Just how long will “Silmiyya” last?

21 Jan, '12

Not very long, I think.

After close to 60 people giving their lives up for their country in under a year, with this number set to rise, by all indications, with thousands dismissed for their jobs for no good reason, for hundreds still in prison just for expressing their opinions and for untold police brutality and daily reports of various levels of abuse levied on unarmed men, women and children, people will start to retaliate if for nothing but to defend themselves.

Zainab Al-Khawaja being bodily dragged by policewomanAnd now, they’ve received the approbation to do so… and to crush anyone who abuses or perpetrates violence against women.

This, my friends, is not just an angry Friday sermon by the leading religious cleric here, this is an indication of the impasse that this country has reached. Patience, has run out. The rhetoric from both sides has been ratcheted up and with the first anniversary of the “Bahraini Revolution” on Feb 14 approaching, things will only get uglier if sane men and women don’t halt this probable descent into the abyss of civil war. Then, no winner shall be declared and it will be too late for even sincere efforts to repair a shattered society.

What is needed now, right now, is an honest look at the root causes of discontent and effect real change without the drag of personal, tribal, sectarian or any other biases to cloud actions to redress the balance and put this country back on to its rightful path.

Time, though, won’t wait for half-hearted measures or more placatory gestures.

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Comments (23)

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  1. Talal says:

    Seriously Mahmood? Silmiyya? Sure, there are ones who truly protest in the most peaceful means, but who’s voice, pictures, videos get the most attention? What about the true voices that get their platform hijacked by others who wish to forcefully push their own views/actions?

    We all know that Silmiyya is about protesting in the most peaceful way and in the most dedicated committed way as possible. But in Bahrain’s case, its a whole different use of the word. The moment you obstruct other’s freedom of path, route, living neighborhoods, that’s when it isn’t Silmiyya anymore.

    What we all need to acknowledge is Silmiyya only exists in a peaceful circumstance. You cant expect people to respect protesters if they scream Silmiyya and throw molotovs or harm people, or even purposefully heighten the risk for damage and injury by simply sitting in a roundabout (yeah it’s that sad). There’s a limit out there of what you or I as a human can do, and that’s doing everything we want to do as long as we dont obstruct or interfere other’s freedom.

    Think of it this way, I can scream Silmiyya through a microphone very loudly 24/7 in front of your house (I am free aren’t I?) and get away with it because I said ‘Silmiyya’. Why not? I could scream religiously derogatory phrases and could get away with it as long as I said ‘Silmiyya’.

    Let’s make a deal Mahmood, the next time we go out on a protest, can we shut the F up the idiot who shouts Silmiyya and starts harming people. Ok?

    Silmiyya neeeds to go back to its original roots of the word. We need better protesters out there and remove anyone who damages the name of peaceful protesting. We need educators in every neighborhood teaching the good manners and effective ways of protesting. You Mahmood out of all people should make a request out there to our men and women who are not yet understanding how to go about protesting to teach them the real effective way.

    Let’s hope if anything, the act of protests get more mature and sophisticated where it you get more people to respect it compared to what it is today. It really comes down to separating the concept of rioting from the concept of peaceful protesting.

    • Reader911 says:

      I hate, in fact, I “detest” people like you because you are all ignorant and really boil my blood.

      With more than “55” people dead I am surprised really that it has only gotten to molotovs and road blocking.

      How much more deaths do you want so as to feel the pain of “the other side?”
      How many please reply? 60? 70? 100? 1000?

      While you all ignorants sleep well in your air-conditioned villas, others suffocate on a daily basis and other die weekly!!

      عذر أقبح من ذنب !

    • mahmood says:

      Quick! Compare the relative use of force:

      • the systematic and indiscriminate use of tear-gas launchers as direct weapons aimed at protestors’ bodies
      • the systematic and indiscriminate use of stun-grenade launchers as direct weapons aimed at protestors’ bodies
      • the systematic and indiscriminate use of rubber bullets to deal with protestors
      • the systematic and indiscriminate use of bird-shot to deal with protestors
      • the systematic and indiscriminate use of tear-gas to flood and collectively punish whole neighborhoods
      • the systematic and indiscriminate use of metal rods lobbed by the police at protestors
      • the systematic and indiscriminate use of Molotov cocktails lobbed by the police and thugs at protestors
      • the systematic and indiscriminate and collective use of terror tactics to terrorise whole neighborhoods
      • the systematic and calculated abuse of power in apprehensions of protestors and their sympathisers

      Need I go on? And you compare all of the above with burning tyres, throwing Molotovs and rocks? Not that I condone ANY act of violence, but in relative terms the use of violence as a method of state is – well – somewhat worrying don’t you think? And rather than demanding that the state is held at a much higher ethical and professional state, you negate the value of peaceful demonstrations by the handful of people who commit acts of violence which some might certainly label as a legitimate form of protest?

