Tag Archives activism

Websites ‘shut without notice’

FORTY websites were allegedly shut down this week by the Information Ministry without warning or prior notice, Bahraini webmasters claimed yesterday. They include a number of popular Bahraini websites regularly visited by surfers for political developments in the kingdom.

They include www.montadayat.org, which was closed permanently on Monday after being closed on Friday and reopened 24 hours later.

It was among 40 other small websites closed on the same day without any official notice from the ministry, said a montadayat spokesman, who did not wish to be named.

Share

Demonstrations

I’ve attended two demonstrations this afternoon in Bahrain, one was FOR the codification of personal and family status laws now, while I drove past the other which was AGAINST the codification of these laws without a perpetual guarantee to not tamper with the resultant laws by anyone other than approved clerics.

The first demonstration was attended primarily by Bahrain’s liberals. Ibrahim Sharif the president of the National Democratic Action Society was there as were other liberal/socialist society leaders like Dr. Hassan Madan (Minbar) in addition of course with quite a number of women activists including Ghada Jamsheer and Wajeeha Al-Baharna. The attendance was impressive with numbers probably around 200 in my guesstimate which is very significant given that it was organised on short notice, and the attendees were not threatened with eternal damnation.

Driving past the other demonstration it was quite clear that the numbers should be in the thousands, probably more than 5,000 to be sure judging by these pictures, a demonstration that was called explicitly by Shaikh Isa Qassim and other clerics who told their congregation that their attendance at the demonstration was a religious duty.

I call this religious emotional blackmail.

But even without going to that level, Bahrain is a deeply religious country for the most part and they would not walk, but run to execute the religious leadership’s requests, and run they did this afternoon by their thousands.

Regardless of where anyone stands about this issue, this is democracy in action and I am privileged to have experienced it.

There will be those usual voices that will try to escalate ethnic and sectarian tensions, as they will try to force through bills that would limit this freedom, but those voices should be defeated. These are people expressing their opinions democratically in legal and authorised demonstrations for things they believe in deeply.

What will happen now is anyone’s guess. Mine is that the government, backed into a corner by impractical demands of these Shi’a clerics will promulgate the Family Status Laws for the Sunni sect and let the Shi’as stew in their own juices. Maybe in a couple of years when the Shi’a women see for themselves how the Sunni Shari’a courts are running and how their judgments suddenly started to support women and their children in family disputes with consistency, they will wake up and demand their right even if it runs against their husbands and clerics.

I hope it won’t be too late by that time, because by then, the Shi’a would have been relegated to third-class citizens by their own doing and by their own obstinacy.

Share

Islamic Action Society administratively closed for 45 days

Nothing damages political causes like some fired-up brain-fartist™ going off at a tangent.

In an event which was organised by the Islamic Action Society at the Society of Engineers’ premises in Juffair to “honour the 73.” These are the 73 people who in the 70s 1981 wanted to overthrow the government and who have all – but one I think – come back home on the back of the King’s pardon or have been released from prison again due to the King’s pardon.

That’s fine, go ahead and honour them all you want and treat them like heroes, but why launch into a diatribe of poison and repeat past mistakes? When are these people, the so called “revolutionaries,” going to understand that they have to be subtle to arrive at any political gain? This subtleness is mandatory in our society and every other society for that matter.

Shouting, ranting and raving have their places, but if you intend to get any political gains, then forget these methods and stick to tried and tested politically astute methods of getting what you want. And prepare to wait! With the histrionics that the IAS is doing and sponsoring all they will get is cheap political mileage from the “simple” populace.

Being one of the four boycotting political societies, you would think that they know better.

Al-Khawajah brothers were fiery speakers at the event according to some reports. It seems that one king’s pardon is not enough, the brother, Salah Al-Khawajah (who some say is even more militant than Abdulhadi) is in it publicly this time.

I’m glad that it is only the society that has been administratively closed for 45 days, rather than shoving the whole lot of them who spoke into prison. This time I have a feeling that the King will be indisposed to offer clemency.

Is the closing a political society a right thing to do because some of its members spoke against the government though? Of course not. Freedom of speech is a human right which should be protected at all levels of society and government, however, guys, wise up for God’s sake. You’re damaging our chances of getting any political advantage fast.

Share

Another journalist in the dock due to Bahrain’s press laws

They originally said that they will not use the infamous Law 47 of 2002 (arabic)and it’s “just administrative”, however we continue to see journalists being gagged using this archaic and unfair law.

