All Posts By mahmood

Free Ebrahim Sharif

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One Bahraini politician whom I really respect is Ebrahim Sharif.

Ebrahim Sharif is the secretary general of the secular National Action Democratic Society, acronymed Wa’ad – which translates from Arabic to “promise”. I believe with his tenacity and steadfastness to the truth and his passion to get this country to a better plane on which all are equal under the law and everyone is held responsible for their actions is the salvation that this country is in dire need of.

Unfortunately, he currently languishes in prison with a bevy of his compatriots for what some have determined to be politically motivated charges.

I also admire Ali Salman, the general secretary of Al-Wefaq1 and some of his colleagues like Khalil Al-Marzooq for I believe that they too are sincere in their efforts to achieve the same ends that Sharif aspires to. I know that this concept might be very difficult for those who’ve put on the sectarian shades on and see Wefaq as being necessarily beholden to the Iranian Ogre – due to Wefaq’s membership being overwhelmingly Shi’a. I on the other hand don’t have those preset views to encumber my deductions and do see beyond a person’s chosen confessional beliefs and evaluate positions exclusively with what is good for Bahrain metric.

Ebrahim Sharif is spending his first of five years in prison for his beliefs amongst others of his compatriots who have been accused of similar offenses and have had sentences levied against them from five to life. I can’t do much about those sentences other than to hope that they know that they will for ever be remembered for their sacrifices, and hope too that they continue to stay true and strong. There is every chance that they will be exonerated soon.

Until then, please show your support by visiting a blog that has been especially created to support Ebrahim Sharif at http://freesharif.wordpress.com.

Stay well Bahrain.

Ed: typo corrected, was Wa’ad, now Wefaq – 11:52
“Bahrain demonstrates in solidarity with Egypt – Feb 4th, 2011 – with a quick interview with Ebrahim Sharif added at 17:22

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Selective security

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While I abhor the Molotov cocktail attack on Samira Rajab’s residence and regard it as a heinous crime not to be condoned at all, especially when consideration is given that this attack was most probably undertaken due to Ms Rajab’s opinions and political position, I am left at a loss as to how the security services can find and apprehend the perpetrators within a day of the incident and those even more severe attacks on the two Wa’ad HQs in both Manama and Muharraq, the attack on the Wefaq Secretary General’s residence and countless opposition MPs, doctors, journalists and writers are still at large!

What gives?

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REPENT!

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I was just looking through my Flickr stream and came across this recent picture I took in Manhattan, NY. Was reminded of the place and its hodgepodge of cultures and people from all corners of the world, yet, they mostly live in peace with each other and even enjoy each other’s company. Even with the presence of some who could be classified as crackpots. Yet, they just live… and let live.

I just hope that this spirit of coexistence returns back to this fractious country soon with the establishment of a better democracy and better respect for human rights.

Here’s to hope.

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Congratulations Libya…. Next?

The pictures speak for themselves.

The question that wise “leaders” should ask themselves is: “Do I want to end up like any of these?”

I suppose not.

So what they need to do is relax that grip of power, give people the chance to live with dignity, treat them as equals and that will undoubtedly prolong their rule.

But who’s listening?

Congratulations Libya. Now please work hard at demolishing the idolization of persons and establish laws that apply to all and institutions to run the affairs of the country transparently and forge the future that was stolen from you for over 40 years.

Now. Who’s next?

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Think Pink and Sectarianism

I was gutted that I could participate in this year’s RCA Pink Walkathon as I was still working in Kuala Lumpur at the time, and I couldn’t support this charity this year as much as I wanted to other than to do the easiest thing and donate a bit of money, which I know will help them get closer to their goal of purchasing the life saving machinery which they will be donating to Salmaniya Medical Complex to help the whole of Bahrain. Women of all ages, creeds and races would benefit from their efforts without distinction whatsoever.

However, what pained me even more than not being able to participate in the activities this year, is an article by Maryam Al-Sherougi in Al-Wasat in which she shocked me by stating that this year the foundation found it much harder to raise funds not because of the unavailability of funds, but because of people refusing to donate without knowing first whether their donations would benefit Shi’a or Sunna!

