One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

2 Feb, '07

That is the title of the seminar to be conducted in Washington on February 13th concerning the Bahraini political scene. Not a very imaginative title, as it is a very much overused sentence in Bahrain – with justification, I might add. All you have to do is pick up any paper, on any day and read any political topic. Continue reading about that topic for a while and you will see – there in black and white – why Bahrain should most probably trade mark that “brand”.

Nowhere is that brand more in evidence than in the political, freedoms and human rights scenes.

Back to the seminar; it’s organisers the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research describe that event as follows:

In February 2001, Bahrain introduced a series of reforms to open its political system. The following year, the government promulgated a new constitution, established a bicameral legislature, and issued calls for Sunni-Shiite equality. Western governments hailed the country as a beacon for democracy in the Middle East. But six years and two parliamentary elections later, Bahrain’s liberal experiment has failed to meet expectations. Tensions are high. Will sectarian strife spur greater reform or will it cause retrenchment? What does Bahraini political reform mean for the United States?

That’s really good. We need to discuss these issues and continue to talk about them with the declared objective that we should find a way out of the bottleneck. No one can declare for an instant that Bahrain is perfect; no country is, and as we are but an infant as far as democracy is concerned, it is vitally important that we continue to learn from our experiences, and listen especially to people opposing the limited reforms we enjoy so that we can gain from their own ideas.

One might ask, who’s involved in this panel? Again, according to the organisers:

These and other questions will be the subject of an AEI panel discussion with Salah al-Bandar, secretary general of the Gulf Centre for Democratic Development in London; Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja, executive director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights; and Toby Jones, a visiting assistant professor of history at Swarthmore College. Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, will moderate.

Ah, that might be a problem for the Bahraini government. To say that they detest the whole panel and view them as enemies of the State is an understatement. The government has also not shown any willingness to put the Bandargate fires out, in fact, it has done the exact opposite if the leaked strategic report dubbed “Bandargate version 2” is anything to go by, and much more importantly the deafening silence it is maintaining and the continued employment of all those named and shamed in the original report.

So it is not going to take to this seminar too kindly. And you would think that they would immediately raise objections with the organisers and demand that the panel should have government representatives to portray the government’s points of view.

That, it appears, is far too much hassle. There is a much easier way to put paid to that seminar:

The president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, was arrested by Bahraini authorities this morning at 6am. The reason for the detention is not yet known.

Mr. Alkhawaja was previously arrested in September 2004 after he gave a public lecture in which he criticized the Prime Minister of Bahrain. (See Human Rights Watch: Rights Center Closed as Crackdown Expands and Closure of BCHR).

Mr. Alkhawaja was due to travel to the United States later this month to deliver a lecture about political reform in Bahrain, at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington DC.

It is also being reported that Hassan Mushaima, the general secretary of the Haq Movement political society, has also been arrested.

The arrest comes just a day after two political activists in the country (Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi and Mr Hussain AbdulAziz Al Hebshi) were sentenced to prison for possessing leaflets. The leaflets, downloaded from an internet website, called on Bahrainis to boycott the November 2006 national elections. (See information regarding the Leaflet Detainees).

Further details will be posted on this post as they become available.
BCHR :: 2nd February, 2007

That’s quite neat isn’t it? Very daring and creative one might say too!

These are my simple predictions:

    1. They’ll not going to be released before Feb 13th.
    2. We’ll have many more demonstrations around the island demanding the release of the “leaflet detainees”, the 2 persons arrested in the last couple of days demanding the release of the leaflet detainees, and now we will have the demonstrators also calling for the release of the Washington Seminar Detainees.
    3. Tempers will continue to boil and flair.
    4. More business opportunities will be lost due to all of these shenanigans.
    5. Moderates will continue to be pushed into corners and forced to take sides.
    6. And the country will continue its downward spiral.

This is yet another fiasco. What the government has achieved with this unwise move is proven the basic premise of the seminar. Bahrain does indeed takes one step forward, and several steps back!

