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Gratitudes and the Duraz Siege

Gratitudes and the Duraz Siege

Every day, I endeavor to be grateful for at least five things.  I write them down as early as I can every morning to remind me to stay humble and be thankful for what I have. This practice has allowed me to stay positive in the face of difficulties and reminded me to see things in context and put them into perspective. Today is my 105th day of doing this, thanks to the Facebook Group 90 Days of Gratitude.

Today, I choose to reflect on our village Duraz’s siege from my own perspective. We are having to suffer long queues of cars to report to a police checkpoint – one of only two for a village and an area that hosts over 20,000 residents – to get home. Every other entrance into the village has been closed off by police. And I mean this literally. The ancient village of Duraz has many routes in and out of it, as you might imagine for a very old habitat, but every single one of them has been closed and is being guarded by police. The word inconvenience doesn’t even start to describe what residents are going through. Every day. At least twice a day. For the last two and a half months.

The situation as I personally see it is better described as collective punishment. This of course has to stop. It is the decent thing to do.


Picture courtesy of Alwasat newspaper. Checkpoint at Duraz entrance on the Budaiya highway
Picture courtesy of Alwasat newspaper. Checkpoint at the Budaiya highway entrance to Duraz.

On 20 June, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior revoked the nationality of Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s Shia community, rendering him stateless. In response, hundreds of demonstrators began a peaceful sit-in around Sheikh Qassim’s home in the village of Duraz, where he also preaches. Since then, the authorities have subjected Duraz to an unprecedented lockdown, in what is a form of collective punishment against the entire village. The government’s action violates the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, and movement for all the residents of Duraz and their families.

Duraz is located in the north west of the main island. To its west is Budaiya and to its east is Barbar. Its south side faces onto the major Budaiya Highway, and on the other side are the villages of Bani Jamra and Saar. Duraz has an estimated population of 20-30,000 people.

…more at ECDHR

Here are my gratitudes of this morning, for the 105th day.

I am grateful for:

  1. The internet for keeping me entertained, inspired and informed for the calculated delays at the Duraz checkpoint to get home. Twice a day at least. Every day. For the last two and a half months.
  2. The inconsiderate dimwits who choose to ignore the patience of everyone at the Duraz checkpoint. Although they are many, my trust in humanity, patience and respect of others is strengthened by noting that those patiently queueing are considerably more than the inconsiderate unmannered uncultured dimwits. I’m reminded of this at least twice a day. Every day. For the last two and a half months.
  3. For my fervent belief that security measures are never a final solution, but a tool wisely used to get opposing sides to the dialogue and peace table. Sieges are so 12th century not the 21st. I’m reminded of this at least twice a day. Every day. For the last two and a half months.
  4. The comfort that my car provides. Makes waiting to go through the checkpoint at Duraz actually a tolerable experience. Other than my and thousands of others daily loss of at least two hours having to tolerate this siege every day. At least twice a day. For the last two and half months.
  5. The realization that dialogue, compromise and outcomes that respect international human rights codes are the intelligent solutions going forward. The Duraz siege manifests the failure of the realization of these certain facts. Every day. All day. For the last 2,025 days.

Regardless of the reason why the government has imposed this siege, this is collective punishment for a population through no fault of its own.

160829: Thank you Alwasat Newspaper for featuring this post.



Comparisons from the NY Times in the upper image, Al-Fateh mosque also inserted for comparison's sake

I don’t want to start a “numbers war”, but just for my interest, I got this image from the New York Times which was attempting to compare between the route taken by the opposition protest yesterday which filled the whole length of the highway from Bahrain Mall to the Pearl Roundabout with Tahrir Square in Cairo. I took it a step further and go the Al-Fateh Mosque’s in there as well to complete the comparison.

I joked in a tweet yesterday that the people at the protest must’ve been 4,692,166. And it appears to be right, ratio wise which has been broadcast about the numbers in Al-Fateh!

Regardless, I’m glad that the whole of Bahrain now are becoming engaged in politics. Maybe something good will come out of this engagement.


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.



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.


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.