In this particular instance, the journalist submitted reports to a “foreign” newspaper without being registered as a foreign correspondent with the Ministry of Information. Therefore, the Ministry took umbrage with his activities and presented him to the public prosecutor under Law 47.

Other than this process and its associated law is against the essence of human rights and the freedoms of expression, does that now mean that a Bahraini needs the Ministry’s permission and registration just just to comments let alone write an article on any “foreign” or local website, or comment or write an article as an individual Bahraini citizen in a foreign publication?

What if that Bahraini citizen was to publish important scientific research? Would she still require that permission?

What about a child submitting a drawing in an international competition? Does he require permission? What if he doesn’t get it in time and goes ahead and submits, does the mother goes to prison?

What about a businessman who is trying to bring much needed investment into the Kingdom by writing articles, and presenting in seminars and exhibitions? Does he need to have permission?

Does the Ministry of Information have any more rules and regulations in its drawers that would further stifle investment and thought? Because to me, this seem to be their mission statement.

I just want to know really. Just out of interest, you see.

And the parliament, where are they from all this? I sent 40 of these “esteemed” MPs an email last night, only to receive 31 rejection notices because they exceeded their quota. They’ve exceeded their quota since they were elected, they might as well have an expiry date for a nameplate in their chamber!

update names of MPs whose email bounced are listed below:

For the record, here are the names of the MPs whose email was not rejected (no guarantee that they have received it or read it, no one contacted me yet, but at least there was no error and giving them the benefit of the doubt, they might actually check their email boxes from time to time as they are NOT over quota):

Abdulhadi Ahmed Isa Marhoon
Adel Abdulrahman Jassim Al-Moawdah
Ahmed Hussain Ibrahim Abbas
Dr. Ali Ahmed Abdulla Ali
Hamad Khalil Al-Muhanadi
Mohammed Hussain Ahmed Al-Khayyat

Following are the Members of Parliament whose email box is overflowing and probably don’t bother checking it. Being “representatives of the people” doesn’t mean that they actually have to listen to us:

Abbas Hassan Ibrahim Salman
Abdulaziz Abdulla Mohammed Al-Mousa
Abdulaziz Jalal Al-Meer
Abdulla Ja’afar Ahmed Al-A’ali
Abdulla Khalaf Rashed Al-Dossery
Abdulnabi Salman Ahmed Nasser
Ahmed Abdulla Ahmed Hajji
Ahmed Ibrahim Mahmood Behzad
Ali Mohammed Abdulla Mattar
Ali Mohammed Ali Al-Samahiji
Dr. Abdullatif Ahmed Al-Shaikh Mohammed Saleh
Dr. Ibrahim Yousif Abdulla
Dr. Isa Jassim Mohammed Al-Motawa
Dr. Sa’adi Mohammed Abdulla Ali
Dr. Salah Ali Mohammed Abdulrahman
Farid Ghazi Jassim Rafi’
Ghanim Fadhl Ghanim Al-Buainain
Hassan Eid Rashed Bukhammas
Isa Ahmed Abu Al-Fateh
Isa Hassan Abdulrasool Bin-Rajab
Jassim Ahmed Abdulkarim Al-Saidi
Jassim Hassan Yousif Abdula’al
Jassim Mohammed Jassim Al-Mowali
Jihad Hassan Ibrahim Bukamal
Khalifa Ahmed Khalifa Al-Dhahrani
Mohammed Abdulla Abdulla Al-Shaikh Ja’afar Al-Abbas
Mohammed Faihan Saleh Al-Dossery
Mohammed Ibrahim Mohammed Al-Ka’abi
Mohammed Khalid Ibrahim Mohammed
Othman Mohammed Sharif Al-Rayyis
Sameer Abdulla Ahmed Al-Shuwaikh
Sami Muhsin Mohammed Al-Buhairi
Yousif Hussain Ahmed Al-Harmi
Yousif Zain-Alabedeen Mohammed Zainal

You can count them, 34 don’t bother to check their email, while only 6 appear to.

Dispicable… I actually forgot to email the chairman of the council last night and just emailed him 5 minutes ago, only to be rejected, just like the others. A sample of the rejection email is:

———————————————————————————
The message you sent to nuwab.gov.bh/kaldahrani was rejected because the quota for the mailbox has been exceeded.

