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:
No pesky visitors to drop in on you unannounced
Experience the life of an expat in your own country
Be in your PJ’s immediately you get to your home with nary a worry to consider
Test the canniness of food delivery guys to get to your home
Food delivery guys get double-tips if they get to your home; thus, solidifying their employment
The quiet, especially now that the helicopter is no longer buzzing 24/7 overhead for the last month, give or take
Actually getting friendly with the check-point Bobbies.
Knowing the check-point policemen by first name. For some, we’re getting to know and ask after their families too.
The excitement coming from the randomness of checking one’s ID.
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
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)
Studies in patience.
The effectiveness of a car’s A/C
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)
Above also applies to eye-rolling techniques as methods of communication with one’s neighbour as to a current situation
Expertise at predicting travel times through checkpoints and chicanes.
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.
Expertise at navigating the Internet on mobile phones
Expertise at saving mobile phones battery lives with ease
Becoming adept hummers and singers
Unchallenged expertise at air guitar
Killer seated dancing moves
What about you? Please contribute your special findings and / or developed skills while gaining access to the Kingdom of Duraz.
I woke up with a start two or three times last night and couldn’t figure out why….
Then it dawned on me.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Here are my gratitudes of this morning, for the 105th day.
I am grateful for:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So much unnecessary loss of life. At the root of it, one group believes they and only they are right. The others are worthless creatures who should be exterminated. Those people, who I believe fueled war and strife in Syria and elsewhese will not be moved by the horrible images and their conscience one single iota, that is, if their conscience existed in the first place.
In fact, they’ll find a way to justify the exodus, the strife, the desperation, the deaths and not only distance themselves from their inhuman pursuits in their own war mongering, but will celebrate peoples’ desperation and use that to prove – through their own thwarted logic – that they and only they are the chosen ones.
Have we heard one peep from them demanding that the Syrian and Yemeni refugees find temporary shelter in their countries? No. None. The overriding thought in their minds for that eventuality if it ever comes, and I believe that will be highly unlikely, is probably to find a way to filter those whom they will “allow” to enter their hallowed lands and receive their largesse based on purely on confessional beliefs. Humanity and morals be damned.
On the other hand, we see Europeans coming out unbidden in their droves to help the refugees whom they share no culture, language or religion with. The refugees being human beings is enough for those Europeans to extend any help they can afford, even if it’s simply a kind word or gesture.
Is it any wonder that even in their desperation, the refugees choose European destinations than any country in the Gulf?
Shame on us. This is official the death of our consciousness as a race, culture and people.
And here’s the picture to prove it.
This is the total sum of our efforts for humanity.
After a recent visit, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, declared: “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years.” – BBC
What started as hope for change for the better, hope for a better future, hope for democracy and human rights, soon descended into calculated chaos. None of the countries afflicted by that spark have faired well. None. Heavy handedness in dealing with popular demands, deep mistrust between the ruled and the ruling elite, the view of the demand for change as an existential threat and prioritising myopic tribal or familial aspirations mandated the crushing of that hope.
What’s happened and continues happening in the Middle East will be rich text-book case studies for a plethora of topics. Sociologists and other scientists will have ample fodder for their consideration in the not too distant future. They will most probably look back and reflect on the central issue of how the rejection of dialogue and compromise disintegrated nations and directly contributed to their demise.
Back to the present, I cannot help but feel completely helpless as an individual when I witness various conflicts, civil wars, and an almost complete absence of democracy and human rights in this dystopian Middle East. What irks me more, actually, is the complete disregard of the plight of our fellow human beings affected directly by these situations.
Let’s take just two places where fighting is at its peak; Syria, with over 220,000 fellow human beings killed and over 11 million people displaced; 4 million fled the country and 7.6 million have been internally displaced. Over 12 million including 5.4 million children currently require humanitarian aid. With a population of 22 million, those should be very sobering numbers. [BBC / Wikipedia]
Yemen has an even scarier tally as far as the displaced is concerned. Out of a population of 26.7 million, 21 million require immediate humanitarian assistance, 20 million are without access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and 12.9 million have an insecure food supply. In a country were 90% of food is imported, the naval and air blockade has devastated human beings, let alone the country. [BBC]
I say all this from a humanitarian perspective, not a military or political one, and I fully realise that both Yemen and Syria – even before the conflicts – were failed states suffering from bad governance, instability, absence of the rule of law, cronyism and widespread poverty. War has amplified those ills by several factors.
Reading up on both the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts, it’s hard to decipherwho’s fighting who. The gullible will side with one sectarian faction or another depending on their own confessionalism or political affiliation. The reality of the situations is much more complex. I don’t believe these are simple proxy wars in which regional powers are just duking it out. That’s partly the case to be sure, but you would be remiss if you didn’t factor in the dissatisfaction of the people with the current rule and social injustice. These alone have given the necessary fodder for ISIS, Alqaeda and various other non-state actors who readily promise the creation of a better, more just society where Sharia rules supreme to establish a just society. In theory this is all good, and this is one of the main reasons why these groups receive the sympathy and support they need from a desperate populace to propagate and sustain their rule. However, in practice we’ve seen that it doesn’t work. That cloak of religiosity simply hides and also justifies their avarice, throne grabbing and terrorism they revel in.
How are these conflicts going to be resolved? History has taught us that political differences cannot be resolved through the use of force. In fact, the use of force should be expedient to get those who can influence change to the table; however, here, it seems to be used in vengeance, purely and simply. Decision makers conveniently forget that the only victory they will realise ultimately is a Pyrrhic one.
