A glimmer of light at the end of a rather dark tunnel

28 Jan, '12

A group of Bahrainis gathered this morning at Al-Uruba Club, one of the oldest cultural clubs and apparently on their own initiative, to work out a plan to rescue this country from the various ills that has befallen this country. The meeting was led by the highly respected Dr Ali Fakhro, scholar, an ex-minister who held two of the most important portfolios of Education and Health who delivered the following opening speech which set the agenda and objectives of this gathering:

كلمة الدكتور علي فخرو في اجتماع اللقاء الوطني بنادي العروبة

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

ايها الاخوة والاخوات

اهلا بكم في هذا الاجتماع الوطني الجامع ، باسم الوطن كله ، ومن اجل كل شعبه ، بل من اجل كل فرد فيه ، دون منة ودون شروط ، واسمحوا لي ان اقدم خلفية ومقترحات ،ارجو ان تعيننا على اجراء مداولات ايجابية ناجحة هذا الصباح

اولا : لسنا بحزب ولا بجمعية سياسية ولا حتى تكتل سياسي وانما نحن مواطنون نحضر بصفتنا الشخصية البحتة ولا نمثل اي جهة قد ننتمي اليها ، لقد دفعنا الى هذا الاجتماع خوفنا على هذا الوطن الذي يعيش محنة الانقسام بكل انواعه ، ومشاعر التعصب الاعمى غير المنضبط بدين سمح او اخلاق انسانية رفيعة بكل انواعها وكذلك الممحاكات السياسية الت يؤججها اعداء البحرين وتغذيها جهات انتهازية او نفعية او جاهلة .
Dr Ali Fakhro
ثانيا : لقد تدارست مجموعة من اخوانكم واخواتكم المجتمعين معكم اليوم الاوضاع المأساوية التي ذكرتها اعلاه عبر اسابيع طويلة ، وقد ارتأوا ضرورة وجود صوت عاقل جامع ليقترح على اطراف المجتمع المختلفة فيما بينها ، وعلى الاخص السياسية منها ، يقترح عليهم الجلوس مع بعضهم البعض وبحضور ممثلين عنكم ان وافق جمعيهم على ذلك ، من اجل ان يتدارسوا امكانية الاتفاق على مطالب ومقترحات وطنية مشتركة في حدها الادنى المشترك على الاقل ولينقلوها بدورهم الى جهات السلطة المعنية في الدولة من اجل مناقشتها مع تلك الجهات والاتفاق ان امكن على حدود دينا يقبل بها الجميع ( المجتمع والدولة ) للخروج من الازمة الحالية الى رحاب استكمال المسيرة الاصلاحية الديموقراطية الدستورية البرلمانية الهادفة لخير الجميع العادلة مع الجميع ، الآخذة بعين الاعتبار مصالح الجميع

ثالثا : ولان هناك ضرورة لوجود ورقة ينطلق منها النقاش اثناء اجتماع القوى السياسية المجتمعية التي نرجو ان توافق على الاجتماع ØŒ فإننا رأينا ان نقترح عليكم ان توافقوا معنا – مع حريتكم التامة في الرفض او التعديل – ان ينطلق النقاش من النقاط السبع التي اطلقها سمو ولي العهد في فبراير 2011 ØŒ وبالطبع فإن المجتمعين سيكون لهم الحق التام في تعديل تلك المبادرة ،اضافة او انتقاصا او فهما مشتركا لمحتويات بنودها التفصيلية طالماان ذلك التعديل سيكون حصيلة مناقشات المجتمعين واتفاقهم

لقد اعتمد مقترحنا هذا على ان مبادرة سمو الشيخ سلمان هي ارضية معقولة ومقبولة من الكثير وصالحة للاخذ والعطاء وتعبر في مجملها عن قبول كثير من جهات اتخاذ القرار في الدولة على الاقل لغالب ما تقوله وتقترحه .

رابعا : اذا اتفق المجتمعون في ذلك القاء حول مطالب سياسية صالحة لهذه المرحلة من مسيرة البحرين الديموقراطية ، ولنتذكر ان الديموقراطية هس سرورة لها بداية وليس لها نهاية ، فإنهم يستطيعون تكوين وفد ليتقدم بتلك المطالب للجهات المعينة في نظامنا السياسي من اجل مناقشتها ومحاولة اقناعها بتبني تلك المطالب وتنفيذها ضمن جدول زمني وخطوات تراكمية لا تراجع عنها قط

خامسا : نقترح على الاخوة الحاضرين ان ينتخبوا عددا يتراح بين عشرين وثلاثين شخصا ليكونوا لجنة تنسيق ومتابعة تقوم بالاتصالات بكل القوى السياسية والجهات الوطنية المعنية من اجل اقناعها بكل ما ذكر سابقا ومن اجل حضور اعضائها كممثلين عنكم ان تمت الاجتماعات المشتركة

وستكون اللجنة مطالبة بأن تبقى على صلة وثيقة بكم كجمعية عمومية وان صحت التسمية بدعوتكم للاجتماع اذا لزم الامر لاعلامكم بنتائج ما تقوم به وللحصول على موافقتكم ان احتاجت الى وظائف جديدة تقوم بها باسمكم .

