Tag Archives democracy

A fist is mightier than the word!

MP Mohammed Khalid putting ice on his black eye caused by a punch he received from MP Jassim Al-MawaliBankruptcy comes in difference guises, the most dangerous of which of course is that which is associated with the intellect; because if one is intellectually bankrupt then everything is acceptable, even if the solution is at the cost of morals and societal norms.

What then can we expect from a whole intellectually bankrupt parliament whose members rule by simplistic and devastating metrics they no longer bother to hide under the surface? Using only sectarianism to arrive at decisions has become the rule rather than the exception, and members of both sects are wholly culpable.

The Sunnis align themselves blindly with the government, thinking that it will continue to offer the teat that nurtured them as long as they fight everyone else off it; while the Shi’as continue to cry foul and intransigently oppose any government action if their Sunni colleagues support it.

Of course the problem is a lot deeper than this, at least one hopes that it is not that simple. The inescapable fact is that the Shi’as form a majority in a country ruled by a minority. They have been sidelined and subjugated for centuries and not many avenues have been open to them to take without a fight. The opposite is perceived to be true for their Sunni compatriots.

It is the quintessential fight of the haves and have-nots then. And that will continue to breed these kinds of situations unless an honest attempt is made to bring the two sides together, and that is never going to happen unless the government launches a real program of rapprochement between its citizens and create a real truth and reconciliation program to remove the chasm between the sects and the schism between the citizens and the government and ruling family, and until the law is witnessed to be applied fairly and equally across the whole society.

MP Jassim Al-Mawali attacking MP Mohammed KhalidUntil then, we shouldn’t be surprised to see scenes like these… hungry dogs in a fighting pit each concerned only with itself and its own survival, rather than recognising that they both really should unite to demand and get what is rightfully theirs… life with dignity for all the citizens regardless of sect, gender, colour or ethnic background.


A new government department is born

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Please welcome the latest government department in Bahrain; it’s staffed by 40 managers, most are really not more than janitorial shift supervisors than they are managers, and some – who habitually trip over their IQ ratings – could just be hired as mere janitors, who invariably are the most vociferous of the lot. Empty vessels is the old adage…

However, regardless of the level of contribution they muster, they are all very well paid, to the tune of BD 3,000 (US$ 8,000 approx) per month plus some benefits here and there. They all got BD 10,000 (US$ 26,500) as a one time gift from his majesty the king when they started their jobs at this department so that they can fix up their status, buy a couple of suits or bishts for state occasions.. we can’t really have them looking like the riff-raff of society that they are, so we have to at least dress them up a bit.

They were also given a monthly stipend as allowances for their transport – no, not bus fairs of course, we can’t get them to mix with lowly labourers! No way, remember they spearheaded campaigns to segregate those people from society even more than they are at the moment and banishing them to somewhere where they cannot be seen or heard! – these worthy gentlemen get to drive around in German automobiles, or those Hyundai mini-bus vehicles with tarpaulin covered 4 rows of seats to make space for their multiple wives and their brats. They even get an allowance to actually have an office and hire a couple of people to man it! How about that for a janitorial gig?

Government jobs, particularly these, are pretty good.

So what’s the scope of work?

Big brooms, carpets, lift then flick of the wrists.

Very onerous, I know. It takes most of those 40 worthy individuals to bend over, lift the carpet, and for another herd of their cohorts to use the broom to sweep the dirt under said carpet. Release the carpet to cover that dirt and pretend for ever that it is simply not there!

When someone dares to question the various unsavoury smells emanating from that carpet, they are ordered to (1) state categorically that they have lost their sense of smell, so they aren’t bothered by it, (2) if there is to be an enquiry as to what that smell is, then do so in a closed room, edit every observation in that room, and come out with a press release that states that the smell was in fact, contrary to popular belief, was extremely savoury and it was nothing but Bahraini roses put there in order to extract the aromatic oils and preserve that for posterity, (3) if the public don’t like those observations, then they humbly remind us that Bahrain is a collection of islands, surrounded by the sea, and they have given us the open invitation to drink our fill.

They of course do not recognise that we only have narrow corridors to actually access the sea to partake of their advice, and that those corridors constitute approximately 3% of a coastline which exceeds 700 kilometres, but that’s just detail.

