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Toward understanding Bahrain’s events

Dr Mansoor Al-Jamri is interviewed by Al-Hurra TV in which he reflects on the events in Bahrain over the past year, discusses the Bassiouni report and the political and social situation which contributed to these events. He also suggests ways in which this situation could be resolved.

Well worth watching to give you a real perspective in 44 minutes and 53 seconds.

Dr Mansoor Al-Jamri's interview with Al-Hurra TV about the events in Bahrain

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Systematic Torture in Bahrain continues with impunity

For those denialists who maintain that the BICI report is nothing but something to paper over the cracks temporarily so that the status quo is not ultimately disturbed, have a look at this. Maybe if you have a few atoms of humanity left in you, it might help you remove that veil off your conscience and see things for what they are:

This incident – amongst hundreds of others currently being meted out to the majority of villages in this country – should be independently investigated and the officers implicated and their masters who are doing nothing to stop this must be made to account for their actions and be punished. The government who oversees this situation should be summarily dismissed of course and with haste. Nothing else would do if that illusive “new page” is to become a reality.

There is not doubt in my mind that torture and inhumane treatment of citizens is systematic in this country. How can trust be re-established if this situation is not correctly addressed? How can the willing to co-exist happen? And having a truth and reconciliation effort with this background is completely ludicrous and inconceivable.

You had the initiative when the BICI report was first released. You slept on it and created unneeded committees ill-advisedly, now we see the value of these actions and delays.

You want unity? Then have the strength and courage to stare people in the eye and enact real reforms that will bring accountability to every single position in government regardless of tribal and familial relationships.

Who’s listening though? It certainly quite evident at this very moment that the blood of those punished citizens simply for demanding their rights does not come into any consideration.


Update 1112171357: Marc Owen Jones has an excellent analysis and shows this event from five different camera angles which leave absolutely no shred of doubt as to what happened:

http://www.marcowenjones.byethost2.com/?p=446

Update 2: Due to the outcry over this incident, the Ministry of Interior has reported through its Twitter account that it has suspended some officers involved in this incident and mounting an investigation. I demanded in a return tweet that all of those implicated must have their names and ranks be declared in order for them to serve as an example of what not to do to their ranks.

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Wait oh Saar fire….

A local saying immediately popped into my mind as I read these words in today’s Al-Wasat:

وطالبت لجنة الحقوق الدينية في وزارة الخارجية الأميركية بـ «تقديم أي من المسئولين في الحكومة البحرينية الذين ثبت تورطهم في انتهاكات صارخة للحرية الدينية إلى العدالة ومعاقبتهم بموجب القانون، ويجب على الحكومة البحرينية إصدار اعتذار رسمي لتدمير العشرات من دور العبادة، وهو الأمر الذي وجدت اللجنة البحرينية المستقلة لتقصي أنه ينتهك بوضوح القانون البحريني والدولي»

 

and represented in this official statement from USCIRF:

 

Soon after the release of the BICI report, King Hamad al-Khalifa appointed a committee to review how to implement the report’s recommendations. The committee is expected to report back to the King in February.

USCIRF urges the committee to address the following concerns during its review of the BICI’s recommendations:

  • The report recommends the government of Bahrain should “consider rebuilding, at its expense, some of the demolished religious structures in accordance with administrative regulations.” USCIRF is concerned that the government may rebuild only a few of the religious structures with legal permits and decrees, and not many of the other structures. In consultation with the Shi’a community, the government of Bahrain should restore or rebuild all the structures that were illegally destroyed;
  • The report does not address the loss and destruction of religious materials in some of the demolished structures. The Bahraini government should restore, replace, or compensate the local Shi’a community for the loss of these materials;
  • The report’s findings do not address allegations by multiple human rights groups that some individual members of the Shi’a community were harassed, interrogated, and arrested for returning to some of the destroyed sites to pray or retrieve religious materials. These allegations should be addressed and officials responsible should be reprimanded and held to account;
  • Any Bahraini government officials found to have committed severe religious freedom abuses should be brought to justice and punished under the law; and
  • The Bahraini government should issue a formal apology to the Shi’a community for destroying dozens of religious structures that the BICI found clearly violates Bahraini and international law.