Do they really think that the apprehension of a panelist will magically cancel the seminar? No, what they have also done is given the seminar both legitimacy and popularity! Just think of the headlines it will create now.

Is this really conducive to our situation?

Is there no one in power that will step forward with political courage and will and put a stop to all of this?

WE are getting rather tired of all these situations.

All we want is to live with dignity for goodness’ sake. Is that too much to ask?

Release them. All of them. For the sake of the future of Bahrain.

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  1. May be says:

    هناك تكهنات ان أعتقال الخواجة جاء على خلفية تجمع عام خلال شهر محرم في احدى ساحات المنامة تحدث خلاله الخواجة عن الفساد والتجنيس والاستيلاء على الاراضي في البحرين. أعتقد ان التهمة التى ستوجه اليه ستكون التحريض، وقلب نظام الحكم وما الى ذلك من الاتهامات المعتادة.

  2. mahmood says:

    I’m afraid of this escalation of hostilities. If the game is not played properly, we are in for very interesting times indeed, and not the “fun” type.

  3. mahmood says:
    وزارة الداخلية البحرينية / تصريح
    بتاريخ: 02/02/2007

    المنامة فى 2 فبراير / بنا / صرح العقيد محمد راشد بوحمود الوكيل المساعد للشئون القانونية بوزارة الداخلية بمملكة البحرين بأن أجهزة الامن المختصة القت القبض على ثلاثة أشخاص فى صباح يوم الجمعة الموافق 2 فبراير الجارى لارتكابهم جرائم تتعلق بالترويج والتحبيذ لتغيير النظام السياسى فى الدولة بوسائل غير مشروعة والتحريض علانية على كراهية ومعادة نظام الحكم ووصفه بنعوت غير لائقة مما يعد جريمة من حيث مخالفة القوانين والسعى لتحسين أمر غير شرعى مع اشاعة الاضطراب والحاق الضرر بالمصلحة العامة وتعكير صفو الامن باذاعة اخبار ملفقة وبيانات عارية عن الصحة وبث دعايات هدامة لايستفيد منها الا من لا يحب الخير والاستقرار لهذا الوطن.

    وعلى ضوء هذه الاسباب والوقائع تم احالة المتهمين على الفور وفى نفس اليوم الى النيابة العامة التى باشرت التحقيق معهم.

    واضاف الوكيل المساعد للشئون القانونية ان المتهمين ارتكبوا الجرائم المنسوبة فى اجواء احياء ذكرى عاشوراء مستغلين الانشطة والفعاليات المصاحبة للشعائر الحسينية لترويج مثل هذه الافكار المغرضة التى تثير استياء ابناء الوطن كافة ولاتخدم الاستقرار والوحدة الوطنية عن طريق القاء الخطب التحريضية على الجموع المحتشدة بالمأتم ومواكب العزاء والتى تم توثيقها بالصوت والصورة.

    // بنا // م ح 1722 02

    Official press release from the Ministry of Interior:

    SECURITY FORCES ARREST THREE PEOPLE CHARGED WITH SPREADING SUBVERSIVE IDEAS

    date: 02 02, 2007

    MANAMA, FEB. 2, (BNA) — ASSISTANT UNDERSECRETARY FOR LEGAL AFFAIRS AT THE INTERIOR MINISTRY, COL. MOHAMMED RASHID BU HAMMOUD, SAID SECURITY FORCES ARRESTED TODAY, FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2, THREE PEOPLE ON CHARGES OF INSTIGATING SUBVERSION OF THE POLITICAL SYSTEM IN THE KINGDOM THROUGH ILLEGAL MEANS AND OPENLY INCITING HATRED AND STOKING ANIMOSITY AGAINST THE POLITICAL SYSTEM WHICH THEY DESCRIBED USING UNBECOMING DEFAMATORY LABELS.