      Give me a break Talal!

      • Talal says:

        Mahmood, I have nothing to say about our police and security authorities in Bahrain. They failed us all. In fact, I demand the resignation of the Minister of Interior not only of what you listed (which I totally agree) but keeping our neighborhoods unsafe to this very day. While we’re at it, the PM needs to stand trial for all the crimes this ministry has committed.

        In the other hand, the police, no matter how indiscriminate they were, they stopped gangs of unlawful Bahrainis from taking over the whole of Bahrain (well, they did take over Manama for a good 20 days while all of us watched). Think of it this way: Remove ALL security in this country. What would really happen? Really? Do you remember the last time someone really stupid in Government said ‘Yes we will pull out ALL security and police from the streets in order to talk’. The rest i believe is history.

        Mahmood, as long as unlawful, uneducated, ruthless gang mix with Silmiyya messages, Silmiyya will never stand a chance not only for Bahrainis to accept but the western world to accept. British, Canadians, Australians I know that live in Budaiya have built-up rage about the state of lawlessness (apparently not before experienced in their own countries). They will leave Bahrain more and more considering they can’t relate to such youth, who have no ‘silimiyya’ concepts in their minds except the teachings of how to stop and disrupt normal people’s lives.

        Let’s hope security does return to Bahrain through those new American/British police reps who will educate our police force. Let’s also hope that Silmiyya is TRULY Silmiyya, and protests are more accepted in societies as not another form of unlawful behavior

        • DANA says:

          Talal, if you can understand the plight of a British, Canadian, Australian expat or family – probably living a pretty nice life here, with a nice villa, school fees paid, nice salary package, can you for one moment stand back and try to also understand how rage might build up in a Bahraini family who could only dream of a nice villa or wage package, but instead has tear gas, maybe a son or two beaten or in jail…knows at least someone who was tortured, many who were shot at and wounded, and the families of some who died ?
          Probably have some small kids who are growing up traumatized, as they too experience tear gas, shooting and fear ?

          If an expat is not too happy and also a bit worried at present – understandable.
          If a Bahraini, who may have seen and experienced first hand the effects of the brutal crack down is a bit more angry than the expat — isn’t that at least understandable ?

          Wouldn’t you be ?

          I do not condone violence, but I can understand how it can happen.
          And, the violence we see is still rather measured compared to that of the police forces — see Mahmood’s list.

          On the other and, see where and where the ‘gangs’ are. You may have heard of an incident in a cemetary in Muharraq yesterday. Contrary to some reports, there is enough photographic and video evidence — if you do not want to believe eye witnesses — that mourners….not protesters, mourners… were attacked inside the cemetary, deceased not even buried, by a gang of civilians, with the police on the outer fringes…

          Anyway back to the point on expats: I think if there is no credible and concerted action on behalf of the government quite soon, Bahrain won’t have to worry about its expats for that much longer. They’ll be gone.

          We can then also place the 2030 plan into the National Museum, alongside the Business friendly Bahrain campaign.

          Perhaps this speaks a bit louder to the affluent and ambitious classes. If the country doesn’t want to get left behind and go the way of Gulf Air, from major, respected international player to small regional entity, something must be done, and soon.

          And it must be done by the government.

          It will not be achieved by sticking heads in the sand and blaming ‘ the bad protesters’ – it can only be achieved by an honest appraisal of the situation and swift, concerted action.

          I don’t know why we keep repeating these points actually. In part, we already have the appraisal, we have the blueprint. It’s called BICI and was prepared by individuals with a pretty impressive international track record..

          I wonder what Professor Bassiouni thinks about the follow up. actually. If I were him, I would be more than a little disappointed…

        • mahmood says:

          Talal, again, the cause needs to be treated, not the symptom. The “gangs” you talk about never started with the same zeal for protesting as they are now. Now a lot of them talk openly of revenge because they were the brunt of wonton force exerted against them for wanting to believe in a better and more equitable future. Those “gangs” will be no more if reasonable demands for democracy are met. With all due respect to the foreigners in this country, this is not their dog fight so if they feel inconvenienced or indeed feel unsafe, they can easily find employment elsewhere. If they choose to stay; however, then they have to put up with the “inconvenience” of a country trying to find a way to live a more honorable life.