“USCIRF welcomes the King’s decision to establish the BICI, as well as his public announcement that the government intends to rebuild Shi’a places of worship. It is important that these structures be rebuilt in close consultation with the local Shi’a community and not unilaterally,” said Leo.

The emphasis is mine and the cause of my raised eyebrows and that idiom popping into my mind. To represent it fully, the idiom goes:

Wait oh Saar fire for water from Hnainia

Saar being a village in the north of the island while Hnainia is in the south. We use that expression to represent the improbability (or even impossibility) of an event ever happening…

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LIES LIES LIES! Really?

Nick Kristof was once again in Bahrain recently and as any good reporter, delved right into the events he came to investigate, talked to both sides of the conflict and came to the conclusions that most of the Bahraini people have been laboriously living through and breathing over the last ten months.

Others who choose to keep the blinkers permanently affixed to their conscience – and expectedly – cry foul whenever someone attempts to remove them. They do so not in providing evidence to contradict what has been reported, of course, but by blaming someone for the effort. This time, ironically, the government:

That’s right. Advise an erring government to further push its head in the sand. And here, my friends, is the crux of the problem. “Loyalists” if they could actually be called that, are doing immense damage to the country and its people by naively believing that the best way to deal with real problems is to hide from the truth and through their actions condone the government’s straying from the correct path. They also assume that international observers are like the sheep they’re used to, are very easily misled and will also believe their versions of the “truth”, though the truth is staring them in the eye.

So what did Nick do this time? What kind of “untruths” did he tell?

Well, spend a few minutes with this:

And here’s the article that goes with this video.

We ain’t goin’ nowhere fast if we continue to bury our heads in the good stuff.

So what are the things that will get us out of this mess? Well, they are what every human being on earth is and should be aspiring to:

    1. A new constitution forged by a constituent assembly elected to establish a constitutional monarchy and an elected Government.
    2. The adoption of an equitable electoral system to achieve representation of all of our society.
    3. Dismiss the government and the formation of a transitional government whose mission is to achieve political and security breakthroughs so as to create a suitable ground for a serious and fruitful national dialogue. We reject the reduction of this important requirement through a limited cabinet reshuffle which is a repetition of the previous attempts which did not provide a real alternative to our people.
    4. Release of the remaining prisoners of conscience and political prisoners and the abolition of their trials.
    5. The formation of an independent and impartial commission of inquiry in the killings that took place since 14 February, and to bring those responsible to trial.
    6. Neutralization of the state’s official media in order for it to be nationally representative of all components of the society and their views.
    7. To provide the necessary safeguards to achieve the government’s commitment to agreements it undertakes.

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The Bitter Pill

The BICI‘s report is to be released soon and just as Professor Bassiouni believes, it will be contentious and both sides of the divide will have issues with it. However, if the report itself and its recommendations are not handled properly, the divide we have been experiencing since March 17th will transform instantly into an uncrossable schism.

As a country, though, we simply cannot afford not to take the report at face value and use it positively as a catalyst to rebuild this fractious society. There is simply no reason not to. The people tasked with the report are internationally recognised human rights defenders and each have a credible history in the field. They have nothing to gain from the report, but a solid reputation to lose if it is in fact found that the report is a cover-up of serious violations.

I readily lend my voice of confidence to the BICI, especially after I’ve heard the interview linked above with its president.

Let’s hope this bitter pill does wake us all up, yank us out of our unreasonably intrenched positions and force us to think of Bahrain and its future generations rather than the continued selfish and myopic positions so far taken in this very ill society. Let us also hope that the country’s leadership will have the required courage to enact its recommendations transparently and deal with all those who abused their powers through the very difficult times we have lived through without any thought given to sect or tribal affiliations, release those unfairly imprisoned and fairly compensate all those who have been wronged.