These government employees are hired for 4 years of their lives, fattened, and then released back into the community where they never again have to lift a finger to earn a living; they are all on a pension scheme which is the envy of the world, some say they would keep more than 50% of that inflated salary if they are called to serve just one 4 year term, if they are fortunate enough to be selected for another term, and most look like they will be, especially the actual janitors as they have demonstrated their total and unconditional support for their canny employer, that pension will soon approach 100% of their salaries in addition to all the other benefits they will gain.

Not to mention of course their other sources of revenue: “the lecture circuit.” They will have a booking agent for the various talk-shows they will appear on, the various conferences and expert janitorial panels in the Arab world and beyond they will be invited to and adequately compensated for and probably deposited in one or more Swiss bank accounts.

Whoever thought that they were elected in the first place to guard against black marketeers, corruption and to clean up the scum of society is sorely mistaken. They might – and I reiterate, might – have had that silly notion when they started their journey, if only as a janitorial campaign promise, but with the slow and deliberate inculcation and sitting on the government organ via grants and photo-ops with high government officials, that spark has been snuffed within the first few days.

We’ve got another 136 days of their company still, and we should feel utterly privileged to have that particular pleasure.

How can one live without that government department which looks after the citizen’s rights first and foremost and roots out corruption and all that ails this country? We can only hope that these worthy gentlemen are selected once again to occupy those plush leather seats.



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Here’s a pledge that I would – and have – taken quite readily:

I believe the Internet should be a force for political freedom, not repression. People have the right to seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference.

I call on governments to stop the unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet – and on companies to stop helping them do it.


Sounds good? Of course it does.
Sounds fair? Of course it does.

Today Amnesty International and The Observer collaborated again and launched another initiative that would ensure respect for and upholds the freedoms of speech in the digital age. They’re asking us to do something very simple, just abide by the pledge represented above.

If you would like to lend your support, before you head over to Irrepressible.Info, think deeply within yourself how YOU could uphold this right and help everyone in the digital domain to speak their minds without the fear of persecution, vilification, imprisonment and other state sponsored terrorism against the individual’s right to express him or herself.

For instance, the Ministry of Information in Bahrain has still NOT rescinded the requirement to register websites, even though the penalties in that administrative order are not applied now, doesn’t mean – in the continued presence of that order – that it won’t be applied at any time or against any webmaster or owner in the future. One wishes of course that the Ministry of Information would unequivocally come out and say that this order is not longer valid and has been cancelled…

Of course we shouldn’t also forget that despicable Press Law 47 (arabic) which every journalist is living under…


Citizen Journalists win against Apple, Bahrain MoI are you listening?

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Briefly, Apple was pissed off with a site scooping it and releasing information it deemed still confidential, so they went after the guy who published the news and he didn’t budge, and in their infinite wisdom Apple thought they’d bring out their 4-pound hammers to force it out of the webmaster telling the court that (to the effect) as he’s not registered with the Ministry of Information he should not enjoy “real” journalist privileges, so he should tell them who the leaker was.

The court brought out its verdict last week telling Apple to, well, stuff it!

This is a huge win (in the States) for online forums, bloggers and citizen journalists. I’m not holding my breath for courts in Bahrain to be this partial to us, nor do I have any trust for the Ministry of Information that it will retool itself to be the protector of freedoms of speech and be a catalyst that would propel writers and journalists to excel in their jobs. But this event is certainly something that the powers that be should keep very much in mind.

A state appeals court on Friday rejected Apple Computer Inc.’s bid to identify the sources of leaked product information that appeared on Web sites, ruling that online reporters and bloggers are entitled to the same protections as traditional journalists.

“In no relevant respect do they appear to differ from a reporter or editor for a traditional business-oriented periodical who solicits or otherwise comes into possession of confidential internal information about a company,” Justice Conrad Rushing of the 6th District Court of Appeal wrote in a unanimous 69-page ruling.

“We decline the implicit invitation to embroil ourselves in questions of what constitutes ‘legitimate journalism,” he wrote. “The shield law is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news, and that is what petitioners did here.”

