General Strike in Bahrain

When the General Strike was announced yesterday, I didn’t give it much heed. I guess I’m conditioned to ignore trade unions as they have very little and smooth teeth which tickle more than cause injury. Well, it seems that today, they’ve sharpened them a bit and they’re starting to leave a mark.

Teachers, some of them at least, heeded that call. I noticed a few gathering with their Bahraini flags and a couple of hastily written placards standing in front of their school’s gate near where I live. I approached them, took some pictures and interviewed one. Wanting to check the other schools in the area, I hit the motherload at the Duraz Intermediate Girls’ School nearby – you’ll know what I mean when you view the following video – and then off I went to the school next door where they were striking too.

I’m not sure how many schools in Bahrain are striking today, most if not all the private schools have sent messages to parents to keep their children home, so they’re not functioning I don’t think, but it would be interesting to know the number and areas of the public schools that heeded the call to strike.

Is this the start of another “phenomenon” in Bahrain?

One thing is for sure: Bahrain before the 14th of February 2011 is most definitely different from the Bahrain after it.

 

45 thoughts on “General Strike in Bahrain”

  1. Sweet choice of music; I’ve always considered it the most prophetic song I’ve ever heard since it came out. Any chance of translation subtitles to the clip at some point?

    1. Good idea. A bit busy at the moment but shall attend to it when I have a chance. (unless a good soul would do it for me and send me a text file with the translation, I would really appreciate it!)

    2. Mahmood: what are your demands?
      Lady with covered face: our demands are political reform, ok, an investigative committee concerning the blood that was spilt. We want to know who is responsible. because the blood that was spilt is for the sake of all of us. Then she turns around and says oh you cowards who are sitting inside. She tells them that everyone of them [those that died] are younger then you and an elder. And the people who protested didn’t say ” my job”. I guess she is saying that they weren’t concerned about protecting their jobs by not protesting. And then she says you “prevented me”. She ours “our protest is peaceful and it is still peaceful”. She then says where is the blood that has been spilt? Then she says something like “those sitting inside the school, what are you afraid of. The other lady second to the right of the speaker says “trial for the minister of the interior”. The speaker repeats the same. The second lady to the right says “and the officers and officials in the ministry of interior”. Meaning they need to be tried as well. The original speaker repeats the same. The first lady to the right of the original speaker says “and all the newly naturalized persons – so that jobs will be available”. I guess she is saying they should be removed. The second lady to the right says “they are usurpers”, “it’s a murdering government”. A couple ladies then say, “and the missing persons”, “where are the missing persons?”. The original speaker says “70 missing”. The sign says the same. The original speaker says, something to the effect that do you believe there are 70 missing “they
      are all dead”. The lady standing then says that their situation is such that any person with a conscience would not accept. I apologize for this being a bit sloppy. The guy then speaks next …

  2. Hi Mahmood!
    Unfortunately no subtitles in english in your very professional video but the contect of what these teachers are saying is fully understood.
    Since I am not informed at all – before Feb14 were there no strikes in Bahrain?
    Thank you for your posts!
    We read you here in Greece!

  3. Mahmood can you find out why our Foreign Minister was the only minister present yesterday at the Crown Prince’s meeting and the only minister absent for today’s cabinet meeting chaired by the PM.

  4. Thanks Nhusain.

    It would be a shame to see things break down into “who is more Bahraini” between citizens, with some wanting others to be stripped of their rights. Kinda sounds like that is what these women (who I assume are Shi’a) are saying about Sunnis who immigrated from South Asia. :(

    1. Peacefulmuslimah,
      it is a sad sad reality in Bahrain but that is exactly what is being perceived as the norm. Foreigners and new citizens in Bahrain are petrified in regards to that very matter. If Shia’s end up ruling or controlling more in Bahrain and I emphasize more, all other nationalities will be discriminated against and new citizens will be stripped of their rightfully gained citizenship.

      1. You speak as though Shia are the new Nazis .. they will be oppressing other groups …

        1. If you are referring to me, I am only reacting to what this woman said. I think there can be enough jobs for everybody if people will get past their Sunni-only or Shi’a-only mentality and things settled down when there is an end to the strikes. Losing the F! is a blow to your economy but I hope it will just be a hiccup.

      2. This ogre mentality has no place in the world, let alone Bahrain. You should be ashamed of yourself for just thinking it. No one believes in the oft-propagated bogus “shi’a agenda” any more, so quit it please and work to eradicate – rather than feed – sectarianism, I know it’s very hard for you, but at least try to give the Shi’a the benefit of the doubt.