          I agree with you completely in your demand to fire the minister of interior and bring to justice anyone regardless of position or wealth who has transgressed his or her authority; in particular, those who perpetrated or condoned the orchestrated campaigns of terror on unarmed civilians in their homes for doing nothing more than expressing their opinions must be penalized – not for revenge, but to make an example of them so that no one would dare to do so again in the future.

          As to the police force, that should be completely and utterly gutted and rebuilt from the ground up. New recruits must be taught that their job is to apprehend criminals and humanely hand them over to the public prosecutor, not simply capture people, beat the shit out of them then throw them out of a moving car or keep them incarcerated for further torture before they get kicked into the public prosecutor’s office with trumped up charges forced out through nefarious means.

          Security will return to Bahrain, but not through the American and British failed cops. It will return when a political long lasting solution is allowed to be brought forward and to take root.

          Until that time, I think hoping that the protestors will continue in their generally peaceful behaviour is a fallacy. The breaking point has already been passed.

  2. Reader911 says:

    When I heard him say it in his Friday sermon, i got the chills “not in a frightened or hateful way” because I knew at this moment we are in a whole new level of escalation.
    and with the Societies trying to center their protests in Manama and the government still in its stupidity, we must be well ready for the worst.

  3. DANA says:

    Talal: I am sure we will get better, more sophisticated and mature protesters at around the same time as we will get better, more sophisticated and mature police forces – perhaps the latter also with the added bonus of a command of Arabic, professional codes of conducts and all that.

    Recommended reading: the BICI report commissioned by His Majesty.

  4. DANA says:

    Mahmood,

    I agree with you on all points but one:

    I don’t think that we will see an end to Silmiyya. The majority of protesters have been peaceful – as can be seen from videos, photos, international and local journalist reports from protests, and substantiated by various commissions into the country, be it the UN, international human rights observers and the BICI report plus echoed by politicians, ranging from William Hague in the UK to the White House.

    And I believe the vast majority of protesters will remain peaceful — but have for some weeks now, started to move with a different kind of resolve.

    It seems a tipping point has been reached, and there is a new kind of dynamic – by a lot of people who have just had enough, have seen too much, and have now transcended fear — they will not stay in villages anymore – they are uniting with a renewed sense of purpose and determination, moving beyond fear, with the full knowledge that moving on may mean injury, arrest, even loss of life.

    That’s a pretty powerful force. Which no doubt will be met at the other end with a force that will, at all cost, prevent major moves on Manama.

    The outcome seems clear and bleak, and I think we all must steel ourselves to witness more horrid scenes and horrid news in the coming weeks.

    I don’t know what will stop that. Is anyone still hoping for a turnaround right now, and complete and swift implementation of the BICI recommendations – in time to calm people before 14 Feb and make them believe into a better future ? I doubt it.

    The level-headed individuals who could enforce these implementations seem notably absent. Many of the political societies and human rights leaders seem to have had enough now.

    I think this will not mean the end of Salmiyya though. In some corners yes, on the now radicalized fringes — but they were like that before, and might get a few more followers – but not from the majority.

  5. somebody says:

    Nothing much to add to Mahmood’s posts, which say it all. In particular, that it is wrong to equate the overwhelmingly peaceful and restrained pro-democracy protesters with the trigger-happy, violent mercenaries, as Dana appeared to do in her first post.

    And they are political protesters, not “rioters”. Riots are when a bunch of people go out looking for buildings to break into, rob and burn, and people to attack, as in London last year. In fact, by that definition, the security mercenaries are far closer to being “rioters” than are the protesters.

    Man, this is all sad. Most countries have intractable problems: overpopulation; lack of natural resources; borders that must constantly be defended; no access to sea; uneducated, low IQ populations; violent religious fanaticism; inhospitable climate or terrain; geographical remoteness; earthquakes/tsunamis; I’m sure you could think of more.

    Bahrain suffers from none of these. It could and should be a paradise. But it sure ain’t.

  6. mahmood says:

    This comment is entered on behalf of AbuRasool (Dr Abdulhadi Khalaf) who is inexplicably facing weird problems entering a comment here. I’ve changed servers in the last few days so it might be a problem with caches not updating or clearing. Regardless, he has authorised me via email to enter the following comment:

    Comment by AbuRasool via email:

    This echoes some very old questions that faced proponents of nonviolence. And they remain relevant in Bahrain. What can one do when your adversary in asymmetrical conflict pushes you and your constituencies into despair through excessive use of the repressive capacities at his disposal? What can proponents of nonviolence when their constituencies begin to feel that nonviolent strategies are futile or even deadly?

