Tag Archives human-rights

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]
website

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.

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Going South

If you’re already wet, would being sprayed make you even wetter? What if you jumped in the pool when you’re already wet, would that make you wetter? Of course not. So what if Bahrain once again went south in its ranking in the Press Freedom Index for 2006? Okay, it’s just a few ranking postions: from 155 in 2004 to 156 in 2005 and 158 in 2006… the only bright side of this that I can think of is that we have reached bottom, and the only way is up, or get covered in silt and wait a few million years to make something worthwhile of our existence!

Let’s see what the full 2005 report says about us (pdf) and revel in its praise:

BAHRAIN
STATUS: NOT FREE

LEGAL ENVIRONMENT: 24
POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT: 26
ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT: 22
TOTAL SCORE: 72

The constitution allows for the right to press freedom, excluding opinions that undermine the fundamental beliefs of Islam or those that promote discord or sectarianism. This right is restricted further in practice. The 2002 Press Law catalogs a variety of press crimes, severely curtailing the range of topics the press is permitted to cover. Though suspended
soon after promulgation, the law continues to be enforced at the government’s discretion. Nonetheless, the press has grown bolder in its criticism of government policies and other controversial issues in recent years. In May, the Chamber of Deputies proposed a draft law to create an Information Council that would increase transparency and access to information. As of December, the draft had not been approved.

Internet freedom came under increased pressure in Bahrain in 2005. Despite boasting a liberal telecom environment, the Bahraini government does filter some content, monitoring emails and blocking access to several political opposition websites, In February the government arrested the moderator of the web log www.bahrainonline.com, Ali Abdul Imam, along with two web technicians for disseminating defamatory material through the site’s discussion forum. Released after several weeks amid protest, Abdul Imam’s arrest was quickly followed by a decree by the Ministry of Information requiring all Bahraini website moderators to register with the ministry within three months, a move decried by human rights advocates as a means to monitor and stifle freedom of expression on the web. The government is not the only threat to press freedom. For example, a Muslim cleric threatened the editor-in-chief of the daily Al Ayam and led a massive protest after the paper published political cartoons depicting the Ayatollah Khamenei and offending many Shi’ites in Bahrain.

Print media are privately owned, but they usually exercise self-censorship in articles covering sensitive topics and are often issued government ‘directives’ on how to report certain stories. The government continues to own and operate almost all radio and television stations in the country, and these outlets largely conform to the government position. In October, the first private radio station began broadcasting music and entertainment, but does not cover news or current affairs. Broadcast media from neighboring countries are available, however, and the number of households with access to satellite channels continues to grow. Saudi-owned entertainment satellite channel MBC2 has broadcast from Bahrain since 2003. In 2004, the government lifted a two-year ban on correspondents from the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera.
Freedom House :: MENA 2006 Freedom of the Press report :: pdf

In a recent press release, the same organisation said this about this whole region, and I cannot agree with its conclusion more:

Despite overall improvements in press freedom in the Middle East and North Africa over the last several years, the region continues to rank the lowest for press freedoms in the world, according to a major study released today by Freedom House. However, there are a number of countries that are close to an upgrade from Not Free to Partly Free status, if a few key reforms are implemented.

Generally, media in the region remain constrained by extremely restrictive legal environments in most countries. Most problematic to media freedom are the laws criminalizing libel and defamation and prohibiting any insult to monarchs and other rulers, as well as emergency legislation that remains in place which hampers the ability of journalists to write freely.
Freedom House :: 27 Apr ’06

I hope our exalted MPs, especially the bearded ones are listening.

This is what you (the MPs) take with you to your graves.. you had a real chance in your lives at least to attempt to make a difference, and you continue to squander it.

Well done Bahrain. I would like, on this very auspicious occasion, to congratulate both the Ministry of Information and the Bahraini Parliament for these reports and new rankings.

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Is the Wahabi wall crumbling?

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I sure hope so, and judging by this article, it might well be the beginning of the end, and not a moment too soon, says I:

“This is one of the blessings of September 11. It put the brakes on the [Wahhabi] practice of takfir , excommunicating everyone who didn’t exactly follow their creed,” said Sayed Habib Adnan, a 33-year-old Sufi teacher. The government “realized that maybe enforcing one religious belief over all others was not such a good idea.”
Washington Post :: Faiza Saleh Ambah :: 2 May ’06

Ya think?

