Is there any better time than this to talk?

1 Mar, '11

I honestly don’t think so. The invitation to dialogue is about two weeks old and all what we’ve had so far – at least as far as I can see – are unilateral monologues fueled by wild speculation and rumours. The opposition seems to be biding its time in order to extract more concessions, while a sizable percentage of people in Bahrain are getting battle weary and tired of just waiting. And everyone is asking a simple question: When?

When is a good time to engage in dialogue?

Men stand atop a car at the Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain with a flag that says "PEACE" in Arabic and English

The regime has put forth its hand and has removed all barriers to enter into that dialogue. And it has asserted time and again that there no longer are any red lines and any and all subjects can and shall be discussed. I have not heard of any pre-conditions on the part of the regime to engage in such dialog. Yet, none of the opposition groups seem to be motivated enough to take up that engagement offer and put forth their demands at the table of national dialogue.

The opposition needs to seize this opportunity and not delay any further. The whole world’s eyes are on Bahrain at the moment; however, it will not continue to be so as there are other events taking place which are much larger and probably more important on the world stage, those might force those eyes to veer away from us very soon. We’re still currently in the spot-light which affords the opposition specifically excellent international backing against the regime, thus strengthening their back and giving them a huge advantage. It is therefore the opposition’s responsibility not to let Bahrain down and take up the opportunity by the horn and at least start the dialogue and put the people’s demands forward. Throw everything including the kitchen sink at the table, but at least start talking!

To delay, is inviting a very dangerous double edge-sword into play. Frustrations on both sides will escalate which might lead to very unfortunately instances in both camps, and God forbid that hot-heads taking it into their minds that they will do the Lord’s bidding by attacking the other side, or egg them into an unfortunate situation will drag this country backward even further, regardless of who perpetrates those acts.

Talk. I encourage both parties to talk. The opposition might want to continue to encourage the street to continue in their peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins. Those – no matter how ugly or uncouth one might think they are – are legitimate and legal methods to show grievances by which political pressure is sustained on the regime. The regime themselves aren’t naive to this tool, and as we’ve all witnessed, they made effective use of the support it too enjoys.

It’s been exactly two weeks since #feb14. Seven people gave their life in order for the rest of Bahrain to have the possibility of a better one. We owe it to them to find an expeditious resolution to this problem. Just waiting won’t do. Start the talks. Regardless of how long they might take, at least start now in order to initiate the long and difficult healing process which is much needed for this country.

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Comments (17)

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  1. Asma says:

    I sooo like this >> “Throw everything including the kitchen sink at the table, but at least start talking!”
    And I totally agree with you, throw all you’ve got in your pockets and get on it already! I mean I speak for myself and others like me; this question of “When” has been bothering all of us for sometime now. We all got tired and weary of this and just want it to end. The lost souls should not go without real results and real results won’t surface without making a move for them!!

    Thanks Mahmood. Great one!

  2. Alia says:

    Great post, Mahmood, thanks. ‘Waiting’ and ‘not knowing’ don’t feel so good at the moment. I hope, for the sake of our children, that we can all move forward and dialogue.

  3. Ahmed Al Derazi says:

    Dear Mahmood,
    I have been following your blog every now and then, especially when something significant is going down in Bahrain and I must say I largely agree with what you have to say.
    Those tasked with sitting with the CP to engage in dialogue and take us forward have been dangerously stalling, whilst protestors are beginning to really disrupt the country by taking their demonstrations out of the Pearl and disrupting the city, everyday life and everyday business, causing damange for all regardless of their political position.
    I believe you are a voice of reason and seem to represent the beliefs and opinions of true reformists like myself, so why don’t you go to the roundtable and kick-start the dialogue? You have my support and I am sure many others.

  4. peacefulmuslimah says:

    I am very glad to see you calling for talking now. I suspect the fact that it hasn’t started is symptomatic of the inexperience of the youth that have been driving the daily protests and lack of a clear leader/s behind which most can rally.

    I already see the international interest slipping away from Bahrain in the last 4-5 days, especially as events in Libya have gotten out of control. In a way, I think that works better for Bahrain because it is a NATIONAL dialogue you need and not one with international interference.

  5. Ahmed Al Derazi says:

    Also for any of those interested, there is going to be a unique art and photography event taking place tomorrow morning arranged by Gulf Auto Zone (GAZ) magazine
    Check out the link:
    http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/event.php?eid=198989660125734

    There has been several chants of unity, but they have been made seperately from different camps. Tomorrow will be an opportunity for all those who love Bahrain and realize that only by being united and understanding we can have a better Bahrain to send out a strong statement on a neutral ground. Reformists are all welcome, whether you… are from Lulu or Al Fateh! Spread the message.
    One Love – One Bahrain

  6. Karim Abdulla says:

    Mahmood – You have my support, go forth and speak on behalf of the street youth. Great blog, well said! Enough is enough, we are faffing around while Dubai and Doha overtake us as someone said! Let us not be held hostage to the whims of a few extremists, who are delaying and delyaing for no good reason, we need the voices of moderation and reason to speak NOW!!

