Hmmm… I smell even worse civil strife coming up!

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I’m just disenchanted with the whole stupid situation in this country. I’m not that interested in the internal politics any more because the version of politics we currently have is built on a win-lose strategy rather than exercising the art of mediation and arriving at a common ground to resolve this country’s problems. What we have now is not only posturing from both sides, but a ratcheting up of the useless rhetoric which got an already polarized population be even further entrenched in diametrically opposing camps.

The result?

Is a real danger of violence and absence of safety and security for all. This is just a sample of what happened last night near the village of Nuwaidrat, at the ALBA roundabout, were a group of Sunni vigilantes armed with planks of wood, swords and other assorted weapons in full sight of the security forces, taking the law into their own hands and attacking peaceful people who happen to be in the area… and who happen to be determined as Shia.

The film is entitled “اشاوس الرفاع عند مدخل قرية النويدرات الشيعيه” – “The Riffa braves at the entrance of the Shia Nuwaidrat village” and starts with one of the thugs calling “وينكم يا عيال المتعة؟” “Where are you o children of pleasure” while another shouts “وينكم يا جبناء” “where are you, you cowards” and yet another calls out “وينكم يالروافظ” “where are you o ‘rawafudh'” a derogatory term used against Shia Muslims, and it goes on the same ilk. All in the presence of security forces who seem to have been quite contained and exercised excellent self-restraint. Both qualities appear to be completely dispensed with when they put down any demonstration in any Shia environs.

It didn’t stop there. They went further and once again attacked the 24 Hour Market, an enterprise owned by Jawad Business Group, simply because its owners are Shia. This is not the first – and the in the absence of measures to stop the very much known and recorded perpetrators of those attacks – it won’t be the last either. Targeting Jawad as well as other Shi’a merchants is the norm now.

Why is this happening?

Good question.

The immediate explanation on last night’s incident seemed to have been prompted with an attack on the police around Al-Ekr village near Sitra in which a homemade pipe-bomb was used against the police. Official reports confirm seven policemen injured, three of them seriously. According to the press this morning, four suspects have been apprehended so far. While the escalation of violence and the first time usage of such lethal devices are extremely concerning and in no way condoned, it is as equally worrying having vigilantes and mobs taking the law in their own hands and wreaking havoc across the land.

How do they hope to reconcile violence with violence? How can they tie the attempted murder of policemen with overturning two cars for just the suspicion of its occupants being from the other sect? How do they equate their actions with demonstrating support to the ruling regime and the police? If anything, they immeasurably weaken the whole country, and give fuel to the rising voices wanting to cancel the Bahrain F1, an event which has the potential of doing good and bringing even temporary joy to this country.

Now, the other side is going to retaliate. There is no question of that. This weekend, we’ll see pyres of smoke across the horizon by the further burning of tyres, blocking highways, the nightly skirmishes with the police will intensify and goodness knows how many will fall injured and how many will succumb to those injuries.

The solution, once again, is quite simple. Nothing is going to fix this situation other than a comprehensive and honest dialogue in which the opposition is truly represented and attended by decision makers from the regime. Face-to-face.

Thrash the issues out for the sake of the country and its people. We’re quite sick and tired of your childish and utterly naive politicking. You both know what the bones of contention are, so get them resolved and take a position in which Bahrain is considered first, rather than your own myopic and completely unwarranted vision.

Otherwise, the situation will be as that thug who shouted at the end of the clip will happen. His invitation was: “Now let’s go to Ma’ameer and Sitra”. The sad truth is that it won’t stop there… the strife will definitely spread, but its spread will be like a wild fire in dry brush. Nothing will stop it until the whole country is burnt to a crisp, and no one – regardless of orientation – will have survive it.

  • Nader
    11 April 2012

    I fear you may be right Mahmood. Certainly any sympathy that those in the middle had for the very early issues, housing , jobs etc, has now completely evaporated. In fact, it has been replaced with unmasked anger and exasperation. Like you, we are all sick to death with this directionless violence and disruption. This year will be our most dangerous. Those in the Middle are moving to their ethnic extremes. Any politics defined by extremes is distorted, but the weight of numbers can give the distortion credence.
    A Broadening of the conflict to include the Sunni population will have ramifications in neighboring Sunni countries and then we are looking at an Iraq scenario squarely in the face. The journey from ethic division to ethnic cleansing is frighteningly short and it will happen very quickly indeed. Mahmood, we must ,must, must do what we can to pour cold water on this right away.