سادسا : ان لم نوفق في هذا المسعى فإن الامر سيرجع لكم : تغييرا للاهداف والوسائل او الاكتفاء بما تم وترك الامور للآخرين ،وعند ذاك نكون قد قمنا بواجبنا كمواطنين حتى لا يسجل التاريخ علينا اننا رأينا الوطن وهو يحترق دون ان نحاول ان نقوم بواجبنا لاخراجه من محنته

سابعا : واخيرا رجاء حار ان نبتعد هذا الصباح عن شتم او تحقير ايا كان واي جهة كانت وان نركز على الموضوع الذي جئنا من اجله ، اننا لسنا في مهرجان خطابة وانما في اجتماع لايجاد وسائل وحلول ، فاعينونا على ذلك ، ولنتذكر اننا يجب ان نرتفع فوق الانقسامات ونبتعد عن المهاترات ويكفي الوطن ما يفعهله به بعض المتورين والجهلة والانتهازيين .وبعبارة موجزة نحن معنيين في هذه المرحلة بالاتصال بكل الجمعيات المعنية لحثها على التواصل والاتفاق على مطالب مشتركة ولسنا معنييين حاليا بالاتصال بالجهات الرسمية فقد يأتي ذلك في وقت لاحق مع الآخرين ان امكن او بدونهم ان رغبتم في ذلك في اجتماعات قادمة

لكم التحية ، لكم محبة وطنكم وشعبكم ، والله ندعوه ان يجزيكم الف خير

والسلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
د . على محمد فخرو
اللقاء الوطني
نادي العروبة
28 / 1 / 2012

English translation by Dr Mike Diboll – with many thanks!

The Speech of Dr. Ali Fakhro at a Meeting of the “National Encounter” Group Held at the Al Uruba Club

In the name of God the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Oh Brothers and Sisters,

Welcome to this comprehensive National Encounter, held in the name of the entire nation, for the sake of all its people, and for every individual without favour, without preconditions. Allow me present the background to this meeting and its recommendations. Kindly assist us by ensuring that our deliberations this morning proceed in a positive and successful manner.

Firstly, we are not a political party or association, nor are we even political grouping. Rather, we here purely as private citizens are preparing we do not represent any viewpoint to which we might have allegiance. What has motivated us to call this meeting is our fear for our nation which is suffering from every kind of tribulation, division, and fanatical sentiment and blind bigotry unmitigated by any consideration of tolerance or higher human ethics, and political intrigue promoted by the enemies of Bahrain, fed by opportunism and ignorant self-interest.

Secondly, the brothers and sisters gathered here today have carefully studied the tragic conditions mentioned over long and arduous weeks. They have perceived the necessity of a comprehensively acceptable Voice of Reason that can propose to parties from the various communities, in particular political groupings, to sit together in the presence of trusted representatives in order to frame a set of minimum national demands and proposals that are commonly agreed. These in turn can be presented to the relevant state authorities in order to discuss them with the parties concerned, and reach agreement on them if possible along lines acceptable to all stakeholders from both state and society. This is so we may find a way out of the current crisis, magnanimously completing the forward march of parliamentary democracy and constitutional reform aimed at the fair for the good of everyone in the interests of all.

Thirdly, we hope to call a meeting of political and community groups. There must therefore be a document upon which discussion can proceed. Accordingly, it is our suggestion — and you are fully free to agree with us on this suggestion, or reject or amend it — that the discussion commences with discussion of the seven proposals put forward by His Highness the Crown Prince in February 2011. Naturally, the meeting will have the absolute right to amend this initiative, or add to it or subtract from it, or to formulate a common understanding as to its contents, so that the detailed amendments would be the outcome of the discussions the two communities and subject to their agreement. The principles put forward by His Highness Sheikh Salman form the basis of our proposal as they are a reasonable ground for discussion, acceptable to many, and subject to some give and take should render most of what we propose acceptable to many of the state’s decision-makers.

Fourthly, should those gathered at that meeting reach agreement on a set of political demands that are appropriate to this stage in Bahrain’s progress toward democracy, we should remember that while democracy is blessed with a beginning it has in fact no final outcome. Therefore, those gathered should be able to form delegation to present those demands of the appropriate parts of our political system in order to discuss the demands with them and try to persuade them to adopt these demands, implementing them within an agreed timescale, according to a cumulative timeframe which is absolutely irreversible.

Fifthly, we suggest the brothers here present elect a number between twenty and thirty persons to be a coordinating committee following up contacts with all political forces and national stakeholders in order to convince them regarding all that has been mentioned above, and to ensure that its members, as your representatives, conduct joint meetings. It is demanded that the committee will need to remain in close association with you as a general grouping to arrange the public naming of the group, and to invite you to meetings as necessary and to inform you of the outcomes of our activities and to obtain your consent for new roles undertaken on your behalf.

Sixthly, should we be unable to reach any agreement this endeavor, the matter will return to you: this could mean a change of goals or methods, or leaving the matter to others. However, what is essential is that we do our duty as citizens, so that history cannot record against us that we saw our nation aflame, but did nothing to relieve our country from its tribulation.

Seventhly, and finally, it is our ardent hope this morning that we disregard slurs and insults from whatever any party they may arise, so that we may focus on the matter in hand. We are not attending a festival of rhetoric, but are meeting in order to find ways forward and solutions.

Let us fix our sight on that. Let us remember that we must rise above all that divides us, we must banish the vituperation, wrangling and bickering that are harming our nation, we must save our nation from what some hypocrites, ignoramuses and opportunists are putting it through.

In short, we are at this stage concerned to communicate with all groupings, urging them to communicate with one another and agree on common demands. We are not at this stage concerned with communicating with official parties, although this may come about at a later date, possibly involving others, or without them, according to you wishes at further meetings.
Greetings to you all, you are all patriotic and have love for your people. God reward you a thousand-fold.

May peace and God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.