The online journalists are thus entitled to the protections provided under California’s shield law as well as the privacy protections for e-mails allowed under federal law, the court ruled.
Hat tip: BuzzMachine


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.


An Islamic State or a State for Muslims?

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That’s the quintessential question that we need to explore, it doesn’t matter if we ever answer it really, as long as we honestly pursue the various answers, a variety of which are going to be correct. The more we explore our history in context and without dogmatic set interpretations, we might actually arrive at answers which will allow us to just get on with our lives and get on with the rest of the world.

Mshari Al-Zaydi explores this issue in his column in Asharq Al-Awsat of 11 May, ’06 in which he says something really important and I have heard before:

Mshari Al-ZaydiThe matter of the Islamic state is very complicated; however, let us divide Islamic history in to two stages: the Mecca period and the Medina period. In Mecca, the aim was to build the religion and establish it in the hearts and minds of the Muslims. This was a very difficult task but through the struggle of the Prophet and his companions, Islam succeeded. As the pressure increased, the Muslims had to leave Mecca for Medina. Here a huge transformation occurred that clearly distinguished the two periods. In Mecca, there was no state or authority, but in Medina, the political carrier existed. That carrier protected the group and ensured its existence. However, according to Dr Abdul Ilah Balqaziz in his book entitled, ‘The Foundation of the Political Realm in Islam,’ the state of Medina was a state of Muslims and not an Islamic state in the modern fundamentalist interpretation of the term. Balqaziz added, “Initially this state was not restricted to Muslims but also included the Jews. Later however, the Jews were excluded when they allied with the non-Muslims.”

Balqaziz stated an important point in his book that the short time spent in Medina prevented many (especially those from outside of Medina) from establishing firmly their beliefs, and in fact, followed Islam due to the new power situation. What indicated this is the large number of converts throughout the last two years of the Prophet’s life and the quick withdrawal from Islam by many after the Prophet’s death. Thus in the Ridda wars (the apostasy wars), Abu Bakr was obliged to connect Islam to the state through political power against revolutionary tribes. In other words, politics in Islam was used to hold the new Islamic society due to the ‘softness’ of the doctrine. Balqaziz asserted, “During the peak of the prophet’s call, there was a need for political authority. After his death, the need doubled.” (p43)
Asharq Al-Awsat :: Mshari Al-Zaydi :: 11 May ’06

So there were two distinct periods that shaped Islam at the time of the Prophet: the Meccan period which was typified with spirituality and holisticness, and the Medina period which was more concerned with building a state and entrenching a rule of law.

Could it also be that the Quran – the base of Islam – was also revealed in this way? That is, the Quran’s chapters of Mecca are the ones which should be taken as the base of Islam, while the Quran chapters of Medina were simply a “how to” temporary manual to rule the fledgeling state?

Could it then be that Allah and his Prophet were more concerned with creating a State for Muslims in a tumultuous arena, than creating an islamic state?

hat tip: Crossroads Arabia


How to flush $2 BILLION

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egyptprotest1.jpgGive it to the Egyptian government in order to help them continue to be the voice of the Arab Nation, the voice of Arab Democracy and the voice of Arab Modernity.

egyptprotest4.jpgThat’s what was on the brochure that sold the story to donors, the reality of course is much different. What Egypt is, is simply a police state headed by an octogenarian refusing to give up power, still deep in the belief that He is doing his country good, and to hell with the people.

Not really that much different from the other 22 Arab countries. We’re just thankful that in Bahrain demonstrations no longer look like the following pictures.. at least, not yet.

Have a look at these lovely posters of a democratic Egypt that deserves over $2 billion in aid from the USA alone.


Green fields to nowhere

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I don’t suppose that the government really intends to have a fair and free elections this year for the municipal and parliamentary elections.

Nor is it demonstrating that famed “Arab Hospitality”. In fact it is demonstrating quite the opposite with them closing the National Democratic Institute and throwing its director out of the country without notice and for no fault of the NDI. And if you consider that Mr. Fawzi Julaid and the NDI were personal guests of his majesty the King under whose authority in 2002 they were established and sponsored, can someone tell me where the paddle is?

