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Al-Hammar

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الحمّار

الحمّار, originally uploaded by malyousif.



It is quite surprising that some people in the various villages of Bahrain still depend on donkeys for their transport and work them too. This man is collecting the grass-cuttings off the local park presumably to use as donkey/cow feed.

Have a nice Friday… I’m just chillin’ today waiting for 6pm to watch the first of the two decisive matches in the World Cup!

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Optimism… maybe

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KoOKiE just brought to our attention something to be optimistic about, if true that is. I have not received the email yet, but let me relate what has been posted on the boycottbatelco.com’s guestbook:

Someone got this letter from Peter the CEO

“Please find attached a detailed response which I have forwarded to the people complaining against the new internet packages by Batelco. When I can get a representative team together from concerned users (hopefully within the next two weeks), we will kick off some research – in a collaborative way – which will lead to new, additional packages being introduced even unlimited… I don’t want to mislead you but this process will take couple of months, unless we can do it quicker. TRA approvals take at least 30 days.

I understand there are concerns and we will act responsibly.

I hope the info below allows you to conclude that we will benefit a lot of customers. We now have to find a solution for those high users – I get it.

Regards
Peter K “

I hope this is true… there were more than 250 people in that room last night, and all of them didn’t come there just to hear about new packages; most probably they knew about them and came to object to the unavailability of unlimited packages.

A friend just commented to me that only Shaikh Isa Qassim and his lot can bring that many people into a room! I don’t think that the BIS in all of its history managed to get that many people into an event, knowing Bahrain, they would have probably begged and threatened to just get 50. So that must have demonstrated to Batelco that they have done something wrong, and if that message got through, as the entry above suggests, then I am optimistic.

Batelco has a duty not only to its shareholders, it has a larger duty to its community, and “giving” BD 5 million here and there when you consider their net profit last year of BD 80 million, is less than peanuts. I was particularly aggrieved and dismayed when I heard Mr. K repeat – at least three times – a threat to discontinue donations to worthy causes in order to plough that money into making the internet access more affordable, particularly to villagers.

But that’s a subject of another post, in an Arabic paper coming soon…

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Bahrain’s National Hero is an American

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Fawzi Julaid, the manager of the National Democratic Institute leaving BahrainNot a lot of people valued Fawzi Julaid‘s input into the shaping of Bahrain’s fledgeling democracy nor understood his efforts until he was practically deported off the island, treated like one of the thousands of illegal and run-away workers, rather than a valued person who has worked tirelessly to inculcate democracy’s mechanisms in Bahrain.

Even his country’s ambassador seemed hesitant to give him a hand; at least this is what one understands from Liz Campbell’s comments when he says that the previous American ambassador to Bahrain and the Administration are going to be unhappy to see Mr. Julaid treated in this heinous manner.

I keep asking myself the question “why”? I really do not understand what prompted the government to behave in this way. Why would it want to replace an institute which has wide public acceptance with a quixotic entity that is more bluster than actual experience.

And how can the newly formed Bahrain Institute for Political Development even come close to the vast experience of the NDI, and institute born off a working democracy? Ulterior motives must have been the only factor which was considered when they attempted to chase the NDI out of Bahrain, without any thought given to modern communication infrastructure which ensures that anyone can work and deliver timely opinions and help remotely, across countries and time-zones. That, demonstrates to me yet another disconnect that this current government is nothing short of dinosaurs employing ancient techniques to subvert the path of reforms and democracy drawn and implemented by his majesty the king.

Why now? I have expressed an opinion previously that this move might be directly related to the NDI requesting a monitor status for the forthcoming municipal and parliamentary elections scheduled to happen any day now, as the government through its Ministry of Social Affairs have done the very same thing to the Transparency Society, another entity which requested the very same action.

They obviously have failed in both attempts; the Transparency Society has recently elected its board so there is no reason for it not to resume its mandate, and the NDI have clearly said that the office in Bahrain will not be closed, and that they will continue to operate in Bahrain via Mr. Julaid regularly physically visiting the island, but more importantly keeping in contact with all political societies in the island, and if a seminar or workshop need to be done, then those could easily be done in another country if physical presence is required, or virtually through the internet and telephones.

So what does the current government gain from all of this?

My very simplistic reading of the situation suggests that:

1. Put the breaks on democracy at any cost, even utilising somewhat respected persons to do the dirty work; all they achieved there is the complete discrediting of those people who might have really contributed to this country’s progress.

2. Besmirch this country’s reputation; as an Arab and a Bahraini I am mortified that a guest of this country, formally invited by his majesty the king no less, to have been treated in such a discourteous manner. This is bad form at its worst and I hope that Bahrainis are not going to be looked at by fellow Arabs and the rest of the world as simply are rude and oafish.

3. Discredit the democracy that we have been fighting to build since 2001.

4. Fast-track the return of the State Security Law with all that entails (that would make the recent events in Cairo look like a picnic!)

Someone please put me right if I have misread the clues here.

Mr. Julaid, you have been a credit to this country and I, as a Bahraini, profusely apologise for your rude treatment. Rest assured that virtually the whole country, all those who value democracy, are completely with you and would welcome you back with open hearts and arms.