The subject of the message follows:
Subject: On the BBC Arabic Service

———————————————————————————

And these people are actually standing for the next election? They should declare their intention now that they would not DARE stand again, not even to manage a petrol station!

Share

Is it worth it?

A Bahraini blogger was reportedly arrested this morning, no charges are published yet, but the draconian way of the arrest is alarming. Probably armed with an arrest warrant from the public prosecutor, the police went to Ali Abdulimam’s house and on not finding him there, arbitrarily have taken his sister instead probably to ensure that he turns up at the station.

Disregard all of that. It remains to be seen why he is arrested, and what the arrest warrant says.

Ali runs montadayat.org bahrainonline.org a site very critical of the government, and its commenters even more so. So Ali is paying the price…

Holding judgment for a moment, I hope that Ali and other fellow bloggers realise where the line is. For not knowing definitively where it is, is a dangerous enterprise. We just have to follow logic, no more and no less. It is vitally important as well to understand that with freedoms of expression comes responsibility. It behoves us to realise that just as “regular” journalists, we have to ensure that we do not defame people, symbols or entities without just cause.

It’s too early for me to judge Ali and his arrest. It is however amply demonstrated that once again, the government has overstepped its line probably to derail yet another excellent attempt by the Crown Prince to right this country… just after his Economy Reform launch

update: Bahrania is a lot more “on the pulse” of this situation than I am. I suggest if you want quicker and more thorough updates, please go visit her site. On my side, I’ve done some contacts here and there and my contacts are as flabbergasted as I am. So hopefully some common sense will prevail soon.

update 2: The case has been taken up by various rights organisations locally and internationally:
• Committee to protect bloggers
• Reporters without Borders

update 3:
• Chan’ad posts about a protest in support of Ali Abdulemam which happened yesterday in front of the Public Prosecutor’s office in Manama.
• BahrainiBlogger suggests that we should have one day of solidarity with Ali and write one article severely critical of the government to (1) see how they react, and (2) to essentially tell them that if they shut one person or site down, tens of others will spring up.

Share

Watch’em Sweat!

2006 is oh so close I could almost smell it! Why, You ask? Elections of course! The time to boot out all of the jokers in parliament and hopefully replace them with better people who won’t chase capital away from the island, who will recognise terrorists and call them as such, who won’t object to Nancy Ajram and create riots, who won’t object to staging a play (arabic) because its name has the word “Falujah” in it.

And to back all that up? The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, awakening from a deep slumber shook by Farouq Al-Moayyed put the ante of BD 1 million as cash prizes (arabic) to who they choose to run for parliament with a good economic agenda!

That by itself got our dear MPs to shit bricks, the first of which actually had a heart attack a couple of nights ago and had to be hospitalised. While we wish him a very speedy recovery and Insha’Allah a very long and fruitful life, we will be happy to see the back of him, and his ilk in order to make way for people who care about this country and not use the parliament as their personal pulpit to restrict personal freedoms, and who are not ineffectual fools in the face of continuous government harassment and coercion.

All in all, the past few days especially seem to have been loaded with press releases, posturing, positioning and jostling in a clear indication that the election fever for 2006 has already started…

Let the Games Begin!

Share

Something’s amiss (redux!)

The papers are full this morning of the King and the Crown Prince visiting the Prime Minister at his office. When this sort of thing happens, you just know that someone somewhere has “talked bad” about the ruling family or the prime minister specifically.

Thinking on it, there was supposed to have been a seminar on poverty in Bahrain (arabic) by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights at Al-Uruba Club on Friday, the panel for which included Abdulhadi Al-Khawajah (BCHR vice president), Ali Salman (Al-Wefaq) and others. A day or two before the seminar went ahead, the Ministry of (dis)Information demanded that they do not show any film or video as they have no approval from the Ministry to show it, and the seminar has to be authorised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

I seem to remember that Nabil Rajab (president of BCHR) said in an interview in a local paper that he submitted the intention to do the seminar at Mina Salman Police Station and he stressed that doing such seminars is guaranteed by the constitution and the only thing they need do is just inform the police authorities rather than seek permission.

Recipe for disaster. This is almost exactly what happened almost a year ago when the same centre did a seminar on discrimination in Bahrain. After that seminar we had a lot of these visits and the “traditional” papers labeled the centre and its personnel traitors. There was no end of messages of support sent to the ruling family, and a similar number if not more castigating the Centre for sowing dissent and prejudicial thoughts in the community.