    THEIR BEHAVIOUR IS AN ACT INDICTED BY LAW AS IT AIMS TO BRING ABOUT UNREST, DAMAGE PUBLIC INTERESTS AND JEOPARDISE SECURITY BY DISSEMINATING GROUNDLESS RUMOURS AND DESTRUCTIVE SLOGANS WHICH CAN BENEFIT ONLY THOSE WHO DO NOT LIKE WELFARE AND STABILITY TO PREVAIL IN THE COUNTRY, HAMMOUD EXPLAINED. IN LIGHT OF THE AFOREMENTIONED REASONS, THE ACCUSED WERE IMMEDIATELY REFERRED TO THE PUBLIC PROSECUTION WHICH LAUNCHED INVESTIGATION IN THEIR CASE, HE ADDED. BU HAMMOUD ADDED THAT THE ACCUSED COMMITTED THEIR CRIMES DURING ASHOORA RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL, AVAILING THEMSELVES OF THE RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS TO SPREAD THEIR IDEAS WHICH PROVOKE THE RESENTMENT OF ALL BAHRAINI CITIZENS WHO ARE AGAINST USING PROVOCATIVE SERMONS IN MAATAMS AND MOURNING PROCESSIONS TO PROPAGANDIZE IDEAS LIKELY TO DISTURB THEIR COUNTRYS STABILITY AND NATIONAL UNITY. HMQ 02-FEB-2007 17:49

    Wonderful.

  4. hamad says:

    The reaction is taking place already, as i speak tear gas fills Deih and Sanabis and extending into Manama with helicopters in the sky.

    I got a couple of calls saying rubber bullets are being used aswell.

  5. mahmood says:

    add to that Naim and Sitra as well, and so far 6 people are reported to have been arrested today (including the 3 mentioned in the MoInt press release).

    Isn’t this a fun-filled Friday!

  6. mahmood says:

    Al-Wefaq leadership are reportedly entering into a meeting with the Minister of Interior now. They’re pitching for the release of the 2 6. I wish them good luck, but don’t hold much hope.

  7. can we talk says:

    does anybody know what exactly was in the pamphlets? are they on the web somewhere? can we see them?

  8. Anonymous says:

    the called for the boycott of the 2006 election because the districts were not divided properly

  9. can we talk says:

    but have you seen a copy of the actual pamphlets?
    one side is making claims about the content and how it incites to change and arms are being mentioned, in which case the sentence is shorter than what it could have been, (i’m not saying they’re right, just that they could have) while the other side is saying boycott elections and other stuff that has been mentioned before even in the press. big difference. i for one would like to see the text.

  10. Rayyash says:

    fresh news!!!
    after alwefaq meeting the gov have release them

  11. can we talk says:

    released who? the first two or the ones from today?

  12. can we talk says:

    released who? the first two that were already sentenced or the ones from this morning?

  13. yup.. your friends have been released.. now the questions are: why were they arrested and why are they being released if there were sound grounds for arresting them to begin with? is there a law in this country? what does justice mean? or is the reputation of bahrain a YOYO in the hands of little children who don’t know what the hell they are doing. You know what .. i am in a ranting mood.. I’m off to my blog..LOL

  14. mahmood says:

    CWT, it’s probably available on vob.org

    Rayyash, they released the 2, 6 or 2 6? It sounds like good news for a change!

  15. mahmood says:

    Just confirmed that they released Abdulhadi Al-Khuwaja, Hassan Mushaimi and Shaker on bail with the proviso that Al-Wefaq calms the situation on the ground as unrest is reported in a lot of areas of the country.

    I guess we will get the full story in the press tomorrow. But one wonders WHY it started in the first place. Did they not anticipate such a reaction? And why would fully-suited and armed special forces goes apprehends people at 6am from the bosom of their families? Wouldn’t a notification from the Public Prosecution to present oneself in front of them promptly not enough?

    Needless escalation.

    Looking forward to read your blog SBG 😉

  16. Rayyash says:

    they have reeased the main 3 out of the 6, and negotiation going on coz the other 3 been arrested from the road!!!

