخبة السياسية في‮ ‬البحرين على استنكار قرار ترحيل ممثل المعهد الديمقراطي‮ ‬الوطني‮ ‬فوزي‮ ‬جوليد‮. ‬قد‮ ‬يرى هؤلاء أشياءً‮ ‬لا تُرى من بُعد‮. ‬وقد‮ ‬يعرفون ما‮ ‬يخفى على أمثالي‮ ‬و لهذا بحثتُ‮ ‬عن سبب الضجة متســائلاً‮ ‬عما ستخسره البلاد حين لا‮ ‬يكون فيها مندوب سام أميركياً‮ ‬لشؤون الديمقراطية أو المفتي‮ ‬الأكبر حول الحلال والحرام في‮ ‬شؤون المجتمع المدني؟‮
    read more at JaddWilliam’s

  8. abuRasool says:

    The above points are reiterated in Arabic: Mr. Guleid must be a nice guy who is working for a bad organisation. He does not deserve to be humilated. No one does. Official utterances alluding to ‘idependence’ and ‘intereference’ in local politics by Mr. Guleid are just silly when the whole country is ‘leased’ to the US Navy 5th Fleet. AbuRasool

  9. mahmood says:

    Thank you Aburasool, much obliged.

    You also propose that the NDI’s functions really should be taken over by local talent, how can local talent take over particular functions which essentially teach democratic methods and means when we just don’t have that culture?

    You seem to be biased against the States and think that they have an ulterior motive in Bahrain specifically by establishing such an institute, and might have projected your own experiences and that of your compatriots on Guleid’s, as if using Guleid’s misfortune to really remind people that indigenous Bahrainis have also suffered the same fate, yet no objections (as much as those voiced with Guleid’s incident) have been raised.

    Can you please explain the position?

    I’m asking these questions because I genuinely want to know. I don’t know the history of the struggle you have been through, it is hardly documented after all or I haven’t read the right sources. It would be good to be educated in the nuances of Bahraini historical/current politics.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I admit I have been anti-LBJ through to Anti-Bush.

    I must also note that I have learnt a lot from many many great Americans. (I adore Billy Halliday, Jimmy Hendricks….) No I am not going to pull that cliche: Many of my friends are Americans 😉

    There are many American human rights wtachdogs that do not fit the notorious bill of Freedom House, NDI , NED or what have you. An example: a decade ago the Human Right Watch published an important document on Bahrain. This is an account of the routine abuse of human rights in Bahrain and the routine denials by our ruling family and its western allies. That report, I believe, was instrumental in making the blight of the people of Bahraini known to some important circles in Washington DC. Its was a first class piece of human right advocacy. Well-researched while maintaining a high level of empathy with the victims of abuse. I contend that the HRW report helped our struggle bear the fruits we harvested in 2001 (the charter and the promises of reforms). Without it the pressures from Washington DC would not have come.

    Like many Bahrainis, I am very grateful for those Americans who took the trouble to research the book, compile its information with interviews and meetings held in Europe, the Middle East, the USA, as well as Bahrain. The authors of that report are Americans that I will always be proud to know.

    I expressed sympathy with Mr. Gulied while I disliked the organisation he worked for. I also note the the DNI is not a philanthropic organisation and should be viewed as such. Yet I do not call for banning its activities in Bahrain. I simply call for giving our the people some alternatives. Bahrain authorities (read: the king) gave NDI and Mr. Gulied the exclusive right to conduct business in BAhrain. Unfortunately, I have noted elsewhere, NDI and Mr. Gulied assumed the status of the Grand Mufti on Human Rights and on Affairs of Civil Society in Bahrain. That was unhealthy for the guy and unfortunate for the country.

    Now to your question on “how can local talent take over particular functions which essentially teach democratic methods and means when we just don’t have that culture?”. My answer is that I know that there are any number of good, honest and hard working local talents who are stationed in Bahrain and who are capable of handling the tasks involved. Part of these tasks, as I assume you do in your line of work, is to know exactly where to locate and get the specifc expertise fit for a specific task, recruit them for the duration of the project. The world is full of experts that are eager to help.

    Having said this I donot mean Bahrain should close the doors for NDI or any other organisation that wants to open shop in our country. I am not fond of free market, but I am for competitiveness.