        While you’re at it, close your eyes, clear your brain from prejudice and put your feet in their shoes for a change.

        1. Mahmood,

          I was in Bahrain for a few days at the beginning of February. My friends wanted to take me all around the islands and show me everything from expat areas to old Bahrain to Shi’a villages on the outskirts. I knew they were Shi’a villages because of all the black flags and banners for Ashura which had recently passed I think. I was shocked to see pictures of Ayatollah Khamenei, Hassan Nasrallah and Ayatollah Al-Sistani displayed all over the villages. I am used to seeing pictures of kings, emirs, and sultans all over cars and buildings so if these had been Bahraini clerics I wouldn’t have thought too much about it. But as they are not Bahraini, I couldn’t understand why their pictures were displayed everywhere. From the outside looking in it does look like there is a Shi’a politico-religious agenda, even though you keep saying that there is none. Can you address this and help me understand better?

          1. And how would I get the context if someone doesn’t explain it. You could just say, “yes they have an allegiance to Nasrallah, Sistani and Khameni” if you don’t really have an explanation. But saying “context” without explaining and acting like there is some justification that no one can understand except you or your comrades, isn’t good debate form. And since I assume you will be doing a lot more of that (debating) on BBC and other radio/TV shows, you could use the practice of how you will respond to some of the harder philosophical and ideological questions :D

          2. You should know that in general, Shia have great regards and respect to their Clerics no matter from which country they come from. Also in Shia islam we have what we call Taqleed (following) taking Fatwas about high level clerics (Ayatullas), which most of them happen to be living in Iran and Iraq because the center of Islamic studies for Shia is Najaf in Iraq and Qum in Iran.

            You see, portraits of Sistani because he is considered one of the most important and influencial clerics in Shia Islam and is highly respected by not only Bahrain Shia but also Shia of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and East Saudi where the Shia live.

            You see portraits of Khamenei, because he is also one of the most influencial clerics in Shia Islam and he happens to be the top man in Iran also respected by Shia all over the world.

            And Sayed Hasan Nasrallah, he may not be in level with Sistani or Khamenei in terms of cleric but he kicked Israel’s a## .

          3. correction .. I meant taking Fatwas “from” high level clerics and not “about”

            sorry

  5. It seems a bit ironic that Bahrain’s move towards democracy has revealed some of the cracks and flaws in its society. The establishment of unions is one of the signs that Bahrain is moving in the right direction, and, although they are far from free and independent, they have highlighted some of the areas with lots of room for improvement.

    Democracy is a funny creature. Handling it wisely has to be learned, like walking and talking. One institute that is trying to analyse its nature is The Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo. One of the articles from it, “Toward Muslim Democracies”, can be read here:

    http://www.ibnkhaldun.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=82:muslimdem&catid=34:books

    Fareed Zakaria, an Indian-American journalist and author, has these words to offer:

    “… true’ democracy is more than electoral contestation and majority rule politics. Authentic liberal values of tolerance, respect for diversity, fundamental human rights and secularism must first be institutionalised in the society at large, or at least into a majority of citizens …”

  6. A general strike is an excellent strategy, but it must go on beyond the schools to the entire business community. Protest marches give the government a target to shoot while a general strike decentralizes the resistance, providing a lower silhouette yet still maximizing the pressure. The government is forced to either begin negotiations or to flail out in impotent fury, eroding its position further.

    1. The following need to strike to be effective

      – Gulf Air Union
      – Bahrain Petroleum (BAPCO) Union
      – Aluminium Bahrain (ALBA) Union
      – Teacher’s Union

      and the last and most important is..

      – The Bankers Union (which is in itself enough)

      1. Teachers? You think that closing schools will make a better Bahrain?

        I have no problem with the rest but teachers who put politics before education have misplaced priorities in my opinion :(

        1. Truth to be told, those protesting can’t exactly just up and leave, some already sacrificed their own lives and lifeblood in these protests, going away and saying “Ok we’ll come back when we have free time, have fun everyone!” isn’t something I see them doing.

          To be honest though, do you really think the country can function properly right now after all what’s happened?

        2. In crisis times like these, the Nation comes first. Ask any teacher, student and protester. Do you think Teachers and students who see their fellow bahrainis get killed will be in a mood to teach ??

          Anyway, the Bahrain Education system is way outdated and is a joke.