  17. ALTh7ka says:

    Hello,
    Still at Snabis we can here the sound of the tear gas and we can smell them inside our homes, also the helicopters fly very close. We are in this situation since 1 pm, untill now it more than 8 hours and it continue.

    Regards..

  18. Mahmood, Is there anyone with any sense listening to what we have been saying all along? Why the escalation? Whether we agree with the ideologies of Mushaima, Khawaja and Co or not is irrelevant because at the end of the day, we are united in that the authorities heavy handedness in dealing with anyone who dares to speak up against injustice/wrong doings of any type will just be crushed, humiliated and thrown behind bars. Is this the type of democracy we have been aspiring for?

  19. milter says:

    sillybahrainigirl, you wrote:

    Whether we agree with the ideologies of Mushaima, Khawaja and Co or not is irrelevant because ….

    I don’t agree with you. The fact that you have a common “enemy” is not enough to join hands with anybody at any cost. If you don’t share the idea of what’s going to come out of it all at the other end you may be in for a rude awakening.

    I agree 100% with “can we talk”.

    How can you make any reasonable judgement on anything if you don’t have all the facts. I wouldn’t base my opinion of a pamphlet on rumours about it. The rumours may be correct, but, I’d still prefer to see the exact words before I pass my own verdict.

  20. can we talk says:

    Mahmood,
    well i have been all over vob and read all kinds of stuff there and unless i can’t see the forest for the trees i can’t for the life of me find it either. they mention downloading stuff (?) off the internet and various statements say different things and i am no closer to the truth than i was before.

    SBG,
    the moment you allow someone else to make the judgement for you, by adopting their version of the truth, without gathering evidence yourself, is the moment you join the herd, and to me that is even more dangerous, no matter how noble your intentions. because it means that thinking people are not thinking for themselves.

    we might end up in the same place later, but i think it’s better to get there with both eyes open.

  21. Sure Milter. How can you be so certain that I am not making a reasonable judgement and that I don’t have all the facts?

  22. can we talk says:

    milter,
    i’m getting a sense of deja vu?

  23. can we talk says:

    SBG,
    so have you seen the pamphlets yourself? if you have, can you please say what was in them exactly and if they are anywhere on the net? thanx

  24. Anonymous says:

    CWT, the booklet can be downloaded from this link:
    http://vob.org/index.php?show=news&action=article&id=120&lang=arabic

  25. Anonymous says:

    sillybahrainigirl ,

    How can you be so certain that I am not making a reasonable judgement and that I don’t have all the facts?

    I can’t be certain. At the time I wrote my comment I just hadn’t seen anybody saying something like this: “This is exactly what the pamphlet said” with a link to where you can see it for yourself and make your own judgement.

    The Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen wrote a little story about 170 years ago about life in a hen house. One of the hens plucked a feather and some of the other hens saw it. Two days later the story (rumour) had turned into a tale of how 5 hens had lost their lives because of rivalry over a cock.

    I realize that the main reason why rumours like that can attain so much attention is the lack of free and open access to information in your region. However, it still doesn’t relieve you of the obligation to try to base your judgements on facts and not rumours.

    Unfortunately I’m handicapped by my lack of understanding and reading Arabic. Are you sure you share the visions for your future wth the people you mention?

  26. milter says:

    The comment above was from me,

    milter

  27. Anonymous says:

    can we talk,

    I too have the feeling we’ve been here before 🙂

  28. * Silly Girl shakes her head in bewilderment.. I am not arrogant or anything but seriously in no mood for small talk tonight.. perhaps tomorrow.. or no.. my weekends are packed.. how about a tongue in cheek marathon on monday?

  29. jayjerome says:

    “The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”

    John Adams, one of the framers of the U.S. Constitution, wrote those words more than 200 years ago. Liberty doesn’t come easily. Or quickly. There’s always reversals. Here in the U.S. as recently as the 1950s the government was hounding and imprisoning people for dispersing books and pamphlets about communism and socialism and other “un-American” activities the people in power thought subversive.