Dr. Ali Mohammed Fakhro
The National Encounter
Al Uruba Club
28th January 2012

The essence of the action here is to define a route to get back to the negotiation table using the Crown Prince’s agreed principles of discussion which he announced in February last year which are:

    1. A fully representative parliament with exclusive legislative authority
    2. An elected and representative cabinet
    3. Equitable electoral districts
    4. Review of Naturalisation Laws
    5. Address administrative and financial corruption
    6. Review sovereign wealth
    7. Address the sectarian impasse

According to reports, some 200 people attended the Uruba Club gathering and 21 were elected to form a committee under the leadership of Dr Ali Fakhro who was elected as Chairman. The others who signed the founding document were Dr. Ali Fakhro, Jassim Murad, Hameed Ali Abdulla, Radhi Al-Mousawi, Ubaidly Alubaidly, Shawqi Alalawi, Mariam Alruai’ie, Abdulmonem Alshirawi, Yousif Zainal, Dr. Mohammed Isa Alkuwaiti, Jameel Alalawi, Ali Rabi’ea, Saeed Alasbool, Abdulla Mutawiee’, Esmat Almousawi, Dr. Wedad Kaiksow, Dr. Hasan Madan, Dr. Hasan Alaali, and Abdulhasan Alhasan. All of these people are luminaries of society and are known for their patriotic stances away from sectarianism which gives this particular committee credibility to try to bridge the chasm and hopefully find a solution.

I wish them all the best of luck. There is an awful lot of hard work to be done yet, and with the first anniversary of Feb 14 approaching fast, things will get very ugly if even a glimmer of resolution is not seen.

I hope that this is the genuine glimmer that everyone is hoping for.

Main sources for this article: Esmat Almousawi on Facebook and @HameedAlmulla‘s Twitter feed
Edit 30 Jan 2012 @ 19:58 to include English translation by Dr Mike Diboll

Filed in: Politics
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Comments (52)

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  1. DANA says:

    interesting indeed. And good on them – it is encouraging to see some smart and highly respected people airing their concerns and throwing their weight behind the quest of finding a workable solution.

    At the very least, this is something the government can not completely ignore.

    The cynic in me says: no, not ignore, but perhaps set up a committee to study the findings for a year.

    But overall, I agree, while not bmuch or about Bahrain inspires real hope these days, this is nevertheless admirable action, and it is indeed at least a glimmer….

  2. Somebody says:

    Nothing will change while Voldemort lives. Heard a rumour he’d had a stroke yesterday, but doesn’t seem to be true.

  3. DANA says:

    quite honestly, even if in the end nothing changes, at least some people are trying – and it’s not just some random ones, but some family names that are well known throughout — this is a hand in the face of divide and rule.

    Ultimately, power only comes if you have a power base, and if that starts to erode, no man on earth can retain it. Maybe this is just one chip, but who knows, if enough people chip away from all sides…..

  4. Just Bahraini says:

    Good news! It is sad that it has taken 10 months and many losses to get back to this point, but at least its happening. Does this committee have an official mandate, or is it a self-motivated group of patriotic Bahrainis trying to find real solutions? God bless them!

  5. While it is great to see the community spirit of the formation of the committee I must say that the days of negotiation with the Khalifas were over a long time ago. I cannot see how anyone would now be willing to sit at a “negotiation table” with people who murder babies and elderly, arrest women and children, torture men and youths, destroy property and set fire to houses and kill 63 people.
    I am surprised that the protest movement has not learnt by now that the Khalifas do nothing but make promises and then break them, this is one of the many ways they have stayed in power for so long.
    Good luck with the committee but there is only one way to rescue Bahrain in my opinion and everyone knows what it is.

    • DANA says:

      Tony, I imagine you say this as an outside observer, based in another country ?

      If you were inside Bahrain, and a direct part of what is going on, you might view it differently.

      Currently, there is little progress being made by anyone on any side, and no tactic is yielding real success.

      The people who met yesterday are not those out there protesting, which I am sure you know. So now, you have some very different voices speaking up and putting their weight behind the call for a solution.Mostly the kind of voices that the governement must have counted as supporters.

      Anything is possible. This might come to not much, or more people might join that movement. The Royal family may actually sit up and listen. Actually, no, the Royal family will sit up and listen, as they can’t afford not to listen to some very prominent citizens.

      The question is whether there is enough momentum to effect some change — and some might be all we can hope for.. Or maybe not — if others add their voices.

      This might seem like dreaming or wishful thinking on my part – but really, you never know – there are so many dynamics at play, and this is not a situation where pure logic or forecasting can apply.

      Whatever the case, if you are inside Bahrain today, and see your country go down the drain at a fast pace, any attempt to change this is worth it. ( apart from outright violence !)

      Note they are using as their baseline the points which were already on the table a year ago, with Sheikh Salman.

      I could quite imagine a scenario where what is happening might be rather strategic and not random at all, and fully supported behind the scenes in a way that’s not immediately obvious from the outside.

      And I for one would hope very much that.

  6. exclamation mark says:

    Where does the Manama document stand in this case?

    • DANA says:

      Good point ! Didn’t that also have the discussions with Sheikh Salman as its baseline ?

      Now, if the two groups – ( one being all the opposition societies) could join forces and at warp speed, and call out as one united voice, who knows what momentum could be achieved – especially if more join in and add their weight.

      Wishful thinking, maybe – but totally not impossible, IF the opposition has learnt something from last year – this is no time for weeks of meetings, discussions and whatnot.

      The situation calls for immediate action. So if today, the political societies as one unit would declare support for the paper brought out by the group yesterday, then you would already have a kind of force that can absolutely not be ignored, also internationally.

      The question is, can they be that fast ? As they’ve recently shown some measure of unity, can we dare to hope ?

    • mahmood says:

      Point 3 specifically stipulates that the basis of the discussion currently is the Prince Salman proposals but those could be added to/deleted as the committee sees fit. In today’s Qassim Hussain column, he also agrees that an amalgamation of all proposals would lead into a better consensus and I agree. See that article by clicking here (Arabic). While Dr Mansoor Al-Jamri warns detractors from the consequences and Qassim Hussain amplifies and explains the fears.