Well this time the seminar went ahead, the film was shown and then apparently at 11:00pm Abdulhadi Al-Khawajah was asked to present himself at the Mina Salman Police Station where after a 15 minute interview he was arrested. No one knows what he was charged with. However, some reports suggest that he has been taken to the Dry Dock Police Station and imprisoned there.

News of his arrest were broadcast on both Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya television stations.

Why?

As happened in the Discrimination seminar last year, Abdulhadi once again demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister, putting all the blame for the economic and political failures of decades on his shoulders. If he would not resign, he demanded that he be fired.

It appears that Abdulhadi has now gone on hunger strike in prison, and is refusing to talk until the Prime Minister resigns!

I’m all for people speaking their minds, but come on guys, why are you trying to sprint before you can even walk for goodness’ sake? What has your call to the resignation of the prime minister have with poverty in Bahrain? Shouldn’t you concentrate on finding solutions to problems rather than exacerbating them?

The results of the seminar were very similar to the suggestions of the Labour Market Reforms, the only difference there is that you demanded a set minimum wage and the acceleration of employing Bahrainis, providing a social system and fund for poor families and provision of funds for training. This time the Crown Prince has stolen your thunder, so you probably have thought that demanding the prime minister’s resignation is payback for it?

I would have thought that a good thing for you to do, as the proposed labour market reforms are very close to your goals, is that you would extend a hand to the government and add your voice in advice and advise. There are better ways at arriving at your goals than coming out like a bull in a china shop.

Ok, maybe this way you appeal more to the “street.� If this is what you want, then fine, go for it, but if you really want to help this country grow, then criticise by all means, but criticise in an acceptable manner so that your voice is heard.

That doesn’t of course means that I support Abdulhadi Al-Khawajah’s incarceration. No way. His arrest and imprisonment is political for sure and he is now the only political prisoner we have in Bahrain. The government should have handled the situation better as well, there is no reason for putting him in prison as he is a citizen, and he was speaking his mind. If the government doesn’t like what it hears from him then tough. Sit down with him and try to change his mind, but political prisoners? What is this, are we going back to the 90s so soon?

Various political societies including Al-Wefaq and the NDA as well as the BCHR are organising demonstrations outside the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministry of Justice) throughout the coming week to pressure the government to release Abdulhadi Al-Khuwaja and promise to continue the demonstrations until he is released without charges.

Expect some fireworks over the next few days!

Share

something’s amiss

browsing various news sources this morning, I found a very small piece in the local rag entitled: “Clubs rap bid to harm unity”, I can’t provide a link to it as they change their stories’ links when they go into the archive, stupid way to manage a newspaper’s website, but there you go, so allow me to copy it for you here:

Several Bahrain clubs and their members issued separate statements early today condemning speeches that were made at a symposium at Al Oruba Club last night.

The statements said the speeches were designed to create differences between the Bahraini people, harm national unity and damage the reforms programme initiated by His Majesty King Hamad.

The clubs, including Muharraq Club, Manama Sports Club and the Al Hala Sports Club, said Bahrain was now living in a democratic environment and denounced any efforts to disturb security and stability. In their statements, the clubs affirmed their support for the reforms programme being carried out by the government.

Source: Gulf Daily News

Huh? I already announced this event on bahraini.tv yesterday and was actually meaning to attend this seminar but couldn’t for various reasons.

So trying to investigate further, I found that the Voice of Bahrain site is still blocked as is a popular Bahraini Forums site called “BahrainOnline“.

WTF! So searching some more I fell on alduraz.net which is ironic as I live right next to Duraz village! Anyway, they have a post in their forums entitled Sectarian discrimination in the kingdom of Bahrain:The Unwritten Law which I thought is very close to the title of the seminar last night. That article (scroll down for the English version) is very interesting reading, and to us Bahrainis it’s really nothing new.

I suspect that the seminar last night was to present primarily this paper which is written by Nabil Rajab who is the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

I’ll try to dig some more and find out what actually was presented last night… stay tuned.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the archive of the seminar again from alduraz.net, however it’s in Arabic only,

UPDATE 2: Forget about most of the links in this article, in less than an hour from posting them, they’ve almost all have been blocked. When I find the articles again (at least the English press release or working paper presented at the seminar, I’ll put them up here for your edification.)

Share