Tag Archives duraz

Congratulations! #DurazSiege is One Year Old.

Congratulations! #DurazSiege is One Year Old.

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Yep. One year. A full city of over twenty thousand souls has been under siege for one full year, since 20 June 2016. How about that? It must qualify for a world record of some kind and I know that this is the reason it is really in place, to pin yet another browny point on Bahrain’s incredible levels of advancement in this modern age.

So, bear witness, I am rather thankful for the siege. There are so many benefits that I would want it to continue ad infinitum and encourage other villages, towns and cities not only in my beloved Bahrain to tread this path, but everywhere else in the world too.

Here are just a few things that the #DurazSiege provides as benefits (in no particular order), please feel free to add your own in the comments, let’s show our gratitude:

  1. No pesky visitors to drop in on you unannounced
  2. Experience the life of an expat in your own country
  3. Be in your PJ’s immediately you get to your home with nary a worry to consider
  4. Test the canniness of food delivery guys to get to your home
  5. Food delivery guys get double-tips if they get to your home; thus, solidifying their employment
  6. The quiet, especially now that the helicopter is no longer buzzing 24/7 overhead for the last month, give or take
  7. Actually getting friendly with the check-point Bobbies.
  8. Knowing the check-point policemen by first name. For some, we’re getting to know and ask after their families too.
  9. The excitement coming from the randomness of checking one’s ID.
  10. Taking fun bets with your family in your car or home as to what style of chicane to be expected at the check points on any particular day
  11. The fun to have with noob policemen at checkpoints (you can spot whether the guy is a noob at the point by the length of the patiently queueing cars)
  12. Studies in patience.
  13. The effectiveness of a car’s A/C
  14. Vastly improved sign language skills; us residents have become experts at hand gestures that convey whole sentences between patiently queueing cars transmitted through the rear-windshield or even the rear-view mirrors (latter only to the über experts in the field)
  15. Above also applies to eye-rolling techniques as methods of communication with one’s neighbour as to a current situation
  16. Expertise at predicting travel times through checkpoints and chicanes.
  17. Deep breathing techniques to quiet the mind and achieve Zen while waiting to get to your home; we can confidently teach yogis our techniques that even with a lifelong study they can’t achieve. Talk to us. We have mastered this.
  18. Expertise at navigating the Internet on mobile phones
  19. Expertise at saving mobile phones battery lives with ease
  20. Becoming adept hummers and singers
  21. Unchallenged expertise at air guitar
  22. Killer seated dancing moves

What about you? Please contribute your special findings and / or developed skills while gaining access to the Kingdom of Duraz.


Is the #DurazSiege at an end?

Is the #DurazSiege at an end?

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I woke up with a start two or three times last night and couldn’t figure out why….

Then it dawned on me.

The quiet.

No police helicopters buzzing overhead at low altitude.

In the vicinity of Duraz, we see and hear helicopters flying at relatively low altitude day and night. Every single day since the Duraz Siege started almost a year ago exactly. Last night, I think, was the first time in a year that we didn’t see or hear a helicopter overhead. Their noise, after a while, is maddening.

The #DurazSiege is more than “inconvenient” checkpoints. The state of mind it creates and the terror it permeates through the community it is imposed upon will take a very long time to heal.

Is it over then? I’m not sure.

People were not harassed yesterday and cars were left to pass without drivers being stopped to show their IDs at checkpoints, but police presence at all the traditional locations is still very much apparent. I know that what is happening inside the village is much worse than simple checkpoints. My thoughts and feelings continues to be with them.

One day, there will be forgiveness and we will move on. Hopefully. Though we should never forget the terror that such inhuman measures create.

This could all have been resolved with dialogue. And the results of that dialogue would have been much more palatable to all, and much longer lasting and provide for more stability than any imposed police or military measures.


Shaikh Isa Qasim Sentenced. Now what?

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After more than a year or toing and froing, Shaikh Isa Qasim, Hussain Alqassab and Mirza Aldurazi get a suspended sentence of one year in jail, three years probation, the appropriation of over BD 3 million collected as “khums” – a religious tax of 20% of surplus profits given by followers of the Shia tradition in alms to be distributed to the poor via vouched for clerics – and the appropriation also of two properties registered to Shaikha Isa Qasim. He was also stripped of his nationality last year and since then, the government has imposed a lockdown on the town of Duraz which houses over 20,000 inhabitants.

Regardless of whether the sentence is fair, will that mean that Shias can actually practice their beliefs unmolested? Who will they trust with that religious duty of paying alms? Will the Duraz Siege now be lifted? What change will we see?

The other question I must ask: why was Shaikh Isa Qasim holding three million dinars in an account? With the dilapidated state of most villages, with the absence of employment of his followers, with the meagre higher education opportunities available to them, why was that amount not spent wisely and continuously to help people, or at least invested in property or other instruments to ensure its longevity and availability for those in need?

What will happen to the appropriated funds and properties now? Will the government judiciously use those funds in a manner they were designed for or will they be simply appropriated into the treasury never to be seen by needy people again?