How these conflicts must be resolved is through dialogue and incremental victories for all sides. War is not and never has been the answer. It just doesn’t work. At best, war distracts governments from the real challenges that if not addressed immediately will ensure that the whole Middle East will not be habitable in just 25 years. Wars will just accelerate that eventuality. The challenges we face include the acute dearth of water, despicably bad education, unemployment, over population, an undiversified income and bad investments, the finite availability of oil, cronyism, and of course political and human rights ills. With these critical shortcomings, why add war into the mix? Isn’t it just another energy depleting factor sidetracking us from what we actually need to take care of? Aren’t the challenges we face not existential enough? Is war really necessary in the first place?
Let me add one more thing to that despicable list. We are morally bankrupt.
How can our countries see all the suffering of the people of Syria and Yemen and not open their doors wide to receive the refugees and the destitute to lessen their suffering, even if temporarily?
Why are our governments appear to be sitting idle while our Arab brothers and sisters put themselves in peril crossing seas and walking vast distances to seek safety, just to be rejected at borders?
Isn’t it our moral obligation to receive them and ease their suffering? Why are we leaving it to European countries to offer them succour and help in the name of human rights and we shun them completely as if they don’t exist? Didn’t we play a role in their destitution in the first place? While the conflicts didn’t just start because of terrorist parasites, they definitely greatly contribute to the conflicts now. Where did those fighters in Iraq, Syria and Yemen come from in the first place? Did they descend from space? No, they were bred and raised in our own countries only to now wreak havoc all over the world. Yes, we need to defeat them. But we also need to accept those who need our help and open our borders to them while we mount operations to crush the terrorists. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Our countries are a mess, but solutions are staring us in the face!
How about starting with respecting human rights and apply fair and universally accepted laws across the board without favouritism? How about introducing real democracy in order for the rights of everyone be protected and establish a more just society in which the individual regardless of affiliation is respected and protected? It can’t be that difficult. All that is required is political will to allow these changes to be adopted over time.
Remember though, we just have 35 or so years to real peril. Now that a timeline has been set in stone, we need to work toward those sustainable goals. Goals of peace and democracy.
We really have to give peace and democracy a chance. For our children’s sake.
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 â‚¬1.4 million a go, not including the training they could subscribe to at the cheap cheap price of â‚¬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.
THE Interior Ministry is set to crack down on defamation against national and public figures on social media networks, the acting general director for combatting electronic and economic crimes revealed yesterday.
He said anyone can report violations with details of the websites and eForums involved to the ministry website.
He said the ministry had received complaints by personalities who demanded an end to such acts.
“Online smear campaigns are tarnishing the reputation of national and public figures,” he said, warning that violators would be prosecuted.
He stressed that legal procedures wouldn’t mean curtailment of the freedom of expression but to deal with cyber crimes.
No matter how well intentioned this move is, some will take full advantage of it to continue to sow the seeds of discord in this country. This will be their ready and preferred method of exacting vengeance by levelling baseless allegations against those whom they don’t agree with. It will of course waste a lot of the authorities’ time who will be required to following up those allegations. At best, this move will see the return of the “traitor circles” this society has been suffering to this day for the past 18 months.
This is a very dangerous, not well thought out and completely unnecessary escalation that will further relegate Bahrain’s already damaged reputation to the very back of the various press, human rights and freedoms indices around the world.
The timing of announcing and enacting such a scheme is very wrong too, just days before Bahrain has to face the music in front of the UN Human Rights commission. Regardless, we have enough problems to contend with, why add one completely avoidable issue on an already heaping plate? A reboot and a grounded rethinking is very much required, gentlemen.
I know Nabeel Rajab personally. I have very high respect for him and his ceaseless work to defend human rights and his activism in that regard. Everything I’ve read about him so far supports my conviction that I have not misread the man. The claims levied against him of violence instigation amongst a plethora of other baseless accusations do not wash. I am fully convinced that he is innocent and he is serving a jail sentence now in an effort to silence his severe criticism of the regime; something that this country’s very constitution protects.
Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience.
He did nothing more than stand fast for his lawful convictions and as such must be released unharmed and left to continue to practice his own human right of self expression without interference. Those who’ve imprisoned him must know that imprisoning him will not silence the growing dissenting voices in this country or abroad, what that does, in fact, is solidify Nabeel’s image as a worthy national hero.
I can’t but stop and contemplate what real leaders go through to ensure that the rest of us stand a chance of a better life in our own countries. These courageous men and women sacrificed and continue to pay for ourÂ freedom; yet, they unjustly languish in jails which are closer to hell than being rehabilitation centers. All for speaking their minds. All for believing that it is their humanÂ right to express themselves in a country that claims to respect that right, but does everything in its power to quash it into nonexistence. All one has to do, is to read the headlines in the daily papers.
I fail to see a viable resolution at the moment. Especially when one side of the equation looks at the people’s struggles for democracy as an existential issue in that if they give anything, then they will be wiped out. Failing to realize that with the loosening of the reins, a good, civil and democratic society is going to extend their rule beyond their own imagining.
I feel so powerless and so ashamed of what is happening here. Especially when to me, the solution is staring everyone in the face.
My full respect to Ebrahim Sharif and all prisoners of conscience in Bahrain and beyond. Your courage and sacrifice shall not be wasted.