    Historical experiences show that one of the outcomes of the ‘dead-end’ is the emergence of radical flanks. These resort to more direct responses to state repressive measures. In fact many students of social movements and collective actions have documented the emergence of ‘radical flanks’ in shadow of the perceived slow pace of nonviolent movement or, its perceived impotence. Studies are abound (google search gave 2.4 million results).

    Those old enough will remember a plethora of radical flanks in the shadow of Gandhi’s nonviolent movement in India. Some younger ones will remember the Black Panthers, among other radical groups, in the shadow of the King’s led civil rights movement in the USA.

    Bahrain is not an exception. There is a undeniable temptation felt by some groups of protesters to shift from non-violent civil resistance tactics to more ‘violent’ ones. This temptation is partly fed by the regime’s own inflexible determination to remain a tribal regime whose only claim to legitimacy is 1783 conquest.

    Let us hope that wise men and women in Bahrain reach the conclusion that there is a way out of this abyss. Did not someone propose in 2001, transforming Bahrain into a ‘Modern Constitutional Monarchy’?

    AbuRasool

    This may be of some interest:
    http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/learning-and-resources/educational-initiatives/fletcher-summer-institute/fsi-2011/1788-nonviolent-struggle-and-radical-flanks

  7. Just Bahraini says:

    This post and the comment remind me of the one you wrote in Vancouver airport 10 months ago. How much energy, lives and money have been needlessly wasted since then, without moving us forward. Please Bahrain, wake up! This is not a game, this is our life, our future. We need really bold solutions here to deep-seated, long-term systemic issues. If not now, when?

  8. DANA says:

    Just Bahraini, who do you want to wake up though and come with what solutions ?

    Seems to me that people are wide awake, and trying their best to make their voices heard, in the country and outside – what would you want them to do… — what is a bold solution in your book ?

    Mass violence ? I believe that would be a fallacy and a great tragedy — not that I see it happen.

    The government ? That would be nice – but as it looks like the BICI report didn’t wake them up, other than Barack and co., nothing or nobody will.

  9. Just Bahraini says:

    @Dana: People are making their voices loud, but I don’t feel that they are being listened to. There are still too many people concerned with the appearance of things versus the substance of them. I hope you are right about violence being unlikely, but I’m not so sure.

    Bold solutions could include inviting back the committee of people that worked on the National Action Charter – which is the last time that Bahrainis were truly united – and using the NAC as the basis for moving foward within a defined time frame. It could also include addressing the list of opposition demands from last February, and having a committee from for eg the Shura to enagage in this process so it is balanced, with the intention of genuinely reaching pragmatic compromise These are ideas from an uninvolved layperson – and there may be many better ones- but my point is that it seems as though people are either getting resigned to a mess, or talking about radicalism. Neither will help us.

    My child and your child deserve better.

    • DANA says:

      Just Bahraini, of course, bold solutions that are needed from the government, I fully agree are neccessary.

      But where are they ? Who will wake up ? What does it take to get these actions ? I wonder if only a strong and united international stance and strong condemnation of the continued crackdown, plus behind the scenes diplomacy of the right kind can bring the necessary push to really start acting. And that is not in evidence anywhere.

      Very good that some implementations have started – but even though the ministries are saying they are working extensively on implementing recommendations, there is not much evidence.

      Earlier I saw a video of women trying to shield some young guys from being taken by police,. This scene made my stomach turn.
      When you see that kind of thing – and how many scenes are there available on photos and video for all to see – it is harder to believe that Silmiyya will prevail.

      Still, I think for the most part, protesters will stay peaceful.

      I do think we’re seening much stronger and more emboldened women out there — the image and role of females has for sure changed forever in Bahrain – these are not just ladies who look after house and home, they are out there, braving tear gas, injury and worse, to make their voices heard – in a non-violent way, and in a strong way.

      You know, when you look at some major changes in countries, eg in Eastern Europe, people didn’t go all violent. They just all had enough and collectively gathered their resolve and moved — together, they were an unstoppable force. Look at how they just basically walked through the gates around the Berlin wall and did away with East Germany, brought about change in many communist countries. Maybe it is not directly comparable to Bahrain, but it is an example of how non-violent protest and action can bring about meaningful change.

      In India, though many got hurt and lost their lives, ultimately it was the non-violent protest of a significant part of the people that brought about change as well.

      Let’s not underestimate the power of a large group of people moving with a united purpose inthe same direction.

      In the absence of strong evidence of changes following BICI, that to me is the more likely future scenario. Sitting right alongside one where protests and repression continue for a long long time, and the country just dries out, which for everyone, their children and children’s children would be a real tragedy.

      • mahmood says:

        Let’s not underestimate the power of a large group of people moving with a united purpose inthe same direction.