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Bahrainis are somewhat optimistic

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The BCSR has released another of its interesting statistics which they get commissioned to do from time to time; this time they were asked to gauge the optimism of the street in the country and its direction. The results are hardly surprising, in summary, they are:

62.9%Optimistic
12.1%Pessimistic
82.9%Believe Bahrain to be competitive
38.9%Don’t and consider it the government’s responsibility for the development of the country
11.7%Private sector will play crucial role in spearheading development
68.9%Think that Bahrain has strong assets
72.2%Urge to eradicate some weaknesses
Lack of government departments coordination
Lack of security
Empowering human resources and encouraging scientific research
Improve standards of living
Anchoring democracy
Anchoring civil liberties
Reducing unemployment
Alleviate housing crisis
Reduce traffic congestion

I have no idea why there isn’t a “maybe” column or statistic in there, nor do I know how big is the sample used for this, but I would suspect at least a few would not have made their minds. Nor do they publish the margin of error (in the GDN at least, maybe the exalted journal didn’t find a need to declare it, and the BCSR’s site is a bit lacklustre, and that is being generous!)

The surprising thing to me is that these statistics look real! What is this, a government organisation actually saying the truth? And thus gaining credibility? I sure hope so…

So a massive 88.3% don’t believe that private business can contribute to the country’s development?! That is such a disappointment, I’m not sure if those people polled rest that responsibility exclusively on the government, or even more damagingly think that the Bahraini businessman is an insignificant component of society. I wonder why this has changed in a generation. Businessmen before the advent of oil were the only viable force of stability in the island, but when the oil started to flow, the government just did not need them, hence they were sidelined completely, and the businessmen and women did not do themselves any favours by acquiescing to the situation. They should have fought for more power, and ironically, I think if they fought for real democratic institutions in the last 30 years especially, they would have limited the impact of the government on people’s daily lives and they would have rightly claimed their social status and responsibilities. We see the result of that inaction now in statistics such as these.

There is a twist though, the respondents seem to contradict themselves in this point when 61.1% do not believe it’s the government’s responsibility to develop the country! If they hold private business in Bahrain in such low esteem, and they don’t believe that it’s the government responsibility to develop it, pray who is actually going to do any development? Does anyone have an Aladdin lamp that we don’t know about? This is probably a clear indication of the inappropriateness of some of the questions in the poll.

On the democracy front, it is much more encouraging. The vast majority of respondents (72%) are very politically aware and are cognizant of the ills of this country and know exactly the things that need to be addressed.

Will this cognizance translate into electing the right representatives for the parliament come October?

One can only hope!

It is interesting to note; however, that the only point the government chose to address (yes, do read between the lines, someone has to pay for these pieces of research and their timely release is not by coincidence!) is the traffic congestion issue, and even that seems to be a very half-hearted attempt.

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Truth & Reconciliation!

The best news to come out of Bahrain for a very very long time… this could be the very thing we need to turn a new page for the whole community, after 30 very dark years:

Justice and reconciliation in the Bahrain reform process will come under the spotlight at a five-day conference organised by MPs and civil societies, which opens at Elite Suites Hotel in Sanabis tomorrow.

Bahraini MPs, members of human rights and political societies will join international human rights delegates from all over the world for the conference on Transitional Justice.

Parliament vice-chairman Abdulhadi Marhoun and Bahrain Society for Freedoms and Democracy (BSFD) president Ali Orrayedh will give the opening address at the conference.

Three papers on transitional justice in Bahrain will be presented by members of the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), the Committee for Former Exiles (Returnees) and the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture.

New York-based International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) director Hani Magali, Washington-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) office director and Middle East and North Africa division director Joe Stork and Morocco-based International Federation for Human Rights president and Moroccan Truth and Reconciliation Committee member Idrees Al Yazmi will open a second session, on aspects of transitional justice.
GDN :: 22 Apr ’06

I have been calling for a truth and reconciliation commission in Bahrain for some time now to start the dialogue and repair some of the damage meted out to a large portion of the society in the 90s and at other times. I am extremely happy and really encouraged that we finally have something like this happening in Bahrain now.

This is really excellent news.

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MPs want Islamic law to curb crime

A Bahraini MP yesterday called for the gradual introduction of Sharia (Islamic) law to deal with all criminals. Another claimed that thieves should have their hands chopped off because “God ordered us to do so”.

However, one described the punishment as unfair if adulterers are not stoned.

The comments were made in parliament yesterday as MPs discussed amendments to the country’s Penal Code.

Fourteen MPs, led by Shaikh Mattar, have submitted a proposal to chop off the hands of people caught stealing, as well as send them to prison.

They are pushing for the punishment to be included in criminal law, despite objections from other MPs who say it is a matter for Islamic scholars to decide.

Shaikh Mattar first proposed the introduction of Islamic law last month, but says he wants to start with thieves first.
Click to read more of this drivel…

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Told you so!

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Remember this discussion we’ve had way back in April 2004 in which I contended that:

This is however what I have seen, an unsuspecting motorsports tourist approaches, he gets handed the “package” he walks away opening it as he does so thinking he’ll get something about motorsports, a restaurant guide, a tourist map, etc and discovers that someone wants to convert him. The same person (several actually) walk then to the closest rubbish bin and toss the whole package in there.

Do you think the bin is the right place for the Holy Qur’an?

Well, some mug just got fired for doing just that. And get this: Islamist parliamentarians are blowing it again out of all proportion, demanding an extra-ordinary parliamentary session probably to roundly denounce this infidel, and ask his embassy for a full apology!

Well done Discover Islam, and of course the usual suspects in parliament… isn’t it wonderful that there are now UNDER 200 days left for the inauguration of (hopefully) a better parliament?

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Just a week to go!

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HAMSAThere is only one week left to enter the Civil Rights in the Middle East essay contest!

We are seeking young Middle Easterners to write brief essays (600-2,000 words) about their vision for the future of the region. Winners can receive up to $2,000!

I encourage you to enter the contest if you are eligible, and hope you will post a message on your blog to help us spread the word.

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