    • JB
      17 April 2012

      The protests were not just about housing and jobs Nader – although these are factors that make the situation worse – they are about the political tribal structure of our country. The angry guys on the streets arent helping – you’re right, they are alienating the middle class – but the solution does not (and never has) lie in their hands – it is the top decision makers who could have stepped up to the mark and tried to save the nation instead of just their own next few years. They still could, but every week this prospect diminishes

  • Abdulhadi
    11 April 2012

    The ruling trioka started a chain of events that they cannot possibly control.
    According to some reports ‘the vigilantes were not only armed with planks of wood, swords and other assorted weapons’ , and in ‘ in full sight of the security forces, taking the law into their own hands. They included ‘big shots’ who were able to give orders to the police officersin charge.

    check this :


    • mahmood
      11 April 2012

      That’s the worry Abdulhadi. What the events of last night confirmed to me is that Bahrain has become “حارة كل من إيدو إلو!”- A land of lawlessness which is condoned by the regime.

      I wonder if they know that the ultimate results of these machinations is their own destruction; and all of those around them without distinction too.

      If they relax that grip a bit, give people a proper constitution with them at the top of the pyramid, they will ensure their survival for generations to come. This way, it’s open to interpretation.

      • Ted
        12 April 2012

        Constitution? Yes. Them at the top? NO! They do not deserve any ruling situation; they have not earned respect, they have stolen so much from the Bahrain people. They’ve stolen land and rights. They were never elected and their rule has been one of manipulation to the greed of those who want power. One cannot reward such behavior with any place in future gvts.

  • Wayne Job
    11 April 2012

    Keep your head down Mahmood and do not say anything that will bring the wrath of those on either side. The divide in Islam has always been and pograms have been the rule rather than the exception. It may be prudent on your part for you and your family to find a haven until the worst is over. I am observant to the fact that you are a staunch Barainian and a well known personality but non of us are bullet proof.

    Your treasured isle seems to be in a state of increasing violence, in such a small country no one is isolated, cool rational heads will be needed in the future keep yours safe. Wayne the infidel from Australia.

    • mahmood
      11 April 2012

      Thanks for the sentiments Wayne. I appreciate your concern.

      The irony is that even in the midst of all this, my business has never seen better days! We’re actually expanding and taking on more staff now. I have two joining by the end of this month, a business development manager will join in May and I hope to hire another producer and director within that time period too. We do a lot more outside of Bahrain now than we ever have, and just as paradoxically, jobs in the Bahrain market have been doing well too!

      What that demonstrates of course is that it is — still — a political discourse that is going on, sometimes violent and sometimes passionate, but other than jostling for position, the place is relatively safe. Crowds like the ones mentioned above are nothing more than peons following orders. The concern is when those who are giving orders will be told to sit down and properly talk, rather than just carry on ratcheting up the rhetoric of fools for fools.

  • Mike Diboll
    11 April 2012

    As you know, I’ve seen collaboration between the “police” and armed so-called “loyalist” vigilantes close-up, and last night’s disgraceful incidents show that nothing has changed in a year.

    Personally, I don’t think the F1 should go ahead, as I can’t see why the sport, the constructors, the sponsors or the drivers would in any way want to be seen to be endorsing the current state of affairs in Bahrain.

    F1 didn’t have to be an endorsement of the regime, but it was politicised from the moment we started to see PR slogans like “Bahrain’s back on track!”, since there were clearly part of a wider PR offensive aimed at trying to convince the outside world that everything was back to normal when it wasn’t.

    As it is, I think it will now make little difference whether the race goes ahead or not, either way it will be equally divisive, and either way, sadly, there is likely to be further confrontation, violence ans death before April’s done. The regime’s PR offensive of early 2012 is in tatters, and little if anything has changed on the ground.

    In this regard, the F1 is proving to be like the BICI, a so-called turning point that only makes matters worse. The handling of both the F1 and the BICI debacles once again illustrate the bungling incompetence of this regime, it’s disconnect from what’s happening on the street, and its fixation with international image and PR over dealing with the real problems in a substantive way.

    Frankly, Bahrain didn’t need the BICI, it needed the UN inquiry that the BICI was intended to forestall. Bahrain doesn’t need F1, it needs a concerted international effort to bring this regime to its senses before the situation is completely irretrievable.

    Regionally, other GCC countries like Kuwait, Qatar and Oman could probably play a role as a counterweight to Saudi. Internationally, Britain and the USA could bring serious pressure to bear to create a viable political centre.

    The UN at last seems to be waking up to the gravity of the Bahrain situation, and the USA above all else wants stability for its base. In this regard there is a difference of interest between the USA and the UK, that latter being primarily interested in using the crisis to sell as much “expertise” to the regime as possible. But there are signs that even the UK government is beginning to lose patience with the way things are going.