    You have a long, rocky road ahead of you. But hopefully the two steps backwards one step forward will reverse to one step backwards, and perhaps one and a half steps forward.

    In a world filled with tyrants and despots, all you can do is exercise your conscience — and hope for the best…

  30. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t anybody worried about the escalation of events? Haven’t you read the accusations in the Bahrain Tribune? Why would a political figure or an “Activist” choose to say their anti-government speeches at a religous event? Why would an “anti-torture committee choose to put up a tent at Ashoora?? Why mix politics with religon?
    Ashoora is a period in which the nation mournes a historic religous event, why should an “activist” choose this specific event to dicsuss his/her intolerence of the government?
    I am worried everybody,,, I am worried alot….. I am worried more by what the capabilities of these so-called activist morons, more than I am by the governments reaction to them….
    As for the 2 innocent pamphlet distributors, as people are portraying them, I heard they were distributing books, dangerous books that talked about horrendous acts of sabotaging our nations unity.
    I am worried…..

  31. Ali says:

    As for the 2 innocent pamphlet distributors, as people are portraying them, I heard they were distributing books, dangerous books that talked about horrendous acts of sabotaging our nations unity.

    Neither the government nor the court have mentioned such lies, so how come YOU heard them and beleived in them?

    Of course, the if you refer to Albanar report then yes, the plans are horrendous acts os sabotaging our nations by the royal court and sh. Ahmed Atyatulla’s evel team!

  32. mahmood says:

    Anon, you should be worried. The whole situation is a powder keg which is already lit. And things the absence of a political will to resolve these situations, the unemployment, the poverty line, the bad education, the dearth of land, the inability of citizens to own land or build a house if they are fortunate enough to have a plot, the general apathy of the street, all of these are the dangerous mix which is in the keg. Now all you need is any event – like Bandargate for instance, or the inability of the government to create the required atmosphere for truth and reconciliation by inculcating a law like 56/2002 and gagging the press and other forms of speech on top of the heinous press and publications law 47/2002 are the stuff which not only light the fuse of that powder keg, but will act as an accelerator to that fuse.

    You’re right to be worried.

    There is a strong PULL from both sides of the divide, and the moderates are the people held captive in the middle.

    If I were you, I would work at lessening the gratuitous accusations, and work very hard at understanding the events and their surrounding, and use that newfound understanding to talk to the powers that be to assist them in opening their eyes and assessing this explosive situation; because it is within their hands to ameliorate the situation and pour calming waters on these events. The ball is resolutely in their court.

  33. hello from poland! i found your post on the global voices site…

    in the usa, there many examples of effective civil disobedience…and, internationally, of course ghandi comes to mind…a classic work on the subject is h.d. thoreau’s “on the duty of civil disobedience”

    i don’t know about the bahrainian constitution, but in the usa when the government engages in such abusive & destructive behavior, people not only have the right, but an ethical duty to rise up and change things…

    i think it would be a good idea to have the members of police families participate in the protests…do you really think they would all get arrested?

    maybe govt’ behavior isn’t really destructive enough in bahrain to mobilize the masses?

  34. Ali says:

    Jordan & Maria Seidel said:
    think it would be a good idea to have the members of police families participate in the protests…do you really think they would all get arrested?

    A good idea indeed except that the majority of the police force in Bahrain, and unlike any other county in the world, are foreigners!.. mercenaries who cannot even speak the country’s language..!!

  35. Soldier's Dad says:

    Rapid social change always creates a backlash or whiplash effect.

    In the 60’s and 70’s the US experienced the so called “Sexual Revolution” with the effect of returning Conservative Evangelical Christians to substantial power in the 80’s. The entire cycle was not without social unrest or various government agencies overstepping their boundaries.

    Change for good or bad creates uncertainty, uncertainty creates fear, fear makes poor decisions. Unfortunately, it is part of being human.

