May you live in interesting times, they said. They should come to Bahrain to see, feel, taste and live these times, no other time can possibly be more interesting!
What confusion? what diatribe? what conflict? what emotion? what conspiracies? what double-crossing? what finger-pointing? what fights! We have had and are having all of these on a daily basis since March 1999. Six years now and it has not abated, on the contrary if anything all of these increased and that is not waning.
I can’t remember a month passing by since then where we didn’t have some sort of demonstration about something or other. I can’t remember a year without an arrest or two that polarised the society, nor do I remember a month passing by without our ham-fisted parliamentarians doing yet another faux pas, or indeed the government completely missing the mark and misreading the psyche of its own subjects.
What more interesting times do you possibly want? It can’t get better than this!
What? You want a break? Wait until you’re comfortably 6-feet under. While you’re alive enjoy these happenings and embrace them as well. Stop bitching about the government not doing what you want them to do, stop lambasting the parliament for not doing their job, or the ineffectiveness and stooginess of its chairman. Get out and demonstrate!
Even though a lot of people only see the “dark” side of this, to me this is democracy in progress. This is how it is, democracy is not a flower and nice walks on the beach. Its processes are ugly, forceful and life-changing. This is what is happening on these shores and I for one am proud of it and hope that these give and take scenarios would continue until peaceful resolutions are arrived at to end the current stalemate.
In the latest developments, Al-Wefaq, the leader of the boycotting societies for instance, are planning a huge demonstration in Sitra tomorrow afternoon where they expect some 100,000 participants to take part. A lot of spanking new Bahraini flags will be distributed to wave around. The idea is to show the government that yes, they are patriotic and they hold no allegiance to any “external” forces. The Wefaq leader has categorically said that the only banner allowed at this demonstration is the Bahraini flag. No pictures of foreigners and no Hizb-Allah yellow flags either. Just Bahraini flags.
They also hope to show the authorities that they too can organise a demonstration like Lebanon and effect change. What authority is going to stand against the demands of 1/4th of its people? And by waving only the kingdom’s flag no-one can doubt their patriotism. Right?
The situations in Lebanon and Bahrain can never be compared. In Lebanon the demonstrations were spontaneous where the whole society participated, regardless of sect or religion. In tomorrow’s demonstration I am sure we will see that the vast majority of demonstrators are in fact from the shi’a community, tainting the demonstration as a sectarian event rather than representative of the whole Bahraini society.
I would also have preferred it had Al-Wefaq exercised democratic principals and not sanctioned banners like the following in various places in Bahrain. The banner advertises the venue (Sitra), the time (1530) and the date (March 25th, 2005) which is fine, however the thing I don’t agree with is their statement that “it is your nationalistic duty to attend”, that to me is trying to force people to show up and not leaving it up to the individual to decide.
There is no doubt that Al-Wefaq is certainly the largest political party we have, unfortunately it caters almost exclusively to the Shi’a population and doesn’t seem to care to expand its reach beyond that demographic. I feel it is their responsibility to work very hard at integrating the whole society in their organisation in much larger numbers. This would give it a lot more credibility. I fully realise however that this is easier said than done because the Bahraini society has become extremely sectarian, as witnessed in the very parliament that should work for the whole of Bahrain: shi’a, sunni, baha’i, druze, christian, jew and hindu.
I personally don’t know what is going on within Al-Wefaq, however it seems that they’re suffering from divisions within their ranks with at least a couple of splinter movements one going the route of moderation (Dr. Nezar Al-Baharna) and the other demanding more aggressive civil disobedience activities (Hassan Mushaimi’) and I’m no longer sure what their platform is.
Sure they’re exerting pressure on the government and there is always their democratic option of once again boycotting the forthcoming elections, but shouldn’t they exert their energies on expanding their reach? Wouldn’t that make them more representative or are they happy with their make-up?
When fully knowing that this week Bahrain will host quite a number of people from all over the world attending the Formula 1 race next weekend, and when some 390 million pairs of eyes will be affixed to Bahrain during the F1 weekend, why would they want to rock the boat once again? Is there really no other avenue open to them to show their grievances and seek resolutions at any other times? Or is it because of the F1 event they are taking the conscious opportunity to demonstrate to the world that we do have political disagreements, thus force the government’s hands into concessions?
Although I recognise their inalienable right to peacefully demonstrate any time they wish, I personally see this as the height of folly. This has the potential of scuppering a lot of investments or at least once again dent our business environment’s reputation thus chasing more money out of the kingdom.
It is as if Al-Wefaq is the biggest advertising agency for Dubai!
update March 25th, 2005 @ 2150: pictures are begining to surface on various websites and unofficial figures put the numbers at 120,000. Click the picture for more…