Tag Archives bahrain

Why 56? Why?

Why 56? Why?

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To anyone who has spent even a little time in Bahrain recently, they would probably be familiar with, or have been taken to the now pretty famous closed shop in the old Manama souq to stand against it and take some pictures.

The abandoned shop’s door was taken over by Bahraini artist Ahmed Anan as an art installation. In the artist’s mind, he was asking the question “why” the shop was closed? The artist artfully depicts various characters tying to get the open the closed and shuttered shop; from one scaling the door to the air conditioning opening, to another trying to unlock the padlock.

This shop has become a landmark in the souq and many people make a point to try to find it to enjoy its art and take some pictures.

If you haven’t seen it, this is what it looks like:

I fell in love with the work the moment I stumbled across it a few of years ago. I had since taken many of my friends and visitors to that door to enjoy and take some pictures with it as a background.

I only recently discovered that the artist who painted it was Mr Ahmed Anan. However, I never had the pleasure of meeting him.

Mahmood Al-Yousif (l) and Ahmed Anan (r)
Artist Ahmed Anan who painted “Why 56” with me at my photography exhibition at Mashq Art Space on 15.4.’18

Lo and behold, he gets introduce to me at my photography exhibition at Mashq Art Space while he was admiring my picture of his door which is placed in the centre of my installation! That was such a nice surprise.

I wanted to know more about his work and asked him a few questions. I soon got immersed in his story and wanted to archive it for posterity. So I quickly whipped out my iPhone to video the interview. And here it is, enjoy:

You can buy my limited edition print of “Why 56” from artprints.me. Click here to get a framed and signed limited edition high quality art print.

 

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Spring in my garden

Spring in my garden

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I shot this film this morning before work. Just had a chance to edit it. Loving the cottage garden feel of this year’s planting. Enjoy this one minute of peace and beauty.

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False starts are common. Is this another one?

False starts are common. Is this another one?

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Something’s up.

I – like the majority of Bahrainis – have become pessimistic and always looking for hidden meanings.

This latest feeling descended on me when I heard that a staunch loyalist MP invited the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad Alhussein to come to Bahrain to personally investigate the situation here and thus be assured that everything is good and that reports of repression are exaggerated.

This was swiftly followed up by the speaker of the house of representatives to affirm the invitation.

I can’t help but think that this is not real.

If they open themselves up for even cursory examination by international bodies, a hell of a lot of skeletons will come out of closets that will forever change this country from the core. This would be a good thing of course.

We as a country are facing a lot of challenges none of which will be resolved without real political will and recognising our deficiencies and doing something concrete to address them. And sycophants and their ways will simply not do.

Is this the reconciliation and rapprochement that we all have been dreaming of for the last few years?

I truly hope so.

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The death of entrepreneurship in Bahrain

The death of entrepreneurship in Bahrain

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a truckful of unread, undistributed entrepreneurship magazines

I arrived at my office this morning at my regular time to be faced with this truck parked just outside. I suspect that the truck’s destination is a recycling plant.

What struck me wasn’t the industry of the workers or that paper recycling is a bona fide operation in Bahrain, what did was the picture I was faced with. I thought it was an indication of the state we are in on multi-facetted levels.

Consider this: the magazine bundles are clearly just as they have been received from a printer, unopened, undistributed and unread. The inference here is that we as a community do not read.

Second: the magazine in question is targeted toward entrepreneurs. Its website describes it as follows: “Rowad magazine aims at being not only a magazine, but a reference tool for entrepreneurs locally and regionally with a vision to reach international platforms. The magazine offers insight on entrepreneurship across all industries which include ; ICT, Arts, Health & Fitness, Film Industry just to name a few.” It is abundantly clear that it’s not benefiting any of its promised targets. It is simply destined to a recycling plant – one hopes – and thus doing more good for the environment than the minds it was hoping to enrich. I can’t help but think if this yet another indication of the death of entrepreneurship in Bahrain.

Third: Print is dead. I honestly don’t know why anyone bothers to print anything any more, especially papers and magazines. We need trees more than useless paper that’s ultimately going to be tossed out. Most information is better provided electronically for obvious reasons, the least of which is searchability and protection and sustainability of the environment.

This was a quite interesting start of my day. One that clearly exposed several elephants in the room, particularly in Bahrain:

  1. Reading is not high on our priority list,
  2. Entrepreneurship here is in dire straights. The majority of “schemes” thrown at it won’t bring it back to life. Tamkeen, in particular, is not working and needs to be shut down. I have come to realise now that Tamkeen is the worst thing that has happened to business and entrepreneurship in Bahrain. It is superficial at best and a Darwinian culling of businesses large and small is the best for the future of this country.
  3. Thirdly, businesses here need to divorce themselves from print media. The utter crap that is being printed in this country is mind-boggling. When magazines exist simply to sell ads and not provide real and valuable content, when magazines’ main contribution is society pictures and pages, it is best to shut them down. Even the Internet doesn’t deserve this crap. Invest your advertising dollars in proper digital marketing and CSR schemes that benefits the community, rather than continue to prop up a dying and completely unnecessary industry.