      The essence is to find an equitable and pragmatic platform that will allow us to recognise and hold onto gains and allow the country to move forward.

      I’ve had a friend suggest that this gathering is a direct result of the approach of Feb 14 with no solution in sight as the regime prompted this gathering to push for faster change and defuse the probability of further conflict then. Conspiracy theories abound, to be sure, but if Qassim Hussain is correct and that the founding members of this committee have been meeting for the past ten weeks to come up with a formula and consensus, then maybe a conspiracy there is not. Time will tell, but I would be more than happy to give them my thanks and benefit of the doubt to get their noble work done. Goodness knows that all other avenues seemed to have led to blocked alleys.

  7. AbuRasool says:

    I am trying to form an opinion.
    I was heartened three weeks ago noting that Ms. Afnan Al Zayani went public to mobilize public opinion behind this initiative. (See http://web.alayam.com/newsdetails.aspx?id=39359). It is slightly disappointing to see that she failed to bring her husband along to the Uroba Club.

    The list of names behind the initiative is impressive indeed.
    It is difficult to imagine that some of these respected and savvy men and women can be duped to be part of a conspiracy. But then again, we were ALL were duped in February 2001. (Let alone professor Bassiouni who was led to believe that what he was contracted to do was for real).

    AbuRasool

    • AbuRasool says:

      I should not been disappointed.
      Ms. Afnan’s al Zayani’s husband may been busy with fixing this
      http://portal.alayam.com/newsdetails.aspx?id=43986

      بوادر إيجابية للتهدئة وتعزيز المسار الديمقراطي للملك والدعوة مفتوحة للقوى الفاعلة
      بدء اتصالات مع مختلف القوى السياسية لحوار وطني للمّ الشمل البحريني

      Will this call for tranquility be preceded by the release of leaders of the opposition from jail?

      • mahmood says:

        That would certainly be a correct step AbuRasool and a long time in coming.

        I’m still wondering why everything has to be staged and stage-managed too. Very frustrating as the answer has been staring everyone in the face for a very long time indeed. What do we get with this stage-management other than to continue to have the country deeply divided even after reconciliation talks. It will probably take at least a generation for people from across the divide to talk to each other, let alone mingle and intermarry.

        • AbuRasool says:

          Dialogue?
          It is doomed to failure if it is a dialogue by proxy. ( Previous ones failed miserably. Recall former minister of labour dialoguing on behalf of the king with opposition groups that boycotted 2002 elections. Or the recently held the National dialogue, 2011 ).

          Without a direct negotiation between the king and reprsentatives of the opposition (including the various groups representing the loyal opposition)., the proposed dialogue will join previous royalexcerices in acrobatic politics. Except that this one will not be just a waste of time, but will add more fuel to the frusterated constituencies of the opposition.

          I wish, I will even pray, that the king takes this correct step. But past disaapoinments are many.

          In fact I have failed to find an alKhalifa ruler who dialogued with representatives of the people. Never. It has always been meeting with segments. Now they the Sunnis of town or that village. ( or shias of this resential quarter or that) Never with a delegation in which ALL the sunnis or ALL the Shias (let alone ALL bahrainis).

          Hamad is not an exception. He follows the footsteps of his father and his granfather. Yes. He added an exotic touch when he refused in 2001 to meet any group in which ALL leftists strands were represented. (He met manbar in a batch and Waad in another).

          In spite of the above I will keep my fingers crossed.

          • DANA says:

            Sheikh Salman tried – and I believe on the Royal family side, he is the one hope – even though he is presently rather quiet.

      • DANA says:

        not looking like it at the moment. At all…

  8. exclamation mark says:

    Dana,

    If the Manama document had its talks with the CP as its baseline, why did the political society to which Hassan Madan belongs to did not sign the document?

  9. exclamation mark says:

    Gents,

    Al Wefaq and Waad, and the other three societies, see that the Manama document is the road map to any resolution in Bahrain. And represents the “minimum requirement” for any reform in the country. Adding or deleting to the proposal would be deemed unacceptable by the people themselves. And continuing in this way would mean that any effort that would have less demands than that of the Manama document, would be neglected, and may fuel the conflict further. We have a section of the people calling for the down fall of the ruling family, and presenting demands of a low ceiling or comprimising other demands would not be acceptable.

    I think the five main political societies would not accept any resolution that would be less than the Manama document, and deleting any demands from it is out of the question.

  10. DANA says:

    If conspiracy, then in the best possible way — perhaps conspiring to put a spanner in the workings of the hawks who seem to be predominant in driving a lot of current decisions.

    there are good and useful conspiracies – let’s hope this is one.

  11. AbuRasool says:

    I agree. There are of course “good and useful conspiracies”. ( Some of these go under the name: visionary planning.)
    In this particular case it is tempting to put the new initiative together with Bassiouni’s visit next week as parts of Operation Face Saving.

    If that is case, I applaude.
    AbuRasool

    • DANA says:

      Not face saving. At least that is not what I would think this would be, if it were indeed a ‘conspiracy’.

      I’d rather think it would be an ‘exercise’ possibly initiated in conversations between some more liberal and moderate persons, with the aim of taking some of the wind out of the sails of the more hawkish elements – possibly with the full backing of some international entities…

    • mahmood says:

      That’s an interesting one AbuRasool, re the Operation Face Savingâ„¢ 🙂

      All joking aside though, using Bassiouni as the Mahdi by the regime won’t do any good.