Well who said there isn’t a silver lining in every “bad” thing that happens? If we continue just to look at the glass always being half empty, we’ll just succumb to thirst and die.

I believe that Sufism has the answer to a lot of questions about religion. If your central being is focused on God in all of his manifestations and how He appears to you in your own heart, you will soon empty it of hatred and achieve the spiritual completeness that everyone is looking for.

I firmly believe that there are many roads leading to God, and maintaining an illusion – even by force – that one path in particular is the right path, disregards His greatness and just demonstrates your selfishness.

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RSF’s 2006 Internet Report

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Here’s what RSF have to say about Bahrain:

Except for pornographic sites, Bahrain does not censor the Internet much. But it has unfortunately begun to regulate it in ways that endanger freedom of expression. The government said in April 2004 that all online publications, including forums and blogs, must be officially registered. Loud protests led to suspension of the measure but it is still on the books. Three editors of a forum were held for nearly two weeks in March 2005 for allowing “defamation” of the king to be posted.

Download RSF’s 2006 Internet Report (pdf)

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Freedom without security isn’t much of a freedom!

blogging the 4th Arab Media Forum in Dubai

This is the over-riding feeling at the “Status of Iraqi media” chaired by Jassim Al-Azzawi and included Faisal Al-Yasseri (founder and chairman of Al-Diyar television channel), Ismael Zayer (Managing Editor at Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed newspaper) and Adnan Hussain (the noted writer and long time Saddam-regime opponent writing for Asharq Al-Awsat in London) as panelists.

Although the session started later than advertised, once it got going the panelists shared with us some surprising facts about how they see the Iraqi media as they live it, day in and day out. The most surprising factor to me is their adaptability to a scene without rules was and is painful! Imagine Al-Yasseri chasing government organisations for 6 months to notify them of his intention to start a television channel (notification, mind you, not seeking approval) and the absence of laws was also a deterrant to “real” journalism as there is no press and publication law, according to Zayer, which he still vehemently opposes, but is now insisting on the establishment of a ‘code of ethics’ that would bind all journalists.

Another surprising factor is the plethora of media outlets there are in Iraq: according to them, there are 26 satellite television stations, 40 terrestrial television stations and more than 100 newspapers including just a few tabloids! Try to compare that with what the scene was like just a few years ago. But all is not very happy, the whole media industry is in a flux; newspapers, television and radio channels have become far too politically motivated, with no real disclosure on who owns what, but a person can certainly deduce where a particular publication or television station is leaning. Apart from their political stances, a number of media outlets are clearly sectarian, even to the extent of using derogatory terms in which to call one sect or another. Some even go to the extent of inciting violence, and here is the biggest surprise to me: Iraqis – according to the panelists anyway – detest Al-Jazeera! Al-Jazeera is scene as nothing more than a terrorist mouth-piece which unashamedly encourage the continuation of violence in Iraq through its twisted reporting and its programs. The very same method has been adopted by a number of sectarian stations, which – Al-Azzawi says – had there been any liability laws, the vast majority of journalists and media persons would probably be thrown in prison not to be seen again.

According to Zayer again, there are quite a number publications which are indirectly owned by the government or political parties; more importantly, these government organs channels funds and advertising revenue to their preferred papers and not just ignoring others who do not share their views, but create a number of hurdles to cripple those which fell out of their favours. One such tactic is the “partial shutdown of districts/marshal law” which not only restricts the ability of newspapers to be printed, but completely throttles distribution. Therefore, with no money coming in, publishers continue to be unsure if they can continue to produce such a newspaper.

That restriction is by no means the exclusive domain of government; however, again Zayer stresses that if for instance Al-Sadr or his people get aggrieved because of a written article, then you could forget distributing your paper into their controlled territories in Baghdad and the south; while if you tick off the sunni leaders, you could forget about distributing your paper in parts of Baghdad, Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul.