Good morning and make it a great day!

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Filming in Bahrain, dodging the hostility of permissions

Filming in Bahrain, dodging the hostility of permissions

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Filming in Bahrain is not always fun. Almost every time we go to film in cultural or a historic venue we get shooed off by a security guard or some other functionary with a perfunctory warning to go get permission first. We get faced with this especially when shooting cultural spots like the Bahrain Fort and the like. No one offered us an explanation why such permission was required and in most cases they wouldn’t know where or whom to apply to gain it.

The question is, why is permission needed in the first place. What is the cultural authorities afraid of? What will clips of a fort or other such structure threaten?

I know this is very tiresome and believe that the process is completely unnecessary. My view is that the government should welcome filmmakers – amateur or professional – to shoot to their heart’s content. What their footage will do is promote Bahrain’s culture and history and be a good pull for possibly the right kind of tourists. What they’re doing to us now with this requirement is at the very least delay our projects until such permission is procured.

For Bahrain’s sake we need less red tape, not more. So please, remove the restrictions on filming in the country, or at the very least in all cultural and historic locations. All we want to do is show the country, its history, culture and people in the best possible light through making films worth watching.

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You want meat?

You want meat?

The controversial removal of meat subsidies in Bahrain will be lifted starting from tomorrow and parliament has given up the fight to have the subsidy reinstated. Had they done their job properly as they are sworn to do, they would have had a serious look at all the subsidies offered by the government to various sectors when they were reviewing the government plan for the next few years. They should have also combed through the budget professionally and raised flags of objection, or at least call for better clarifications and expenditure; thus, pretend at least to exercise their oversight role. What Bahrain did get from this parliament; however, was a white flag of surrender – as expected – allowing the government to disregard their thundering tantrums and promises of resignations, which of course will never materialise. Why give up a cushy job?

Like other Gulf Arab oil exporters, Bahrain subsidises goods and utilities including meat, fuel, electricity and water, keeping prices ultra-low to buy social peace.

But since oil prices plunged last year, slashing state revenues, the subsidies have become increasingly hard for governments to afford – especially in Bahrain, which has smaller oil and financial reserves than its neighbours.

So the government announced last month that it would remove subsidies on meat from Sept. 1, allowing domestic prices to rise and compensating Bahraini citizens – but not foreigners, who comprise about half of the population of roughly 1.3 million – with cash payments.

Reuters

What are the subsidies offered by the government I hear you ask? Well, here’s an overview (pdf) of those scheduled in the 2015/2016 budget and I also provide a comparative look at the 2011/2012 budgeted subsidies.

Bahrain 2011/2012 Subsidies Table
2011/2012 Subsidies Table
Bahrain 2015/2016 Subsidies Table
2015/2016 Subsidies Table

If you look at the food subsidy in Bahrain, the government is looking to save approximately BD24 million (US$ 63m) by 2016; however the electricity and water subsidy will increase to approximately BD65 million by then too. Apart from that not making sense to my simple brain, I’d like to know how the biggest subsidy in that schedule is actually apportioned? My understanding is a good chunk of that directly supports industry in natural gas subsidies that presumably goes to ALBA, the aluminium smelter, and other industries like it.

Of course I understand that the government must react to the appreciable drop of oil prices which is its main source of income, and I appreciate that it has put in mechanism to defray the cost increase on meats by offering citizens alone a monthly stipend and of course I thank them for their generosity, but I wonder if other subsidies should have been lifted first? Unless of course this is an initial foray into the lifting of other subsidies in the years to come, and the removal of subsidies on meat is to prepare the populace? Will the government ultimately be removing of all subsidies and even introduce of taxation to meet the increasing budgetary deficit?

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m willing to put in a bet that this scenario is actually closer than many people think. It’s because of this that we need much better oversight with a parliament whose members are much more aware of fiscal requirements, have the necessary understanding of budgets and fiscal policies, and also have the necessary tools to exercise proper oversight on government and its spending. Ultimately, we need a parliament which is much more accountable to those who elected them. However, had I that same crystal ball, it might well tell me that the latter just won’t happen.

In the mean time, register here to receive the subsidy if you’re a Bahraini, and here’s some meat to fill you up in the mean time.

Dig in!

camel feast for one - Camel feast in (presumably) Saudi. The upside of the removal of meat subsidies is that we'll never have this sort of excess in Bahrain.
Camel feast in (presumably) Saudi. The upside of the removal of meat subsidies is that we’ll hopefully never have this sort of excess in Bahrain. Ever.

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A bit of nostalgia

A bit of nostalgia

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old Bahraini 100 Fils note
Did we have more taste then than we have now?

Life was more colourful then, as this beautifully simple currency shows. It harkens back to a time when things appeared easier. And as far as I can remember, even the weather was a much better! I still remember the smells of those balmy summer nights as we watched the stars in a dark, unpolluted sky as we dozed off to sleep on mats on the roof. Sans air conditioning other than an occasional breeze.