      He’s done his job and what’s must be done is the simple implementation of the recommendations as was promised – several times – with alacrity. What is happening now is simply stoking the fire under the pressure cooker. We all know what will happen there if pressure is not released. Removing or reducing the fire as a temporary solution won’t work either. Not in the long run in any case.

  12. AbuRasool says:

    Even if it is not a joke or not, OFS will not work.
    Many of the people in this initiative are people of integrity and would not lend their names to a ‘joke’. But I know personally many in the group who would not raise a finger without first consulting with at least one Fdawee in the royal court (or the PM’s).

    Having said that it is necessary to reiterate the need to build a consensus on a solution that includes the points raised above: a fully representative parliament with exclusive legislative authority, an elected and representative cabinet, equitable electoral districts, review of Naturalization Laws, address administrative and financial corruption, review sovereign wealth, address the sectarian impasse(and so on).

    The ruling family, and the king, must realize that this is only sustainable rational way out.

    Saudi army, declared and indeclared state of emergency, the Bassiouni Commission I & II, the plethora of PR offices in Washington DC and London, the tens of GONGOs, etc. are panic measures that can only deepen the contention .

    Unfortunately, the king still believes in acrobatics politics, while his uncle believes more deaths will bring the opposition to their senses.

    On the other hand, the king may come out in public to make public his position on Bassiouni’s recent council: the ruling family or the country.

    abuRasool

    • DANA says:

      Do we think this could be endorsed by the PM’s office ? That would be ground-breaking…

      I would have thought if it comes from somewhere, then from the more liberal parts of the palace(s).

      • AbuRasool says:

        Dana! No, I donot think Khalifa bin Salman can endorse anything like this initiative. Alas! no breakthrough there.
        Yet, some of the participants have been known to be his. I cannot explain this!

        Let us wait few days to see what can Dr. Fakhro and his team DO.

  13. AbuRasool says:

    Even if it is not a joke , OFS will not work. 🙂

  14. exclamation mark says:

    AbuRasool,

    At this point “nothing” will work… There are pre requisites that need to be met..
    Without them even the manama document wouldn’t work

  15. AbuRasool says:

    Creative thinking, visionary plans, conspiracies are likely sources for ‘things that work’. Prerquisites are negotiables.

  16. exclamation mark says:

    Lets hope that … and keep our fingers crossed…

  17. Mike Diboll says:

    English translation:

    The Speech of Dr. Ali Fakhro at a Meeting of the “National Encounter” Group Held at the Al Uruba Club

    In the name of God the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

    Oh Brothers and Sisters,

    Welcome to this comprehensive National Encounter, held in the name of the entire nation, for the sake of all its people, and for every individual without favour, without preconditions. Allow me present the background to this meeting and its recommendations. Kindly assist us by ensuring that our deliberations this morning proceed in a positive and successful manner.

    Firstly, we are not a political party or association, nor are we even political grouping. Rather, we here purely as private citizens are preparing we do not represent any viewpoint to which we might have allegiance. What has motivated us to call this meeting is our fear for our nation which is suffering from every kind of tribulation, division, and fanatical sentiment and blind bigotry unmitigated by any consideration of tolerance or higher human ethics, and political intrigue promoted by the enemies of Bahrain, fed by opportunism and ignorant self-interest.

    Secondly, the brothers and sisters gathered here today have carefully studied the tragic conditions mentioned over long and arduous weeks. They have perceived the necessity of a comprehensively acceptable Voice of Reason that can propose to parties from the various communities, in particular political groupings, to sit together in the presence of trusted representatives in order to frame a set of minimum national demands and proposals that are commonly agreed. These in turn can be presented to the relevant state authorities in order to discuss them with the parties concerned, and reach agreement on them if possible along lines acceptable to all stakeholders from both state and society. This is so we may find a way out of the current crisis, magnanimously completing the forward march of parliamentary democracy and constitutional reform aimed at the fair for the good of everyone in the interests of all.

    Thirdly, we hope to call a meeting of political and community groups. There must therefore be a document upon which discussion can proceed. Accordingly, it is our suggestion — and you are fully free to agree with us on this suggestion, or reject or amend it — that the discussion commences with discussion of the seven proposals put forward by His Highness the Crown Prince in February 2011. Naturally, the meeting will have the absolute right to amend this initiative, or add to it or subtract from it, or to formulate a common understanding as to its contents, so that the detailed amendments would be the outcome of the discussions the two communities and subject to their agreement. The principles put forward by His Highness Sheikh Salman form the basis of our proposal as they are a reasonable ground for discussion, acceptable to many, and subject to some give and take should render most of what we propose acceptable to many of the state’s decision-makers.

    Fourthly, should those gathered at that meeting reach agreement on a set of political demands that are appropriate to this stage in Bahrain’s progress toward democracy, we should remember that while democracy is blessed with a beginning it has in fact no final outcome. Therefore, those gathered should be able to form delegation to present those demands of the appropriate parts of our political system in order to discuss the demands with them and try to persuade them to adopt these demands, implementing them within an agreed timescale, according to a cumulative timeframe which is absolutely irreversible.

    Fifthly, we suggest the brothers here present elect a number between twenty and thirty persons to be a coordinating committee following up contacts with all political forces and national stakeholders in order to convince them regarding all that has been mentioned above, and to ensure that its members, as your representatives, conduct joint meetings. It is demanded that the committee will need to remain in close association with you as a general grouping to arrange the public naming of the group, and to invite you to meetings as necessary and to inform you of the outcomes of our activities and to obtain your consent for new roles undertaken on your behalf.

    Sixthly, should we be unable to reach any agreement this endeavor, the matter will return to you: this could mean a change of goals or methods, or leaving the matter to others. However, what is essential is that we do our duty as citizens, so that history cannot record against us that we saw our nation aflame, but did nothing to relieve our country from its tribulation.