DurazSiege True Stories: Day 301

DurazSiege True Stories: Day 301

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I was barred from walking through the checkpoint at Oxygen Gym to my house which is just 300 meters away last night due to the ongoing #DurazSiege.

The policeman insisted that it is closed for all traffic, including pedestrians, and I have to go to the main checkpoint at the entrance of Avenue 36. That is a roundabout walk of about 3km to gain entrance to the besieged area.

Where is the sanity in this?

Explaining to him that I have been walking through this very checkpoint every single day for 301 days without a problem was to no avail. He finally relented and let me through with a stern warning not to try to walk through this point again!

Welcome to my – and those of some 20,000 other souls’ – life.


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!


Bloody Durazis!

Homies in Duraz wanted to exercise their inalienable right of self flagellation by way of swords, but others in the same village had a different idea.

Duraz, is a small village to the west of the capital Manama. Its population is in the thousands. It’s minute when compared with others in the world, but huge when you consider Bahrain’s size and constitution. It is said that it was once an ancient capital of Bahrain. More importantly, it’s current claim to fame is the fact that it counts the leading cleric in Bahrain – Shaikh Isa Qassim – as one of its residents.

Anyway, Haidar, as you will see from the picture below:

Photo credit: Mazin Mahdi via Flickr

is the act of slitting one’s head allowing a profuse flow of blood. Gory. Unhealthy. Gross. Unnecessary. But some people believe that it’s a legitimate way to express one’s abject grief for the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson, Imam Hussain bin Ali in Karbala, modern day Iraq in 680AD.

The slit is normally administered (in Bahrain at least) by a medic and the swords are really just for show (normally) where they are used to pound on that slit with their flat sides to keep the flow of blood and prevent it congealing, otherwise it will defeat the purpose. Obviously.

The Duraz-Haidar-Homies got slashed and started their precession within the village, shouting “HAIDAR” as they walked – a blood chilling war cry when you’re close, believe me – much to the chagrin of those who don’t believe in such a thing because their clerics think of the tradition as “haram”. It’s not a thing of health or even consideration for the martyr whose memory they want to preserve; it reads to me at least, as a power play between those who ally themselves with one cleric who condones haidar and other forms of flagellations against those who chose to follow another who doesn’t.

It is my understanding that Shaikh Isa Qassim doesn’t condone haidar and prefers a more sedate forms of expressions of grief. Being the religious supremo in the country as far as some of the Shi’a are concerned, and enjoying the following of the vast majority of Durzis, his opinion counts. Essentially then, this incident was down to religious political power interpretation first and foremost.

So a fight erupted! Hot-heads (some bleeding) started with a shouting match which escalated to hurled rocks, the use of sticks to beat each other with and some cars and other properties got damaged in the way.

Picture credit: Al-Wasat

Why they didn’t use their swords to hack each other with is surprising and confusing! Were they actually just some of those retractable rubber thingies? Or just didn’t work? Too blunt maybe? No idea. In any case, it’s a brave person who actually – basically – calls a bloody sword wielding man a chicken and engages him with sticks and stones! I wonder if anyone filmed the incident. It would be interesting to watch!

A couple of days after the incident, Al-Wasat carries a piece that the Shura Council member Ali Al-Asfoor who (I think) hails from the same village is now offering to compensate anyone who suffered damage due to the fracas! [arabic link]

Excuse me Ali, if you do that, how the hell are they going to take responsibility for their stupidity? Both in performing Haidar and for those involved in the fight and mayhem? Or is this a publicity stunt on your part to drag more people to your side of the fence? Are you (or your family/dynasty/whatever you want to call it) jealous of Qassim’s power in the village and country and you want to get some of it back? What’s the motive behind such a grand gesture then?

Anyway, this Haidar and self flagellation business is not going to go anywhere soon. My betting is that Haidar and the controversy and passions surrounding it will appear again next year, in the same villages, in the same occasions, and it – like a lot of other things taking over our lives in Bahrain – is more about politics and power than anything to do with religion or culture and tradition for that matter.

The good thing; however, is that some opposition to engrained customs and traditions is occurring. Maybe this is a sign of cultural progress. Who knows, maybe the next step could actually be the adoption of dialogue to resolve differences.


Vlog 41: The Nasfah

The 15th of Sha’abaan, the 8th month on the Muslim Hijri calendar holds special significance to Shi’a Muslims. On that night – called the Nasfah – they celebrate the birth of their last Imam, Imam Al-Mahdi, the 12th and last Shi’a Imam who went into occultation in 939AD. It is said that on his reappearance he will establish justice in the world and save humanity.

That’s the historical perspective. The practical one is that it’s yet another reason to celebrate as a community, give the children another reason to go from door to door singing ditties and getting coins and sweets! Another one is that it marks the real count-down to Ramadhan, only 15 days hence.

This year the celebrations coincided with the 28th of August and I was determined to shoot the scenes from a couple of the nearby villages of Duraz and Barbar despite the horrendous heat and humidity on that night, and the possibility of a yet again wet camera. I knew how to crack that one!

The result is the following vlog which I hope you will enjoy.

Have a wonderful Friday my friends, and happy celebrations wherever you are.