Bahrain Demonstrates in Solidarity with Egypt

I attended a demonstration in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Egypt in their quest for a better, safer, and more democratic future without the geriatric octogenarian Hosni Mubarak. The demonstration took place on Friday afternoon at 4pm and was attended by a few hundred sympathisers. I took the opportunity to record a few interviews with a few people and influencers. I hope that through this short video you can get the feeling of being there, and more importantly feel also the passion of those present for the reason of them being there demonstrating right across from the Egyptian embassy in Manama.


Demonstration at Egyptian Embassy

Posted on

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.

View Larger Map


Protest in Bahrain against the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla

Posted on

Dr. Ali Fakhro, Bahraini intellectual, thinking and ex-minister for education and health speaking to the protesters in front of the UN House in Manama. People protested and demonstrated against the barbaric attack on the Freedom Flotilla and the killing of a large number of activists on-board.

Feelings, as you will see from the video, are running quite high against Israel.


Demonstration in Bahrain against Israeli barbarism

Posted on

A demonstration showing Bahraini anger at the barbaric atrocities by the Zionist regime on the Freedom Flotilla while trying to take much needed supplies and medicines to Gaza on 31 May 2010 where the Israeli commandos boarded ships and killed up to 19 peace activists in the process. The demonstration took place in front of UN House in Hoora, Bahrain.

BinAli describes the type of peace not as “the peace of the courageous” but that of “peace of the sheep!” in a play on words in Arabic:

هذا مو سلام الشجعان بس سلام الخرفان!


more trouble…

Posted on

They’re starting to gather at the Saar Roundabout as I write this. Various parties called for a demonstration in support of cleric Isa Qassim of Duraz, the followers of whom felt slighted by Jassim Alsaidi’s unwarranted attack on “their symbol”, and as they regard an attack on Qassim as an attack on the whole religion, they are taking Saidi’s brainfarts very seriously, rather than be less emotional about the whole thing and be less of a manipulated toy in the hands of strife loving MPs and their masters.

This is not unforeseen. The powers that be know how emotive these things are, they know that our situation is akin to an already lit powder keg, all they need is just accelerate that burning fuse and it will explode. I don’t think; however, that either side realises the severity of this explosion, nor are they cognizant of the aftermath. It is a chaotic situation which cannot be put back in order by adopting such incendiary tactics.

But unfortunately it is beyond that now. Now it is just a pissing contest and we’re all in the spray’s path.

I don’t know about you, but I am quite tired of all this crap and I don’t blame the people who just upped and left to better climes and to places where they are respected, as is their intellect.

The solution is quite evident, those in power know it, how in God’s name they choose not to use it is simply and utterly beyond me. But they are not the only party to blame here, not by any chance. The followers of these two politico-religious figures also have a full hand by lending their unfettered support to their chosen cleric and drawing a so called red line which is forever shifting to suit their needs, and in the process elevating their leader into a position of a deity beyond reproach and definitely beyond criticism. If he is criticised – God forbid – then not only he was slighted, but the whole Muslim religion too.

It is a complex situation to be sure, but the solution could be very simple; segregate religion from the state and tell those who elect to represent us to choose either the pulpit or politics, not both together. Combine both and you get what we continue to go through.


“Martyr’s Day” commemoration death

I’ve just received a report that a Ali Jassim Mohammed, a 31 year old, was taken to the International Hospital about two hours ago in an unconscious state due to tear-gas exposure fired at a demonstration in Jidd Haffs.

He was one of many taking part to commemorate the contentious “Martyr’s Day” which the opposition wants to commemorate annually on the 17th of December, a day which has been inaugurated by the authorities as the “King’s Ascension Day”. The Ministry of Interior apparently issued a press release in which it stated that Ali’s death was due to a heart attack rather than tear-gas related. There are currently serious riots going on at the mortuary between the demonstrators and the police.

Ali is reportedly recently married and was awaiting his first born soon. May his soul rest in peace.

Ours; however, will probably continue to be tormented by this ridiculous push-and-pull relationship between some elements of the opposition and the regime both of whom so far have failed to resolve their points of difference. Their dialogue, if at all it exists, can’t be anything but like a conversation between two deaf and dumb people with neither side prepared to listen.

If they really want to get this tiring situation fixed, I suggest they both read Wa’ad’s National Day declaration [translation], turn it into a manifesto and work toward its accomplishment. How difficult is it really to recognise our shortcomings and work together toward an equitable resolution?