    Seventhly, and finally, it is our ardent hope this morning that we disregard slurs and insults from whatever any party they may arise, so that we may focus on the matter in hand. We are not attending a festival of rhetoric, but are meeting in order to find ways forward and solutions.

    Let us fix our sight on that. Let us remember that we must rise above all that divides us, we must banish the vituperation, wrangling and bickering that are harming our nation, we must save our nation from what some hypocrites, ignoramuses and opportunists are putting it through.

    In short, we are at this stage concerned to communicate with all groupings, urging them to communicate with one another and agree on common demands. We are not at this stage concerned with communicating with official parties, although this may come about at a later date, possibly involving others, or without them, according to you wishes at further meetings.
    Greetings to you all, you are all patriotic and have love for your people. God reward you a thousand-fold.

    May peace and God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.

    Dr. Ali Mohammed Fakhro
    The National Encounter
    Al Uruba Club
    28th January 2012

  18. DANA says:

    Do we know what happens next ?

  19. Milter says:

    Two parts of the translation of Dr. Ali Mohammed Fakhro’s speech have caught my eyes.

    1: “…we should remember that while democracy is blessed with a beginning it has in fact no final outcome.”

    Those are very wise words. Democracy has no final, detailed definitions or answers. It cannot be dictated or formulated by words in other books.

    2: “… our fear for our nation which is suffering from every kind of tribulation, division, and fanatical sentiment and blind bigotry unmitigated by any consideration of tolerance or higher human ethics…”

    That part indicates to me that the often heard postulate of normally divided groups in Bahrain that work together towards a common goal of “justice”, is more complex than the few letters of that word might indicate. Why not admit it openly? Why not admit openly, that behind a big part of these problems lies the divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims? Yes, yes, yes, I know, it is not the only divide, but ….?

    To outsiders, and probably to most Bahrainis, those religious ditches seem to be getting deeper and deeper and there seems to be an awful lot of people with new spades ready to widen those ditches instead of filling them in. Spades are made by people and so are shouts of “Kuffar”.

    Some time ago Mahmood published a comment from Brian Dooley about the similarities between the Irish struggle for independence and Bahrain’s present problems. In that comment, Brian Dooley compared the division between Catholics and Protestants in the island of Ireland almost 100 years ago to the situation in Bahrain today. Many of his words may be true, but, his rhetoric is just as confrontational and aggressive as that of much of what I have seen from Bahrain. And, he forgets to mention that that kind of rhetoric does not lead to reconciliation and peace, in fact it lead to civil war and many years of misery for the Irish people.

    Accepting the fact that religious agitators do play an important role in Bahrain will help in finding a more peaceful way forward. To underline my point, let me quote another Irishman, the playwright George Bernard Shaw:

    “No public man in these islands ever believes that the Bible means what it says: he is always convinced that it says what he means.”

    Replace the word “Bible” with whatever word you prefer.

    • Just Bahraini says:

      Milter you make a point about division which has been already over-emphasized, and this does not lead us towards solutions. Our divisions have been articulated and deepened. As I understand it, the aim Dr Ali’s speech and of the group is to focus efforts, wisdom and dialogue on the point most likely to generate solutions going forward.

      Acknowdging the role of sectarianism is real and fine, but as Bahrainis our future lies in finding a commonality that transcends this difference by focussing on our commonality: justice, equality, respect and future prospects.

      • Milter says:

        @Just Bahraini.

        I know, but, nevertheless a lot of people seem to continue playing the “My god is better than yours”-card or, if they want to be less confrontational: “My god does not define “justice and equality” like yours”. Why for instance does a Bahraini need the acceptance from an Iraqi or Iranian scholar to accept a law?

        What good is looking for solutions and “justice and equality” as long as those words are to be defined by people that claim to have a better knowledge of their god’s wishes for us? Ireland, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain and countless other places have shown that building a country on religious interpretations does not work. Somehow it always leads to injustice, narrow-mindedness and divisions.

        Why won’t the preachers admit this? Why can’t they just say: “Look people, we believe that you are wise enough to know what is best for you and your country. Our way of distinguishing between good and bad doesn’t work in politics”.

        And if the preachers won’t say those words themselves, somebody else has to.

        • Just Bahraini says:

          As a secular Bahraini I don’t need to follow a religious scholar to feel my views are acceptable, and one of the basic wishes of many democrats is the principle of separation between the 3 branches of state: executive, legislature and religion. On that basis, I don’t believe it is wise or useful to give too much attention to what the preachers say or don’t say. There is still “good” as you put it in looking for justice and equality whatever they do and however people define themselves in relation to religion.

          Beyond the sectarian issue – even if this were miraculously “solved”, that still leaves Bahrain with the political and social issues of non-representation, an imbalance of wealth, a feeling of disenfranchisement etc. These are the real issues facing Bahrain, and how they are addressed will define our future.

          If on the other hand, you focus primarily on these political issues we will all have progress. This progress can then be used positively in addressing religious concerns. I believe that this is what the “National Encounter”group wants, what a large portion of the population want, and what many in the business community want. Why not support it?

          • Milter says:

            I noticed this text in your comment:

            “….one of the basic wishes of many democrats is the principle of separation between the 3 branches of state: executive, legislature and religion.”

            Is this intentional or ….? Normally a democratic state is defined by the total separation of these three branches: “Executive, legislature and judiciary”.

            And yes, I can only second your words about non-representation, imbalance of wealth, feeling of disenfranchisement, etc. I saw much too much of that during my 11 years in Bahrain.

