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athens-fire_1538660iQuick! Where do you think this took place? Duraz? Bani Jamra? Sehla? Hamad Town? Muharraq?

No? Can’t guess? Well let me put your mind at ease. These were the riots which paralyzed Athens to commemorate the death of 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos. Fatally shot by a police officer after a minor altercation. Once the news spread of this incident, within the first hour of the young man’s death, demonstrations took place in his neighbourhood; these escalated to full riots which lasted several days. During that time youths engaged police and private property with stones, sticks, furniture, firecrackers, molotov cocktails and whatever else they could lay their hands on (see pictures here).

Those riots were not contained within the boy’s neighbourhood, but spread very quickly to Athens which was paralyzed for several weeks, then to many other European cities in solidarity against police brutality. The Greek prime minister and many other officials came out to offer not only their condolences to Alexandros’ family, but clearly and unequivocally condemned the police for this loss of life. While there is no doubt that some extremist/anarchist elements took advantage of the situation and escalated the violence, but the fact is that the protesting majority were not maligned by the government for their “unpatriotic” behaviour. They – shockingly for us – seem to have done the opposite and stood by them and by their democratic right to demonstrate against the killing, police brutality, corruption, unemployment and other grievances.

Over the following few weeks, Bahrain will celebrate it’s 39th Day of Independence. The betting, judging by the past few years, various people will take to the streets to demonstrate their grievances; all the way from the forgotten sufferers from torture in the past through to families of allegedly wrongfully accused and imprisoned youth due to their political activities – normally demonstrating here and there for various causes and to those who will want to celebrate the various martyrs of this great country. I suspect that again based on recent history, these will be dealt with severely by the state security apparatus.

Wouldn’t it be great if the government this year adopted a more benevolent approach? How about allowing those people with grievances to express them publicly, demonstrate and use that as a celebration of our democracy within our national celebrations? Sure, if demonstrations do turn violent and threaten life and damage property the perpetrators must be dealt with within the spirit of the law, but for goodness’ sake don’t preempt events by lobbing tens of tear-gas cannisters and shoot the crowd/demonstrators with bird-shot!

Bahrainis normally are quite docile, not choosing confrontation by default. I don’t think that the majority of us want a regime change, what the vast majority want I suspect is just for their voice to be heard and their grievances attended to. We all know that the parliament is incapable of relaying these matters, let alone work to resolve them. Parliamentarians not only lack legislative teeth, but are busying themselves and are mired in their own sectarian and divisive practices. They are beyond useless. Maybe the demonstrations and other peaceful methods of dissent should be tolerated by the leadership in order for them to actually hear the voices and use the presented opportunity to quickly and courageously addressing them for the better of this country. I’m sure that they’re striving for social justice, equality and good living for the citizens of Bahrain as explained and encapsulated in the Vision 2030, so let’s just be a bit more patient with each other this December. Listen. And enter into a good national dialogue.

Where else do we have to call home by this good country? Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, sit, and talk. It can’t be that complicated.

I wish everyone in Bahrain and fantastic National Day and I hope the attendant celebrations be peaceful and much fun.

  • Native citizen
    10 December 2009

    Independence day is in August. The next few weeks is supposed to be a celebration of Hamad’s succession to the throne. We have no official celebration of independence in Bahrain.

    My reading from the street is most people want regime change. This regime has shown that it cannot reform itself. The country needs a radical shift in its governance model and by all definitions this means “regime” change – from an authoritarian regime to a democratic regime.

    I ask one thing, what is there to celebrate of Hamad’s achievements? His biggest achievements are as follows:

    – an island with no natural public beaches and 80% destruction of local marine life
    – 50,000 politically naturalised citizens
    – a poor health system
    – weak education system at all levels and only one underinvested and oversubscribed university
    – political patronage and power at the hands of his uncle at a levels never before witnessed
    – the establishment of GONGOS to undermine independent civil and human rights organisations that continue to be banned and attacked
    – the retraction of free independent press and an increase in the level of censorship
    – a serious shortage of affordable housing

    What positive achievements has this machivellian king achieved? more palaces for him and his family members – a family above the law.

    This king is full of broken promises, I for one will be on the streets this month whenever I can to mark my protest at the terrible situation the country is in.

    • mahmood
      10 December 2009

      And your proposal is what exactly? And how are you going to achieve it?