  7. AbuRasool says:

    I guess Bah opposition may be waiting for two things to happen. The first is to be convinced that the crown prince is on a firefighting mission, or at best, that he is intent on doing something more than just a PR spin suitable for CNN screens.
    The second is to find an answer to a simple question: can the CP deliver? Some of us doubt that. The CP is too weak for that mission. We know he has the blessing of the US Embassy and we probably higher up as indicated by the public approving noises from the White House and the State Department. But we do not know if he has the blessings of his father and great uncle (or for that matter Khalid bin Ahmad and other hardliners among the ruling family).
    It was rather disturbing to see the CP continuing his PR moves while the rest of us watch events that contradict him. I will refer to one. Three days ago the king visited the BDF headquarters and MOI to congratulate officers for ‘a job well done’. That well-done-job involved shooting to kill and maim protesters while sleeping in Pearl Sq. (BTW the king has probably listed himself, at least, as an accessory to that crime).
    The CP initiative, if we assume it is honest, is a victim of several decades of misrule by his grandfather and his great uncle. His father’s decade of deceit does not vouch for trust.
    If he means to implement reforms, the CP needs to come forth with confidence building measures. Can he? I, for one, doubt it
    Anyway Mahmood, we have to remember that some of the opposition activists have been duped, cheated and lied to before. They are weary of a repeat. Some of them (Mushaima’a, Sankees among others) have a bitter taste in their mouths from previous instances of ‘dialogue’ that led to the dungeons of the Security Police.
    AbuRasool

    • mahmood says:

      I understand the frustration and the distrust. I fully agree with you that tangible steps must be taken to show that the powers that be are serious and that, as you wisely put it, can actually deliver. Else it’s just the act of talking which leads to no results.

      I agree too about the conflicting messages we’re receiving. Visiting the perpetrators of violence doesn’t bode well to the ultimate results of whatever investigation committee into the heinous events and might be construed as condoning the violence and murder, even if the message delivered is appended with somewhat ameliorating message to the other side. Just doesn’t sit well.

      How will this develop is anyone’s guess. But I must say that I am not as optimistic if this continues to drag on with everyone baying at the wrong tree while adamantly convinced against all facts that it is the right one.

      Interesting times.

  8. AbuRasool says:

    Oops! two ‘nots slipped awaý !

    I guess Bah opposition may be waiting for two things to happen. The first is to be convinced that the crown prince is not on a firefighting mission, or at best, that he is not intent on doing something more than just a PR spin suitable for CNN screens.

  9. Reeshiez says:

    I have to say – I agree with Abu Rasool. The Crown Prince has called for dialogue. The problem is, there is no trust. Like Abu Rasool said, is this a PR move aimed mainly to appease Western allies and unpoliticized Bahrainis or is the Crown Prince sincere? If the Crown Prince is sincere, does he, and the King for that matter, really in control? I will support calls for dialogue if the government answers one question: Who ordered the riot police and the army to shoot at the protestors? The King is the Commander in Chief of the army after all. My advice to the King and the Crown Prince: Dissasociate yourself from extremist elements of the regime immediately.

    There is one more thing, our frustration with the protestors refusal of dialogue and the radicalization of their demands is classic revolution 101. Reform minded members of the upper class and upper middle class support protests in the beginning but slowly back out once the protest movement becomes more radical and they realize that this will seriously affect their daily lives and stability. Uprisings are always scary for the upper class and upper middle class because we are never sure what will happen next. If the country goes downhill the upper class and the upper middle class have a lot to lose. Lower classes however have nothing to lose – thats why they form the crux of all revolutions. I remember reading countless books and articles that dealt with this during my first and second year of college (I am a political science major). I will try to find one of them for you. In the meantime, here is an interesting observation of what is going on in Tunisia. I believe it is applicable to Bahrain (of course keeping in mind that the Tunisians demanded regime change from the beginning while the majority of Bahrainis want a constitutional monarchy):

    http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2011/03/class-analysis-of-tunisia.html

  10. Da Rebel says:

    Hopefully the tanks that were spotted coming across the causeway from Saudi were just for show . . .

    On a different note. How much kudos would the CP gain if he just turned up at the Pearl on his motorbike and just talked to the people for an hour or so?

    Would he be allowed to do this?
    What would the repercussions from the rest or the hierarchy be?

    Just food for thought . . .

    • Bonsaimark says:

      The tanks are most likely Bahrain’s own tanks being returning from the
      Kuwait National Day celebrations.

  11. Shiraz says:

    http://en.rian.ru/world/20110301/162803894.html

    Saudi Arabia has sent dozens of tanks to Bahrain, where anti-government protests continue for about two weeks, Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper said on Tuesday.

    Eyewitnesses reported seeing “15 tank carriers carrying two tanks each heading towards Bahrain” along the 25-km King Fahd causeway, which links the small island nation of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.

    • mahmood says:

      If they’re stupid enough to use tanks against unarmed civilians, well…

      But they’re probably just swapping the wheels to prevent rust or jamming. Else, those tanks would be better positioned in their north-western border I should think.

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