            But, behind all this lies the fact that politicians can only act in accordance with the wishes of the voters. Elections in Bahrain should be an indication of how much support secular parties/groups have. You may be a supporter of a secular state, but how many in Bahrain share your conviction? Have a look at the recent elections in Egypt. The revolt was called a victory for democracy and the religiously inspired parties took between 70 and 75% of the seats.

            You may not “…believe it is wise or useful to give too much attention to what the preachers say or don’t say” but as long as the majority of voters disagree with you, Bahrain will have problems. I am convinced, and history has proved it again and again, that religious divisions can’t be overcome as long as politics are based on religious scriptures.

            That doesn’t mean I do not keep hoping for a peaceful solution for Bahrain. It just means I don’t believe a lasting solution will be found until a vast majority of the voters will accept human made laws and common sense as better than laws and “justice and equality” based on religious scriptures. Or rather, justice and equality based on some old men’s interpretations of some dusty books and their alleged insight into the wishes and thoughts of their god.

  20. DANA says:

    After every glimmer of hope, there seems to be the next crash – does anyone else feel like they’ve been on a complete rollercoaster for a year ?

    Looking at people’s posts, there seem to be enough around who are keen on any small sign or movement that indicates a step towards potential improvement of the current situation.

    Yet, while you have parts of civil society trying to reach out, hoping, willing to do their bit for a workable solution and resolution of the crisis — next you hear of the next indicident, worsening crackdown, or alleged mistreatment of prisoners – as currently reported from Jaw.

    The increased ‘ tear gas thrown into homes’ incidents this week, which take the big nightly tear gas parties to a new and cruel level, and what seems to be happening at the prison, in conjunction with the hunger strike, are like a slap in the face(s) of all those people trying to come up with solutions, and all those who still have hope that a workable solution can be found – and I would imagine Professor Bassiouni and his team of experts will not feel any more honored for their BICI work and recommendations.

    I am nobody in the scheme of things and compared with such luminaries, just a person who loves Bahrain and stands helplessly, yet always wondering what I could possibly do, how I could possibly help bring about change. I am personally shuttling at vast speed between envisaging the gloomiest possible future for Bahrain, and drawing hope from the smallest move or statement, or perceived positive ‘conspiracy’.

    It’s bothering me, and yet it’s a luxury position to be in. We are here debating, thinking, hoping, worrying. Meanwhile, in some parts of the country, people are imprisoned, injured, pyschologically damaged, worried, scared, jobless, impoverished.

    While we debate, roller-coast, worry, hope, others face very tough conditions on a daily basis.

    Not sure what I want to express with this post. Not my disappointment – I’ve come to expect these things. Sadly. And yet, I keep hoping – sometimes. Maybe Pollyanna-like at times. Perhaps it is just that I am at the low end of the rollercoaster again – the latest glimmer of hope we’ve debated was just negated by the latest reports of crackdown action.

    14 days to go. Not that there will neccessarily be the one big bang – I think it is already banging everywhere, and, even though there seems to be a concerted campaign going on right now to wear if not wipe people out so much that they won’t have strength to protest in mid-February, I am certain there will be enough ‘force’ on the streets everywhere mid-month and beyond to prevent any huge action.

    One thing seems sure – we won’t be seeing any big positive unprompted bang on the part of the government. Not even I am Pollyanna enough to believe anything will happen on that front.

  21. AbuRasool says:

    Those who folows this post may be interested in reading this raging (almost rabid) reaction to dr. Ali Fakhro’s speech
    http://portal.alayam.com/artdetails.aspx?id=2413

    • mahmood says:

      To be expected. More in the offing I suspect as the country’s schizophrenia continues unabated!

      Question is, where will they hide and what will they do with themselves when this is all over? Because as sure as day follows night, this will be over!

      • AbuRasool says:

        I, too, did not give up ‘historic optimism’ 🙂

        More seriously, when people resisted being cowed by the shock and brutalities during the first week following Saudi incursion, it became evident that it is a matter time before all will be over.
        The same story has been narrated throughout history by civilians resisting brute indiscriminate force of rulers. Alas! it takes time and a lot of suffering.

  22. Just Bahraini says:

    Milter, in this country, the real structural changes are not made by politicians and voters. In fact, that is the point. Until they are, it is the rulers who can implement the separation of state, which as you correctly point out, is total in a total democracy.

    In our process of transition, I believe the solution will not be total in one step, and the process may take some years, but it does not help when people incorrectly define the issue. It’s political and real, therefore its solution must be political and real. A movement towards the separation of powers is the first step. Most people commenting on democracy focus on the votes, but a vote is litle use if Step 1 isn’t implemented

    As an expat (former?) you can claim that the divisions are religious and too deep to overcome, but that view doesn’t serve my country. As a Bahraini I prefer to look for solutions and support those who seek to generate them.

    • Milter says:

      @Just Bahraini.

      Maybe we don’t quite understand each other. Maybe our backgrounds are too different. I understand your words as meaning, that a solution without the acceptance of the scholars is not viable, but let me start with these words from your comment:

      “As an expat (former?) you can claim that the divisions are religious and too deep to overcome”.

      Yes, I am a former expat, but, I have never claimed that those religious divides cannot be overcome. All I’m saying, is that the longer the people of Bahrain let religious allegiances govern their minds and decisions, the longer it will take to find a lasting solution to the problems of your country. Mahmood’s words, yours and the translation of Dr. Ali Fakhro’s speech indicate that some people do want to move beyond the situation where people are divided into Sunnis, Shias, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, and, yes even, Polytheists and Non-Believers!

      And yes, I do know that that kind of people do exist in Bahrain, but, as long as they can’t express their opinions without fear of persecution of some kind from The State or individuals, the longer and more painful the transition to a fully liberal, secular and democratic society will be. Isn’t that what you want: A fully liberal, secular and democratic society?