Thanks to the so called Bahrain Institute for Political Development which has been established here and thinks that it knows more about democracy and democratic processes in a country that has never experienced it.

Then add the fact of the continuing harassment of the Transparency Society in dissolving their board of directors and almost closing it down but for the efforts of its members to keep it going.

The precursor to all this of course is the closure of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, and the various harassments and imprisonments of people whose only fault is expressing themselves in a constitutionally guaranteed manner.

And of course only God at the moment knows when the elections will take place, that is if He received the confidential memo and allowed to got involved in the process.

I keep asking myself now what the common denominator is between all of these actions? The answer that continuously creeps into my mind is that “they” intend to screw around with the elections, and ensure that only those “they” approve of get elected. Why else would one expend all of this energy in these shenanigans? And why all of these desperate moves against any entity which asks to monitor the forthcoming elections? And why the electoral districts gerrymandering not fixed? If you have nothing to hide, why are you afraid?

What’s the point? If everyone who extends the hand of friendship, or even better, those who extend their hands in an effort to teach us about democracy and its processes, and prepare future generations of politicians for them to manage the country properly get thrown out in this despicable manner, is there even a point of having elections? Of course not, under all of these conditions the thing they call democracy in Bahrain is nothing more than a sham. A pretty one mind you, but still a sham.

Is it a wonder that international news outlets have started to point a non-too-flattering finger at Bahrain and its government, and call into doubt almost everything that comes out of its official organs?

Of course not, first we had the Financial Times publish a piece about sectarian tensions and disillusionments of a large swathe of our citizens, and now they follow up with another about corruption and the destruction of the environment that is even more damning. This is the Financial Times, not a Mickey Mouse publication. It will be hard for the government and its spin doctors to conveniently disparage and discredit. It’s the FT which is read the world over not by activists, but captains of industry and commerce. Think of all the good work already done by the EDB and like organisations going to waste.

What is the government doing for God’s sake? In all of our history we have never had an opportunity like this; an opportunity where we can grab by the scruff of the neck and use to launch ourselves onto the world stage as a modern, caring, constitutional and democratic nation which respects its citizens and adheres to human rights principles; however, we choose to squander it comprehensively, yet, we have the temerity to fight for consideration for a seat on the Human Rights council at the UN! What a laugh! Talk about getting the priorities straight.

Now the government has a green field. No obstacles on the horizon. They have a cowed parliament filled with morons and puppets and what the government has done is prepare the ground for more hand-picked and docile morons to fill its ranks sometime this year, or maybe next year, or even in two years’ time if and when they decide to give us “the gift” of being able to elect those who will have the pleasure of representing us.


Egypt, the “mother of the world”, starts to eat its children!

Ambassador Mahmoud Abdel Gawad
Po Box 818, Villa 18, Road 23, Mahouz, Manama 332, Bahrain
Tel: (+973) 1772 0005
Fax: (973) 1772 1518
email [email protected]

Mubarak didn’t you have enough already? How old are you for goodness sake? 21 raring to take on the whole world by the scruff of the neck? No, you’re close to 80, and no matter how much hair colouring you use, you have at least one foot in the grave, no matter what you do.

As a “leader” of the Arab world, wouldn’t you want to be remembered for the good you have done in your life for the very Egypt that all Arabs regard as our mother and our cultural mainstay? Why then are you leaving a legacy of unfulfilled promises? Or has the money and rampant corruption got the better of you? Is your reputation not worth sacrificing your position and yes, even the possible leadership position of your son for? What will you be remembered by when you go, and you definitely will go? Do you wish to be remembered as that deranged old guy that tried to bring the monarchy back to Egypt? That peon whose strings are controlled by the Americans? For what you are doing now is nothing but strengthens that opinion, regardless of how true it is!

For the sake of Egypt, let the apprehended go. Let Alaa go back to his wife and his readers. Let the judges continue to attempt to fix their lot for the better of Egypt and the Arab world. Let them question the elections and if they find fault, have the decency to acknowledge a wrong and move on with your life. Don’t waste all that you have achieved in the very last years of your life.

Release Alaa!

Release Alaa and his colleagues. All they want is a better Egypt.

All what we ALL want as Arabs is a better Egypt.

The mother of the world.


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:

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.