Why is ‘Sorry’ such a difficult word?

I’m not sure why this is the case, and am not sure why is it so difficult to understand that in order to move forward as a society some truths must be recognised and reparations made.

Iman Shwaiter at the Truth and Reconciliation workshop at Waad

Iman Shwaiter crying in memory of her husband (Hashim Al-Alawi) who was kidnapped, tortured and killed by Bahraini security forces in the 90s this was during a workshop on Truth and Reconciliation by 11 political societies, human rights organisations and activists in Wa’ad’s premises on 23 June ’07

Sayid Alawi Sayid Hassan at the Truth and Reconciliation workshop at Waad

Sayid Alawi Sayid Hassan with his nephew Mohammed Al-Nasheet (left) assisting him to speak of his suffering at the hands of State Security’s apprehension, imprisonment and torture.

It is an inescapable fact that every single on of us Bahrainis knows of the torture stories which were prevalent in the 70s through the 90s. Every one of us probably has a relative who suffered at the hands of torturers resulting in either deep psychological scarring or in more than 40 cases, death.

We also recognise that some violence perpetrated by citizens resulted in unfortunate ends, be that causing the death of individuals or damage done to property.

In either case, why shouldn’t an independent commission be convened to open those festering wounds, clean them up and restitch them again so that they can heal properly and we can move forward with our lives? In almost all cases a word of recognition and apology is all that is required. Even if monetary reparation is to be done to the people who suffered, that compensation should be paid in order to invest in a better future.

These feelings are one major source of strife in Bahrain and I am surprised that they are not ameliorated by the inaction of proper programs to relieve that pain.

Yes, some would argue, as has already been done, that the National Charter and the General Amnesty Law are enough. I contend that they are not as they came from one side only. They most definitely provide the basic framework from which redress and reconciliation could be started; however, truth should be sought and facts broadcast in order to recognise the depth of the problem and work toward resolving them.

We have ample examples in the world which we can emulate. South Africa is the most successful attempt at proper truth and reconciliation and so is the Moroccan commission to a large extent. We should learn from them and not just hide our head in the sand by stating that those are “foreign experiments” that we should simply ignore. If we accept that attitude, we might as well forget about all the planned reforms as they all depend on foreign experience to ensure their success!

So come on, for the sake of Bahrain, let us just get this much needed commission inaugurated and give them all the tools that they require to out truths and seek reparations in order to insure a better, fuller and more cohesive Bahrain.


  • Gardens of Sand
    24 June 2007

    Sorry is a difficult word because with saying sorry comes an admission of guilt. With that comes responsibility for one’s actions and accountability. And are both sides ready for responsibility and accountability? I think not. Those tortured and families of martyrs have come forward and are ready to speak of their experiences. On the other hand, are those who have commissioned and sanctioned torture and like methods ready to come forward, publicly and officially identify themselves as guilty?

    I believe that day will never come and the top policy-maker guys who are really behind these incidents will never be named. Systematic torture during interrogations is an exisiting policy in Bahrain. Those behind it should be held accountable and responsible. That will never happen in Bahrain and because of that bitter feelings will always exist despite all the truth and reconciliations, and we as a country will never move past this crippling and horrifying reality.

    Having said that it is a good start, but only one step forward in a journey of a thousand.

  • mahmood
    24 June 2007

    And the single step is huge progress, I think. If you look at the experience of South Africa and how the regime was then and how civil society applied the required pressure for change, we should emulate that, peacefully, to arrive at the much required social justice.

    So I share your hope. Things are already changing and will continue to change as long as we continue to demand our basic rights.

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