This is the time to demonstrate real leadership, half measures by them just won’t do.

The alternative is nothing less than continued strife and perpetual mutual accusations which will accelerate the annihilation of this country and all within it.

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If Bahrain is to learn something useful…

I agree. Wholeheartedly and hope against hope that something could be done, quickly, and hope once again that it’s still not too late to save this country and its people. All of them.

Bahrain Should Heed Lessons from Ireland

9-29-2011
By Brian Dooley
Director, Human Rights Defenders

Take two small island nations, each situated off the coast of a major power. Both have a history of sectarian conflict, fake democracy and misrule by monarchy. Both have a strategically important deepwater naval base. Crucially, both have a police force recruited almost exclusively from one of the sects.

Both have populations of around a million and a half, and both enjoy the dubious legacy of British colonialism and the traditions of its security apparatus.

There are differences, of course. Bahrain remains one country while Ireland was cut into two almost 90 years ago in a makeshift political solution to create Northern Ireland, which has a Protestant majority largely keen on continued British rule and loyal to the British monarch. In Northern Ireland, the fight for civil rights for Catholics (or for “parity of esteem” in modern jargon) has been conducted largely in the rain, cold and damp, whereas Bahrainis’ struggle happens in extreme heat and sunshine.

From the early 1920s, when Northern Ireland was created, the largely Protestant ruling class excluded Catholics from top government jobs, and the police force was almost exclusively Protestant, fiercely loyal to the British Protestant monarch. Electoral districts were gerrymandered to give Protestants a permanent electoral advantage even in areas like Derry, which had a Catholic majority.

In Bahrain, electoral districts are gerrymandered in favor of Sunnis, while Shias are excluded from top government jobs. The police force is almost exclusively Sunni, fiercely loyal to the Sunni monarch.

In 1968, inspired by the Prague Spring, Northern Ireland saw its first civil rights protests. A wave of pro-democracy marches and demonstrations swept Europe, from Prague to Warsaw to Belgrade to Paris and beyond. In Derry in Northern Ireland, the protests were met with a violent crackdown from the security forces. Within a year, with protests escalating, the police in Northern Ireland had to be reinforced by soldiers sent from neighboring Britain.

This year, inspired by the Arab Spring and demonstration in Tuni, Cairo and elsewhere, Bahraini pro-democracy activists organised huge protests which were met with a violent crackdown from the security forces. Within a month, with protests escalating, the police in Bahrain had to be reinforced by soldiers sent from neighboring Saudi Arabia.

We could go on, listing the similarities in the special court systems, the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, the shooting of peaceful protestors, the deaths in custody, the fake shows of dialogue about power-sharing, the allegations of foreign conspiracies (led by Tehran or the Vatican), the social segregation of people living in different areas and shopping in different stores.

In neither place has the sectarianism been primarily theological. Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland were not killing each other over issues of transubstantiation or the rightful place of Jesus’ mother Mary in the pantheon of Christian hierarchy. The sensitive issues, like in Bahrain, were about identity, ‘foreignness’ and allegiance to the ruling elite. In both places too there were and are many exceptions to the Catholic v Protestant, Sunni v Shia equation. Not all Protestants were anti-reform, just as many Sunnis are embarrassed at the King’s intransigence and anti-democracy crackdown.

But what’s most useful is to see how some progress has been made in Northern Ireland. The clumsy British response to the civil rights demands for equal access to government jobs and services and to votes pushed many of those marching for civil rights to more radical solutions.

By the early 1970s the guerrilla IRA has resurfaced, and a long war of attrition began against the British security forces. More than 3,000 people died in the following 30 years until a political deal was finally reached.