    In the end, the primary function of Government is to maintain peace and prosperity among its citizens, the primary function of Democracy is to provide a balancing mechanism between those who advocate change and those who advocate leaving things as they are.

  36. Mad man says:

    Ali: your profound contempt for the security forces is quite ludicrous. Here you are telling the outside world that our police officers are foreigners, where even Bahrain’s so-called indigenous population are mostly, at best, 2nd generation.

    Our nation comprises of the Arabs, both suni and shia alike, who came from Arabia or Yemen or Iraq, the Persians, also both shia and suni, from Iran, the Baluchis from Oman and Pakistan who, mind you came to the Island before many persians did!!! As for those from the sub-continent, they’ve been here for over a century, since we were under the British rule, they were brought here to run our security forces, centuries ago, so it is only natural that they are more inclined to work in this profession to this date.

    In the USA the minority of Hispanics that are FYI now considered a vast “majority” do not speak American, yet contribute to everyday life. Well so do our security forces, like it or not. At least, they don’t sit on their God Damn asses waiting for comfy jobs to drop into their laps when they don’t even put in the effort to even spell their own names in Arabic or English!!!

  37. mahmood says:

    where even Bahrain’s so-called indigenous population are mostly, at best, 2nd generation.

    I find this assertion quite ludicrous actually. The indigenous population who do constitute the vast majority of the population here have ancestors going back hundreds if not thousands of years.

    As to the police forces, Ali is correct in his assumption, the Minister of Interior himself put the foreign police members to be at 53% if I remember correctly.

    So get your facts straight before attacking. It would do your credibility good.

  38. Mad man says:

    And it would do your credibility even better if you added valid references to your accusations. And no, I am not talking about foreigners perspectives of what goes on in our country.
    Whether you like it or not Mahmood, you portray yourself as a “liberal” fighting for equality and freedom of speech, but your subliminal, if not open, messages are becoming even more aggressive by the day.
    There are Bahrainis you know that hold different view points than yours even if they aren’t “liberal” to your liking.

  39. mahmood says:

    I’ll look for the reference and post it, if no one beats me to it.

    Whether you like it or not Mahmood, you portray yourself as a “liberal” fighting for equality and freedom of speech, but your subliminal, if not open, messages are becoming even more aggressive by the day.

    That might be true. But that is not due to a change of any of my positions; rather, it is the increasing events befalling this country one after the other which I comment on. None of the events I commented on were of my own doing. If you are looking for me to put my head in the sand and pretend that all is well and dandy, then you’re at the wrong place I’m afraid.

    The whole feeling of the country is that it is in dire straights, and the only way to navigate it out of these dire straights is to have a strong and courageous political will to face facts and fix the situation, before it truly explodes.

    There are Bahrainis you know that hold different view points than yours even if they aren’t “liberal” to your liking.

    Yes of course. I do not have the exclusive right to having an opinion. I welcome differing ones, yours included. But if they don’t make sense, don’t expect me to accept them just to please.

    My friend, we are going through – I think – the most dangerous times Bahrain has ever known. Hiding away from facts or shying away from offering solutions is not going to cut it.

  40. nurox says:

    Mad Man,

    Just to keep it simple, I think you really need to cover more reading on Bahrain’s history before you can throw a claim about Bahrain’s indigenous population.

    I’ll save my reservations on our security forces etc for another time.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Madman,
    you said: “Here you are telling the outside world that our police officers are foreigners, where even Bahrain’s so-called indigenous population are mostly, at best, 2nd generation. ”

    Well, I am just dumfounded!!!

    I know for a fact that my grandfather’s great great grandfathers come from this great country, and i am not sure exactly how much further back than that but will make it a point to find out. I don’t need a reference for my own family tree.

    I also know many others who are like me, so i am curious to know what “valid references” you have to claim otherwise and what your agenda is from making such a ludicruous claim! second generation my a**!!!!!

  42. can we talk says:

    sorry, anonymous number 45 was me

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