Here’s an excerpt and you can read the full article here:

إلا أن الأحداث الأخيرة جعلت الناس تتشكك في ريع البيع، وما إذا كان يذهب الى فئات لا تتوافق معهم فكريا أو أيديولوجيا، وبات الجميع يسأل، أين مصدر القناني؟ ومن هو المستفيد من المال؟ وهل هو من هذه الفئة أم تلك؟! وتراجع التنوير شيئا فشيئا بسبب مزجه مع الفتن التي تحدث في مجتمعنا، ما أثر تأثيرا سلبيا على هذه الحملة.

 

Translation:
However, recent events have made ​​people skeptical about the proceeds of the sale, and whether it would go to groups which do not correspond with them intellectually or ideologically, and now everyone is asking, where is the source of the water bottles? And who is the beneficiary of the money? Whether it is from this sect or that?! And the enlightenment regressed gradually due to the various misdeeds that occur in our society which had a negative impact on this campaign.

How utterly disgusting is this? Is this really the Bahrain which we know and love? What happened to the hundreds of years of living side-by-side in harmony? Is being one sect or another really that relevant? Is it reason enough to withhold donations which should always be given with the only thought that it might benefit someone less fortunate than us based on the eventual beneficiary’s sect?

What a shame…

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The Bitter Pill

The BICI‘s report is to be released soon and just as Professor Bassiouni believes, it will be contentious and both sides of the divide will have issues with it. However, if the report itself and its recommendations are not handled properly, the divide we have been experiencing since March 17th will transform instantly into an uncrossable schism.

As a country, though, we simply cannot afford not to take the report at face value and use it positively as a catalyst to rebuild this fractious society. There is simply no reason not to. The people tasked with the report are internationally recognised human rights defenders and each have a credible history in the field. They have nothing to gain from the report, but a solid reputation to lose if it is in fact found that the report is a cover-up of serious violations.

I readily lend my voice of confidence to the BICI, especially after I’ve heard the interview linked above with its president.

Let’s hope this bitter pill does wake us all up, yank us out of our unreasonably intrenched positions and force us to think of Bahrain and its future generations rather than the continued selfish and myopic positions so far taken in this very ill society. Let us also hope that the country’s leadership will have the required courage to enact its recommendations transparently and deal with all those who abused their powers through the very difficult times we have lived through without any thought given to sect or tribal affiliations, release those unfairly imprisoned and fairly compensate all those who have been wronged.

This is the time to demonstrate real leadership, half measures by them just won’t do.

The alternative is nothing less than continued strife and perpetual mutual accusations which will accelerate the annihilation of this country and all within it.

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If Bahrain is to learn something useful…

I agree. Wholeheartedly and hope against hope that something could be done, quickly, and hope once again that it’s still not too late to save this country and its people. All of them.

Bahrain Should Heed Lessons from Ireland

9-29-2011
By Brian Dooley
Director, Human Rights Defenders

Take two small island nations, each situated off the coast of a major power. Both have a history of sectarian conflict, fake democracy and misrule by monarchy. Both have a strategically important deepwater naval base. Crucially, both have a police force recruited almost exclusively from one of the sects.

Both have populations of around a million and a half, and both enjoy the dubious legacy of British colonialism and the traditions of its security apparatus.

There are differences, of course. Bahrain remains one country while Ireland was cut into two almost 90 years ago in a makeshift political solution to create Northern Ireland, which has a Protestant majority largely keen on continued British rule and loyal to the British monarch. In Northern Ireland, the fight for civil rights for Catholics (or for “parity of esteem” in modern jargon) has been conducted largely in the rain, cold and damp, whereas Bahrainis’ struggle happens in extreme heat and sunshine.

From the early 1920s, when Northern Ireland was created, the largely Protestant ruling class excluded Catholics from top government jobs, and the police force was almost exclusively Protestant, fiercely loyal to the British Protestant monarch. Electoral districts were gerrymandered to give Protestants a permanent electoral advantage even in areas like Derry, which had a Catholic majority.

In Bahrain, electoral districts are gerrymandered in favor of Sunnis, while Shias are excluded from top government jobs. The police force is almost exclusively Sunni, fiercely loyal to the Sunni monarch.