          1. In that case, these women are probably doing everybody a favor by staying out of the classroom :D

  7. I think the demands that caused the strike were already met yesterday.
    1- Pulling the army out of the streets.
    2- Pulling the riot police, and deploying normal police.
    3- Ensuring the rights of peaceful protests.

    Schools strikes were irresponsible, I met a lot of angry parents who were late for work or had their kids stuck in schools.

    Not to mention that many teachers went there and had to cover for all the absent teachers. I’m not saying that teachers on strike should be punished, I say that teachers who worked above their capacity today should be rewarded.

    1. Maybe it is because I am an educator but I always feel like school strikes are sort of oxymoronic. Teachers first commitment should always be to educate their students in my opinion. Education is the key to improve lives and to have teachers strike indicates to me that their first priority is not to their students. It’s a matter of principle, like not having medical personnel strike.

      1. I agree that school strikes are ineffective because they don’t put any substantial pressure on the economy. It doesn’t really hurt the government to have schools shut down, except a slight to the self-esteem of bureaucrats. The main effect is to inconvenience parents, who are your political base for the protest. Perhaps you get some slight gain from public video of the protest but a disadvantage in fomenting ill will among your supporters.

  8. I am deeply concerned about bahrain descending into chaos if things carry on the way of last few days. Bahrain has achieved so much over the decades but it could all be undone in the next few days of people with a clear vision and wise head do not start to take control of events.

    I urge the wise old heads to come together and please find a solution otherwise things could really really go downhill

  9. Just watched the video. Thanks for the translation. I guess I just can’t relate to screaming women covering their faces :D But then to be honest I always relate better to people who put their ideas forward in a clear and firm way, without histrionics, which I think is more of a cultural thing than anything else.

    Love the song ;)

  10. Please people, try to read why and what and where and when before you try to give an opinion! be fare and try to take the info from neutrals!

    1. I assume people who have gone to the trouble to read and post here know the background as much as is possible. Just because we don’t agree, doesn’t mean anybody is just spouting off with no grasp of the situation.

  11. So whats the solution, I hear all complains from all sites, however water and fire seem not to be albe to rule together. Shia majority in MP chairs will lead us to….
    Sunni to………..
    a 50-50 I do not see happening here becaus all wil come to a standstill as no decisions will be finalized any time soon.
    Anybody?

  12. In reply to reader 911,
    I find it very short sighted to want to bring an entire economy to a standstill,
    Sure let them strike,
    You never fly anyway, and never have right?
    You do not need petrol as you always walk and hug the trees?
    Less jobs are required in Bahrain so why not close alba right away?
    You do not have children and never wanted them anyway?
    And last but not least, You grow your own food and make your own clothes and have camels and goats in your garden for meat. you do not need any money right?

    So be effective in your own way but I fail to see this.

    1. You may fail to see this but, actually there are signs that it is happening.

  13. I dont see the effectiveness of stiking teacher, what i see is a collective general public who are being patriotic and volunteering to teach and keep our children in schools. We are the ones who want peace, we are the ones who want a peaceful dialogue , and if these women stay to their ignorance. Sadly and surely they will lead this country into a civil war, or take it back 50 years ..
    Striking usually is for a reason, i see their reasons keep changing, there won’t be a concensus.
    The educated , moderate, peaceful people here are infuriated.

    1. What else can these people do to make you hear them? They spill their blood, they have sleepless nights, they loose dear ones!
      Then they said we need to give the message to the whole world and everyone in this country, they boycott and you still call them ignorant, yes talk about ignorance my dear, Im not angry Im disappointed that by now the people of Bahrain should be WIDE AWAKE, Sha3b el 3rabi is talking, All the Arab people are talking from Marakesh to Manama, WAKE UP everyone! People have been shot with live rounds, something is wrong here and they are asking for a change!

  14. Why would anyone not back the Strike? Everyone is doing what they think they can do – even if it’s small things. Blood has been spilled. Momentum is NOW – the time is NOW.

    Brave souls – all of them. May God be with them and also change the hearts of the govt.

  15. I think the expats should rule. Imagine it for a minute. All the sunni/shi’a thing would be out of the window. Greater transparency etc.

    Why do I think that? Because of the latest census.

    Bahrain has 1.23 million people of which just over 666k are expatriate ie we are the majority

  16. Thinking about it:

    President: Indian
    Prime Minister: British
    Minister of Defence: American
    Minster of Works: South African
    Minister of Health: Pakistani
    Minister of Transport: Swiss
    Minister of Justice: Thai
    Foreign Minister: Philippino
    Minister of Industry: German

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