        And that’s why thousands of riot police continue to make this place like an open military barracks! The minute that they see 20 kids protesting they launch in a flurry of tear gas and other choice weapons of “crowd control” because their superiors know that they really can’t afford to have the multitudes that almost brought the government down in Feb and March. Restricting them to their villages is a task that must be done at all costs.

        The thing is, if a concerted effort is made by the regime to take up serious talk with a good representation of the people which includes not only Alwefaq but the other political societies with a good intention to transfer this country into a modern democratic state, they would illuminate almost all forms of public protests willingly and, ironically, ensure the maintenance of their rule for a long time to come.

        The way things are going now, and the rhetoric adopted by all sides does not bode well. Unless, of course, it’s jockeying for position.

  10. somebody says:

    Dana, you mentioned the Eastern European revolutions; well, there were no massacres, but it wasn’t all rainbows and fluffy kittens (ask the Ceacescus). Ultimately, at the Berlin Wall, Germen soldiers refused to attack huge numbers of their unarmed, peaceful compatriots. The same was true elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and in Egypt and Tunisia last year.

    I have no doubt that if the Bahrain security forces were Bahraini, we would have had a similar outcome. Unfortunately, they are deliberately recruited from the most backward, brutal, violent and savage backwaters of the world; places in which life is cheap and people learn how to use a Kalashnikov before they learn to read (if they learn to read).

    The most notorious example, from where most of the security forces are imported, is the Baluchistan province of Pakistan: the most f—-d up region in a f—-d up country. On top of the customary violence and extremism found everywhere in that (abomi)nation – gangsterism, clan warfare, drug battles, al qaeda, taliban, military corruption, etc – Baluchistan enjoys a fully-fledged (and, naturally, extremely well-armed and violent) independence movement.

    It is the poorest, most backward region of a backward country; one of many such indicators is that Baluchistan is the only region on earth which still has a serious polio problem. Even sub-Saharan Africa is in better shape.

    Yet it is these third-world savages that patrol the streets of Bahrain, a wealthy, cultured and well-educated nation. It is they who have authority and control over the Bahraini people, and they who have lived up to their uneducated, savage roots in their attacks on and brutal mistreatment of peaceful Bahraini protests.

    It is these mercenaries who are at the crux of the problem, and I do not see how the situation can improve whilever they are involved.

  11. Just Bahraini says:

    … they are jockeying for position while we dodge the gas/fires/stones etc.

    That’s a significant difference with India: Ghandi didnt seem to worry about a position of pride or leadership, more of principles. Going back to Mahmood’s blog – this situation isn’t sustainable, so my “wake up” statement was directed towards people who need to realize that the only solution is getting to the root causes. And Dana, I agree with you about the power of the people – let’s hope that the sporadic violence we are seeing does not break up this force, or allow resisters to discredit the whole movement.

  12. somebody says:

    Re Timoney and Yates, the only reason they are even here is because they were both recently forced to resign in disgrace from their jobs. They are simply here for a pension top-up, nothing more.

  13. exclamation mark says:

    Reading some of the posts here in this blog, and in other sites, I’ve reached to a fact, that a huge section of the people living in Bahrain, do not know how serious the situation is in Bahrain. In fact, those people had proved that they’re so ignorant, that they’re harming the country. This sucks, and unfortunately is getting worse.

    The question is, the protestors after the 16th of March had proved to be very peaceful, and had continued so for months. But at the same time, police had targeted houses with tear gas and sound bombs, and it seems that the police enjoyed doing it, that now it is normal to find whole villages punished for it! In addition to that, they tried different kinds of tear gas with different colours. We’ve seen yellow, green and blue!!! Did it stop at this point?? No…!!!

    What police had done is they’ve tried to run over protestors by their land cruisers!! And two out of the 60 deaths is because of it!! The police continued to attack elderly people, men, women, boys, girls and of different ages!! Some were sexually harrassed – especially women – and others were beaten. On top of all that we find people condemning blocking roads and using molotov. Well, when someone is attacked, he has the right to defend himself and hit back hard!
    Yes, some violence that is not justified is to be condemned.

    But when I find a women peacefully protesting, and being assaulted, do put the blame on the protestors for any injuries or even deaths, because it is called self defense. And Mahmood, we do not need a fatwa or approbation for such a thing, due you need someone’s permission to defend for your family?

    What had happened is that Issa Qassim is very well aware of such violations, but has kept quite, and concentrated on the political resolution, but this time something made him explode.

  14. exclamation mark says:

    Mahmood,

    Your question should be:

    For how long would the people witstand the violations of the Govt?

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