In 1968, inspired by the Prague Spring, Northern Ireland saw its first civil rights protests. A wave of pro-democracy marches and demonstrations swept Europe, from Prague to Warsaw to Belgrade to Paris and beyond. In Derry in Northern Ireland, the protests were met with a violent crackdown from the security forces. Within a year, with protests escalating, the police in Northern Ireland had to be reinforced by soldiers sent from neighboring Britain.

This year, inspired by the Arab Spring and demonstration in Tuni, Cairo and elsewhere, Bahraini pro-democracy activists organised huge protests which were met with a violent crackdown from the security forces. Within a month, with protests escalating, the police in Bahrain had to be reinforced by soldiers sent from neighboring Saudi Arabia.

We could go on, listing the similarities in the special court systems, the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, the shooting of peaceful protestors, the deaths in custody, the fake shows of dialogue about power-sharing, the allegations of foreign conspiracies (led by Tehran or the Vatican), the social segregation of people living in different areas and shopping in different stores.

In neither place has the sectarianism been primarily theological. Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland were not killing each other over issues of transubstantiation or the rightful place of Jesus’ mother Mary in the pantheon of Christian hierarchy. The sensitive issues, like in Bahrain, were about identity, ‘foreignness’ and allegiance to the ruling elite. In both places too there were and are many exceptions to the Catholic v Protestant, Sunni v Shia equation. Not all Protestants were anti-reform, just as many Sunnis are embarrassed at the King’s intransigence and anti-democracy crackdown.

But what’s most useful is to see how some progress has been made in Northern Ireland. The clumsy British response to the civil rights demands for equal access to government jobs and services and to votes pushed many of those marching for civil rights to more radical solutions.

By the early 1970s the guerrilla IRA has resurfaced, and a long war of attrition began against the British security forces. More than 3,000 people died in the following 30 years until a political deal was finally reached.

If there are parallels, it would be nice to think that Bahrain might skip the decades of killings and chaos and go straight for the solution. The reforms in Northern Ireland have not been perfect. The most difficult has been in revamping the security forces. Decades of mistrust are hard to overcome, and Catholics are still reluctant to join the police force (rebranded with a new name and symbols) that was loathed and feared for so long.

But progress has been made, and there is a sense of a shared future, not competing and conflicting versions of how the next generation will live.

If Bahrain is to learn something useful from the experience of Northern Ireland it might start by:

  • accepting that these protests aren’t going away without wholesale, deep-rooted reforms;
  • making Shia teenagers believe they have a future in the country, and possibly a government job;
  • making everyone’s vote worth the same;
  • stopping the manipulation of state media;
  • starting to talk to opposition leaders, including those it claims are terrorists, and including those in jail;
  • accepting outside mediation and support (in the case of Northern Ireland the Clinton Administration played an invaluable role);
  • realizing that by refusing to share any power they risk losing it all.

Source: Human Rights First

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Off to KL

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It’s only a week since I came back to the island after an excellent and fruitful holiday. That holiday was followed by a hectic – but fortunately very fruitful – week spent in the office. Now, I’m off with my crew to Kuala Lumpur to cover another of the Power-Gen series of international power conferences and exhibitions. I promise you that an even more hectic work schedule will continue for the week where we’ll be producing three distinct corporate films, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the experience once again.

I hope that you too have had and shall continue to have fulfilling times my friends, in whatever endeavor you chose.

Until then, expect some pictures from KL!

Cheers!

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What will it take, to effect change?

The Dalai Lama was asked by Mother Jones Magazine in 1997 what he thought it would take for China to change its policy toward Tibet.

He responded with:

It will take two things: first, a Chinese leadership that looks forward instead of backward, that looks toward integration with the world and cares about both world opinion and the will of [China’s] own democracy movement; second, a group of world leaders that listens to the concerns of their own people with regard to Tibet, and speak firmly to the Chinese about the urgent need of working out a solution based on truth and justice. We do not have these two things today, and so the process of bringing peace to Tibet is stalled.

But we must not lose our trust in the power of truth. Everything is always changing in the world. Look at South Africa, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East. They still have many problems, setbacks as well as breakthroughs, but basically changes have happened that were considered unthinkable a decade ago.

I think if we look at our own situation in Bahrain in this enlightened context, we might be looking at a tangible solution to our current problems.

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