I’m not suggesting that it was all idillic. As in any age, challenges existed, but they didn’t seem that insurmountable. However, I’ll admit as I wasn’t expected to make my own at that time, I wouldn’t be the most reliable judge. Suffice it to say that my dad did work multiple jobs and my mother did her bit of entrepreneurship too to support the family and make ends meet. We got by.

I hope that the picture of the 100 Fils note brought a smile to your face; those of you who not only remember it, but actually used it.

How do you remember that bygone time? Does any particular image or sound come to your mind when you’re pulled back?

Have a wonderful weekend my friends.

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Hey there. How’s it going?

Hey there. How’s it going?

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The thing that truly disturbs me about attempting to write anything, in my blog here or elsewhere, is the necessity to censor myself, and thinking twice, thrice or more about just about everything I write. The environment in Bahrain at the moment isn’t conducive to free thought or speech. Everything – it seems – is construed as traitorous, or at least unpatriotic. The political views are so far apart now that there is no hope of rapprochement. It’s a zero-sum game; for a side to win, the other has to lose. It’s absolutely ridiculous. You open any paper now and what you read are threats and exclusionary politics.

Until when? I’m tired of this situation. Both sides are waiting for the other to give up and until then, they will use whatever tool available to pressure the other side without any regard to the people caught in the middle. The only winners here are the brown-nosers; selfish twats who’s only way to gain anything is by feeding on the misery of others.

How should this situation be resolved? Here are my thoughts:

  • The common denominator must be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Inculcate social justice. Yes it’s difficult, but this is something that must be set at a very high priority to get us out of the quagmire we’re currently in.
  • Evolution rather than revolution. As we’ve seen in other places around the world (Iraq, Iran, Syria, and other locations) abrupt change to the status quo is very painful for all concerned and is unrealistic. Methodic change anchored to clear goals and timeframes is a much better option.
  • The way to arrive at resolution must be through a meaningful dialogue whose outcome must be binding on everyone.
  • The method of governing must change; the current iteration was a good experiment but obviously the experiment did isn’t a complete success by any means. There is vast room for improvement.
  • Call things by their name. We can reach a better future together by stopping the practice of idolising individuals and by identifying wrongs. Create a proper accountable structure and reward and penalise on merit, rather than allegiance or any other criteria.
  • Don’t take criticism personally and don’t demonise those who you disagree with. You only succeed in belittling yourself if you do.

I’m sure there are other factors to consider. However, this short list might go a long way in finding an equitable solution that everyone aspires to.

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Durazi Sunset

Durazi Sunset

Went for a quick walk this afternoon and fell onto this beautiful sight that I had to record. The duration of this sunset was just under 4 minutes. It’s sped up 8x here to fit into a 30 second clip. Enjoy!

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FinFisher and the absence of morals

FinFisher and the absence of morals

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Some enterprising netizen took umbrage at the machinations and outright lies of Gamma FinFisher, the Anglo-German privacy-thieving and national-aspiration-crushing software supplier so he hacked their servers and walked away with 40GB of their crown jewels.

To put it in perspective, 40GB means that “you could hold approximately: 10,000 High-Quality MP3 Songs -or- 25,000 High-Resolution Digital Photographs -or- 120 Hour-long (43 minute) television shows in high-quality. -or- 700,000 Word Documents between 3 and 5 pages long” [source]

In the Bahraini perspective, one of the prime governments supporting that poor Anglo-Germanic enterprise to the tune of €1.4 million a go, not including the training they could subscribe to at the cheap cheap price of €27,000 per session, the most important revelation that the Bahraini government discovered after all this expenditure and generated bad publicity was, wait for it, wait for it: that they need to send their “agents” (I know, double oh what the hell kind) to English language school!

For 10% of that figure – actually, I’m feeling damned patriotic this lovely Friday morning, I’d inform them of that need for absolutely free. What I would also tell them is to save their citizen’s money and just sit down with those whose opinions they don’t agree with, have copious cups of tea and simply have a chat. The proviso is to have (a) the political will to find resolution, a genuine one please, and (b) there is no “b”, “a” would do quite fine and will get this country out of the quagmire it is still suffering from. Doing nothing isn’t really an option. Carrying on with mistrusting your own people, well, apart from being costly, isn’t really sustainable. No, bringing others in and calling them Bahrainis to replace an indigenous population won’t work, believe me. The “new” Bahrainis’ loyalties will never be with the country they’re forced to adopt. Square blocks and round holes kind of logic. A two-year old would tell you that for free too.

Anyway, to those 77 whose privacy’s known to have been breeched with FinFisher, rest in the knowledge that whatever they gained, is actually their loss. The loss of your trust and respect. What you gained, is the continued respect of the whole community. You win.

As to Gamma, do I blame them for hawking their wares? Well, like arms dealers, the most unscrupulous ones of those in this case, they both lack any modicum of decency and morals, their main motivator is and always was. Whores, in fact, are saints when compared to Gamma and their ilk.

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