    I hate to sound quasi-imperialist regarding the role of outside powers in bringing about a solution to the current crisis. Any sustainable solution has to be a Bahraini solution to Bahraini problems. But this can’t happen while the current stalemate persists.

    That’s why I suspect that some sort of serious outside intervention will be the only way to halt Bahrain’s slide into becoming the Northern Ireland or the Beirut of the Gulf.

  • Ted
    12 April 2012

    There’s so much to be said about this incident. The police showed some restraint – they do not show that same restraint when dealing with what they consider to be wholly Shia marches and situations. But they had to show some action; it seems as if the police are themselves enabling the continuation of the escalation of the whole complex situation. The police are discriminatory and are fueling strife in many situations. Yesterday police saw they were being photo’d from a rooftop. In retaliation they shot a teargas canister at the photographer. Yet Yates said recently the *only* time police use Molotovs are when they need protection from Molotovs. This is patently untrue; each day there are photos and videos of police using excessive force against innocent people. So with continues use of teargas and Molotovs thrown BY the police (and there is a good collection of 12 videos showing this) the chances of the two sides coming together recedes. It seems to be that as time goes on some kind of political intervention is needed to enable proper dialogue.

  • Hassan AlDoy
    12 April 2012

    You know what’s seriously suspicious about this blog and this post in particular? What’s the role of such existing writer like you? This is the first post ever on vandalism, riots or violence after a whole 14 months of Molotov Cocktails attacks targeting security forces in Bahrain, which are actually protecting the nation from the violence instigated by the so called Human Rights Activists against the innocent civilians, but Mahmood never even mentioned them! The lulupops have lost each round and the whole fight .. I rest my case! 🙂

    • Mike Diboll
      12 April 2012

      Hassan writes the usual drivel.

      First, if we are talking about violence, let’s look at the butcher’s bill: about 80 protesters dead to what, a maximum of four from the security forces. By that measure the regime’s carpet gassing of villages has been far more deadly than protesters use of petrol bombs, for all the fuss about “Molotovs”.

      More substantially, there is the issue of legitimacy, political legitimacy, and the legitimate use of force. In all civil societies, the forces of the state enjoy a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence and coercion in exchange for a firm and accountable commitment that such force is used lawfully and responsibly. This is a fundamental principle of civil society.

      In situations where the police and/or military abuse that commitment they lose their legitimacy, and law and order and civil society begin to break down. Therefore, in all civil societies the forces of law and order are held to far higher standards of accountability than the people they police. This is the price the state must pay for having a monopoly on lawful violence. While this might sometimes seem tough on the police, the only alternative is a police force which is merely an armed gang in uniform.

      This is what we see in Bahrain: a sectarian police force staffed by a high percentage of mercenaries routinely brutalises a people with whom they have little in common, and who they so often regard with contempt.

      Every abuse of riot gas, every beating, every robbery, every time these ‘police’ stand idly by while sectarian vigilantes commit crimes, every time THEY ACTUALLY SIDE WITH VIGILANTES (I’ve seen this with my own eyes), the legitimacy of the Bahrain police is diminished in the eyes of the people so that they are seen not as a force of law and order, but as a private gang of the Khalifas.

      We had a similar problem in Northern Ireland. Eventually, after 30 years of civil war and thousands of deaths, a key plank of the peace process was the disbanding of the sectarian, paramilitary Royal Ulster Constabulary, and its replacement with the civilian Police Service of Northern Ireland, recruited evenly from the Catholic and Protestant communities.

      Only something like this can restore legitimacy to the police in Bahrain, disgraced British ex-cop Yates (unemployable in any UK police force following his role in a phone-hacking scandal) is just window-dressing for the regime.

    • Sardin
      13 April 2012

      Seen this video yet?

      To break it down for you: It shows uniformed police officers collaborating with thugs during their attack on one of Jawad’s convenience stores. I’d love to see you spin that.

  • Shlomo Bin Hagrid Al Khalifa
    13 April 2012

    Well written Mahmood.You are quite right. Keep up the good work and don’t lose hope.

  • Sardin
    13 April 2012

    Have you seen this video yet?

    It clearly shows the police officers collaborating with the thugs during their attack of the 24 Hours store near the Alba roundabout. At one point, a police officer tells one of the thugs to break the CCTV camera, not realizing that it’s sending a live feed all along.

    It is by far the most incriminating evidence yet that the Bahraini police force is behind these supposed vigilante attacks on villages and local businesses.

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