      The constitution of Bahrain and a lot of other countries undermine the importance of “Freedom of expression”. If that freedom doesn’t include the unlimited freedom to criticise, reject or even ridicule the ideas and dogmas of a religion without fear of being thrown into jail, you will only see a very slow progress in breaking down those religious barriers.

      Yes, I agree, the transition cannot be done in one big leap. It will take some time. And the changes will in the end come from the voters because in a democracy they are the ones that call the shots. The final outcome will depend on what those voters want, and if they want a state run by religious scholars, that’s what you will get.

      If that happens, allow me to say: May your God have mercy on you and your neighbours!

      • Just Bahraini says:

        Your attachment to religion as a foundation of this issue (which is not the focus of Mahmood’s post, nor Dr Ali Fahro’s initiative) is interesting.

        Who has been thrown into jail on the basis of criticism of religious dogma this past year? Most of the hundreds of imprisonments I’ve heard of have been on the basis of political expression.

  23. exclamation mark says:

    We’re just a couple of days away from 14th Feb 2012 and we haven’t heard any outcome ! Any news?

  24. DANA says:

    All I hear about is police going into the villages in a manner that suggests the aim is to weaken and destablize people so much that there won’t be much resolve to do anythin much around Feb 14.

    Police et al are gearing themselves up, and some protesters seem to be preparing and prepared for the worst.

    Inbetween there are debates, there is this citizens initative, perhaps backed by others behind the scenes, and there is Prof Bassiouni. And campaigns outside the country by NGOs.
    But none of these seem to matter

    I think the coming days will be all about two sides, the protesters and the police, with the government behind them.

    What I am really wondering is whether Professor Bassiouni is aware of what goes on while he is in Bahrain ? And what he is doing and hoping to achieve by March.

    And how long it will all go on for. One year now. Will this go on and on ?

    Will we end up with enclaves like in Palestine, where for years and years repression will be the order of the day ?

    Or will a solution come eventually — and when ?

  25. Somebody says:

    Dana, I think the Palestine analogy is a very good one here. An indigenous people, unarmed, impoverished, disenfranchised and penned into their towns and villages by a powerful foreign military; and opposed by a wealthy regime with powerful political, media and PR links in the West (think Bell Pottinger) that claims (disingenously) to be a bulwark against hard line Islam and Iran. All that the people can do is throw stones at the foreign forces who come to tear gas, beat, abduct and torture them every night. And hope against hope that the world will take notice.

    Very similar indeed to Palestine.

    • DANA says:

      Someobody: it is a scenario I could see happening. But one scenario among several others.

      Should this happen, it would be in the context of a very ‘poor’ Bahrain – and by that, I don’t mean financially.

      I mean a country that would be a shadow of its former self. Nobody would win. But I guess some people are so afraid to lose what they have now that any price is fine to hold on to their personal status quo.

      It’s one year now – and in another 12 months, I think we’ll know the outcome. If in the next few months nothing changes, other than an increase in violence, then in my view, it’s the scenario we are moving towards.

      And we’ll all be the losers.

    • Steve the American says:

      The Palestine analogy breaks down when you consider the Palestinians hate the Israelis for their religion and, no matter how sweet a deal they may be offered, want to annihilate every Israelie, take their women as their sex slaves, and believe their religion entitles them to everything Israelis own.

      So, if the monarchy of Bahrain grants you everything you want, do you still feel religiously compelled to massacre them all? Do you feel entitled to make the women of the Bahrainian aristocracy your sex slaves? Do you feel your religions makes all their property your rightful booty?

      Let me know which way you want to go with this analogy because I can have a lot of fun either way you go.

  26. Somebody says:

    Steve – rofl, you’ve obviously been watching and listening to too much Jewish-owned and -run American media (that’s pretty much all of it, FYI).

    First of all, the Palestinian antipathy toward Israel is not because of their religion, but because they (Israelis) stole their (Palestinians) country. Kinda like native Americans might feel toward you. Except that native Americans today have full citizenship in the US, and even special rights and exemptions on their reservations, while Palestinians are not even permitted to enter their ancestral homeland.

    And before you trot out the bovine, Jewish-media line “da is becoz ov da soo-i-side bommerz!”, this situation of racist oppression and occupation by the Israeli military was in place for decades before the first suicide bomber.

    The PLO is a secular organisation, and was for decades the sole representative of the Palestinians. Hamas only came to prominence recently because Palestinians were sick of decades of Israeli occupation, intransigence, and land theft/settlement construction. The PLO was and is strongly linked to Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress in South Africa; Israel, by contrast, had strong military links with the apartheid regime, both being states based on racism and military domination of the indigenous people.

    The only massacres in this issue are those carried out or enabled by the Israelis, such as Deir Yassin, Sabra and Shatila, Jenin, etc. Nothing to do with the Palestinians – they just want to go home.

    Getting back to Bahrain, you wrote of the monarchy “granting” people what they want. As an American, how would you feel about having unaccountable rulers, who were above the law, and whom you were unable to vote out of office, who simply “granted” and denied whatever they felt like. I believe there was a guy called George Washington who had something to say about the matter. I guess that makes him a terrorist, right, Steve the American?

  27. Richard Jones says:

    Is Mahmood an ‘Al-Khalifa’?

  28. ZeaForUs says:

    Rather a question than a comment or reply. Are there women involved in this process and if not why not?

    Bottom line
    Fascinating to see while the once free and democratic west is losing slowly, but more or less obviously losing this, the more eastern part of the globe is moving in the positive attitude., an exception unfortunately being in my question I’m afraid. A cultural issue?

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