If there are parallels, it would be nice to think that Bahrain might skip the decades of killings and chaos and go straight for the solution. The reforms in Northern Ireland have not been perfect. The most difficult has been in revamping the security forces. Decades of mistrust are hard to overcome, and Catholics are still reluctant to join the police force (rebranded with a new name and symbols) that was loathed and feared for so long.

But progress has been made, and there is a sense of a shared future, not competing and conflicting versions of how the next generation will live.

If Bahrain is to learn something useful from the experience of Northern Ireland it might start by:

  • accepting that these protests aren’t going away without wholesale, deep-rooted reforms;
  • making Shia teenagers believe they have a future in the country, and possibly a government job;
  • making everyone’s vote worth the same;
  • stopping the manipulation of state media;
  • starting to talk to opposition leaders, including those it claims are terrorists, and including those in jail;
  • accepting outside mediation and support (in the case of Northern Ireland the Clinton Administration played an invaluable role);
  • realizing that by refusing to share any power they risk losing it all.

Source: Human Rights First

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10 days too late

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Mona Eltahawy speaking at the J Street Conference 2011 (2.27.11) . These are her complete opening remarks.

History before Our Eyes: Broader Implications of Democracy Movements in the Arab World.

— thanks for sharing Rami.

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General Strike in Bahrain

When the General Strike was announced yesterday, I didn’t give it much heed. I guess I’m conditioned to ignore trade unions as they have very little and smooth teeth which tickle more than cause injury. Well, it seems that today, they’ve sharpened them a bit and they’re starting to leave a mark.

Teachers, some of them at least, heeded that call. I noticed a few gathering with their Bahraini flags and a couple of hastily written placards standing in front of their school’s gate near where I live. I approached them, took some pictures and interviewed one. Wanting to check the other schools in the area, I hit the motherload at the Duraz Intermediate Girls’ School nearby – you’ll know what I mean when you view the following video – and then off I went to the school next door where they were striking too.

I’m not sure how many schools in Bahrain are striking today, most if not all the private schools have sent messages to parents to keep their children home, so they’re not functioning I don’t think, but it would be interesting to know the number and areas of the public schools that heeded the call to strike.

Is this the start of another “phenomenon” in Bahrain?

One thing is for sure: Bahrain before the 14th of February 2011 is most definitely different from the Bahrain after it.

 

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What’s there left to talk about?

Dialogue has no place in Bahrain at the moment.

And all space is left to the violence of a government that doesn’t seem to care about its citizens.

Dialogue is replaced with shotguns, tear gas and hundreds of riot police all exerting an inordinate amount of violence against unarmed civilians.

That was what faced unarmed sleeping civilians – men, women, children, old men and women – this pre-dawn residing in the Pearl Roundabout.

One would be forgiven for assuming that at least to those present there, and the families of the four more killed by riot-police shotguns at the roundabout this morning, not only the government has lost its credibility, but also the royal family.

This is a completely unnecessary escalation of events.

Why?

With the King appearing on national television offering his apology to those killed in the previous couple of days, one assumes by extrapolation that he would never have authorised nor condones such violence. So did the Ministry of Interior go it alone and completely against the king’s wishes and once again use an indiscriminate and an inordinate use of force?

Regardless. The royal family and the government aren’t gaining any friends now and lost quite a few too. If – and that’s a big – the government does want to restore calm, deep concessions must be offered. Unless we want to see the complete burning of the country unnecessarily.

God bless Bahrain. This time, it’s very difficult.

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Demonstration at Egyptian Embassy

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A demonstration has been called for this afternoon – Friday 4 Feb 2011 at 4PM – in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Manama in solidarity with the great Egyptian people for their legitimate demands to live with dignity and under democratic constitutional rule.

I’ll be there and consider this an invitation to you too to attend as well. If you can’t physically, you may wish to leave a message of support in a comment to this post.

Click here for directions on how to get to the Egyptian Embassy.


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