    It is past 10 pm and I must call it a day.
    AbuRasool

  11. I am the walrus says:

    AbuRasool, you still haven’t said what you specifically think the NDI’s doing wrong in Bahrain.

    I agree that there are some really dodgy ‘human rights groups’ out there and your example of Freedom House fits that category (how many Guantanamo defending neocons does it want on its board?), but why should the NDI be grouped likewise and how does this affect its activities in Bahrain?

    I’d really like to think that what your saying is a bit more sophisticated than knee jerk anti Americanism or opposition to those who don’t see Bahrain’s politics as black and white.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, I am the walrus, for your interest in my views.

    Whether sophisticated or not, I certainly do not like American hegemonic presence in Bahrain. How many time must a man say this….?

    On the other hand I certainly do not believe the NDI is an advocate of human rights. It is an extended arm of the American state ( not necessarily the current administration). The Chairperson of NDI is a a person who is on record stating that she thinks that the death of half million Iraqi childred is a a price worth paying. NDI’s president is a former and for many years, AIPAC executive.

    Is NDI worse or better than Freedom House? I am not really an expert on that. So please accept my apologies for not delving on ranking who is what.
    I know of some other American Human rights advocacy organisations and groups. I mentioned, for example , the HRW and how much I value their work for Bahrain.

    I guess I donot to reiterate tthat I donot call for closing Bahrain’s gates for NDI, the Freedom House, or any other organisation, that wants to set shops in our country. I am not fond of free market, but I am for fair competition. NDI was/is the sole agent in Bahrain for a brand. That was not fair and I guess it got in the head of its staff. Let us open the market for other suppliers. Simple!
    AbuRasool

  13. mahmood says:

    Are there other suppliers of that caliber though? What would the alternative be, and indeed are they all required in Bahrain?

    You advocate using home-grown solutions and I respect that, as without a doubt we have some valued thinkers and people whose diligent work is not for personal ego but for the better of the country as a whole, and they can certainly lead, you included in this select group.

    My worry is, would these honourable individuals, if given the chance of course, be able to conduct their business without inordinate amount of pressure exerted on them to toe the line, or even change the strategy they have adopted to better the political situation in Bahrain? In light of this, wouldn’t even an objectionable US entity be better at least at the current time?

  14. abuRasool says:

    I honestly donot know how to address your worry, Mahmood. I really donot know how people will conduct themselves. Bahrainis, like the Swedes or Chineses , are mix bag.
    Lessons drawn from following som Indian experiences show that some people fail some other succeed. The way I see it, most of the shining examples are provided by those NGOs, networks and groups that relied on local efforts, on grassroots and learnt by doing as well as learning from exchanges with like-minded in other countries.

    Do we have, in Bahrain, “other suppliers of that calibe”? Yes and no. But let me answer the question in a different way. Bahrain started offering university level education before it had people of the same calibre that foreign universities have. “Caliber” , as it were, is a matter of context. Progressive accumulation could lead, in a freer academic environment, to remarkable achiements. (There those of course who are disaapointments even to their own mothers). As a Bahraini, I am proud of the many locally-based academics who are working in such an hostile environment as prevails, say, in university of Bahrain. But the do, god bless them. Given the opportunity, the locally-based academics could achieve more.

    Like any other avaragely tralented people in this world, Bahrainis should NOT be banned from searching for homegrown solutions to their own problems (and of course learning from the global cultural treasures that we share including the universal declaration on HR).

    I do not condone deporting Mr. Gluied. I donot condone banishing NDI from Bahrain. I am against apponting him and his organisation ( or any other outfit) as the sole agent , the grand mufti, on human right and civil society affairs.

  15. mahmood says:

    I think I’m beginning to understand what you are alluding to, thanks for the insight. I was looking at this in a rather simplistic way, while you were looking at it more of an issue of sovereignty outlook, if I am correct in interpreting your position.

    There are a lot of issues which are best understood by reading between the lines, especially in this minuscule country’s politics and dynamic forces between the various powers, and I should better start to be more sceptical about issues which are taken.

  16. Alshugaa says:

    The democracy’s acceptance is something unreachable among arabian goverments .

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