      I’m not suggesting that we should just accept the status quo, checks and balances must be introduced at all levels and hierarchies, with a functioning democracy reportable to the people with the constitutional monarch.

      I would be interested in knowing your proposal and whether you mean when you say you want a regime change, is that what I contend above or you are advocating the removal of Al-Khalifa rule in toto?

  • Hussain
    11 December 2009

    I dont know what the exact solution would be, but from a general overview of the effectivness of protests in Bahrain in the past, it seems as though it is not too effective to bring about change.

    Perhaps, people should take a more specialist approach in achieving results by focusing on one key area/topic/issue at a time, demand for it continuously, attain it, then move on to the next issue.

    It is alot easier to achieve 1 issue at a time, then to just ask for general change which has not reaped any results to date.

    Its just like a job interview, you dont go to a company and say i want a job, any job will do. You request a specific field for specific qualifications and experience.

    Just an idea, might be completely wrong, as it is 2 am here!

    • mahmood
      11 December 2009

      I agree that people should push for change because change doesn’t happen by itself.

      Everything evolves, and evolution takes time. Some people don’t want to wait and opt for revolution, but that’s not a very palatable to many people due to it being almost always accompanied by chaos.

      We can concentrate on more than a single issue at a time because there are many good people who could take an issue individually and run with it.

      However, what seems to be missing to me is the real political will to real dialogue to arrive at deployable programs. That seems to me is due to many reasons, chief amongst them is the loss of trust on both parties.

      That’s probably the single most important issue that we need to concentrate on.

  • Steve the American
    14 December 2009

    I’m not convinced that there are rational reasons for riots. My suspicion is that they happen for bad reasons and then good reasons are applied to them later.

    There was a race riot in Dallas some years ago during a Dallas Cowboys victory parade. Black kids from the slums just started beating up white people from the suburbs who were just standing there watching the parade. A newspaper reporter asked one of the rioters why he was attacking people and smashing up stores. The kid said, “Because it’s fun.”

    My guess is it’s fun for a certain kind of person to riot and when they can, they do. If one person gets away with it, the rest start. I recall during the race riots in Los Angeles after the Rodney King incident, the violence didn’t begin until after the crowd broke into a liquor store and got drunk.

    There was a comical series of answers that reporters got from the looters when they asked them who Rodney King was. Most didn’t know. One guy thought he might be a sports star. The kind of people who riot and loot don’t keep up with current events. They do whatever feels good at the moment and then justify themselves later with reasons supplied by the liberal media.

  • exclamation mark
    14 December 2009

    You criticise me therefore you’re against me…

    Thats the answer Mahmood…

    • mahmood
      14 December 2009

      brain not functioning properly, please explain.

  • exclamation mark
    14 December 2009

    Well Mahmood,

    As a start, have you heard of Dr. Ali Al Wardi? A well known anthropologist and the father of secularism in modern Iraq history, he had once written the following in one of his books (in meaning that is):

    That we arabs, since before the Prophet Muhammad PBUH have bedouin characteristics, one of which is that we are very shallow people, we only take care of the surface not the core, and we unintentonally practice hypocracy! How?

    As an example today, we have people embracing Islam and how righteuous and just their religion belief is – all that in words – but when it comes to practice, those are the people that plant bombs and kill innocent people! Isn’t that hypocracy? what about the other values that Islam embraces that are now embraced by the West?
    And the problem is when you face them with their reality, and critisize their actions, even for their own good so you are their enemy, if not a Kafir that needs to be killed… and seriuosly there are people like that !
    From that we have the famous quote from Sh. Mohd Abduh (head of Al Azhar university) saying when he visited Europe: In the european countries I’ve seen Islam but no Muslims, and in our countries we see muslims but no Islam!

    The same here, with the regime, they’ve put up big slogans embracing democracy, and freedom, but what do you find in reality? Any criticism to the government will mean that you will be considered an enemy! So, what happened to those slogans? where did the freedom of speech and expression go? and these two are the pillars of democracy! Isn’t this a type of hypocracy! And don’t you think that your petition to stop blocking sites is a live example reflecting the situation we’re in?

    If this is the case Mahmood, so what do you think will happen when you say: ” Wouldn’t it be great if the government this year adopted a more benevolent approach? How about allowing those people with grievances to express them publicly, demonstrate and use that as a celebration of our democracy within our national celebration”

Twittering Bahrainis