The television landscape is not much different than newspapers, Al-Yasseri related to us that although on the books he has 291 employees at Al-Diyar television channel, he would get ecstatic if only 60 turn up for work! He is lucky that he does not have to resort to installing concrete defences around his station (which was the original Al-Jazeera headquarters in Baghdad previously) some of his employees paid with their lives reporting for the only live program he provides (the news): one reporter was killed in Fallujah by shooting, another got killed in Baghdad, and yet another was killed because it became known that he was carrying cash on him (US$13,000) to go buy a UPS for the station. Al-Yasseri believes that the last victim was murdered because someone at the station collaborating with outside criminal elements for the cash, this shows very clearly the lawlessness Iraq suffers from, and the disregard for human life there at the moment.

As to freedoms, it was agreed that although media is infinitely freer than it was in the previous era, there is no sense for that freedom if it is not coupled with a secure environment where a journalist continuously fears for his or her life. This was amply demonstrated by Adnan Hussain who read to us one of his regularly received death threats from Iraq from someone who took umbrage with Hussain’s criticism of Dr. Ja’afari, even though it should be noted that generally, when a journalist criticises someone, that criticism is not personal but most probably to the position he fills.

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A present to Ali Matter and his lot

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Shaikh Ali MattarLash and Mask KitYes, ladies and gentlemen, this is a special lash and mask kit I would like to present to our dear member of parliament Ali Mattar who suggested the very valid and totally workable solution to penalise errant journalists… WHIP THEIR ASS!

And of course Mattar is going to wear that mask while he’s doling out the lashings punishment (arabic).

Mattar of course backtracked on his brainfart and justified it by saying that he was just joking! Well, I never thought that this guy and the whole herd he belongs to have any sense of humour whatsoever. But I am obviously wrong so I fully and humbly and unambiguously apologise for my temerity.

At a time when he and his compatriots in this parliament should fight tooth and nail to increase civil rights, what we get is the continuous attempts by them to restrict them. When we look to them to develop the penal law and establish true correctional facilities, we get them proposing amputating limbs and chopping off heads to combat crime, when we want to encourage tourism, they blindly and willingly categorise any concert as satanist and entice simpletons to riot to force a closure of a concert, and the list goes on…

brainfart!A joke? Not by a long shot.

It is their secret wish to change this country into an Islamist Wahabi extremist state living more than 1,400 years in the past.

It is their secret wish to encourage and applaud suicide bombers and see innocent blood flow in the streets of Bahrain.

It is their secret wish to want to kill anyone who simply opposes their twisted and moronic thoughts and beliefs, using their brand of Islam as justification.

But they are no secrets at all! They have come out and declared all of these factors in the very parliament we voted for in 2002!

The only time we will see a smile on their mugs is when they achieve their version of Bahrainistan, only then will they be happy:

Taliban Afghani religious policeman lashing someone who is not in the mosque during prayer time.

Are we to continue to stand around and let these brain-dead jokers control our lives? Are these the kind of people we really want to get into parliament again?

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Truth & Reconciliation!

The best news to come out of Bahrain for a very very long time… this could be the very thing we need to turn a new page for the whole community, after 30 very dark years:

Justice and reconciliation in the Bahrain reform process will come under the spotlight at a five-day conference organised by MPs and civil societies, which opens at Elite Suites Hotel in Sanabis tomorrow.

Bahraini MPs, members of human rights and political societies will join international human rights delegates from all over the world for the conference on Transitional Justice.

Parliament vice-chairman Abdulhadi Marhoun and Bahrain Society for Freedoms and Democracy (BSFD) president Ali Orrayedh will give the opening address at the conference.

Three papers on transitional justice in Bahrain will be presented by members of the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), the Committee for Former Exiles (Returnees) and the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture.

New York-based International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) director Hani Magali, Washington-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) office director and Middle East and North Africa division director Joe Stork and Morocco-based International Federation for Human Rights president and Moroccan Truth and Reconciliation Committee member Idrees Al Yazmi will open a second session, on aspects of transitional justice.
GDN :: 22 Apr ’06

I have been calling for a truth and reconciliation commission in Bahrain for some time now to start the dialogue and repair some of the damage meted out to a large portion of the society in the 90s and at other times. I am extremely happy and really encouraged that we finally have something like this happening in Bahrain now.

This is really excellent news.

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An historic day for our parliament

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Will they rise up to the challenge, or continue to disappoint?

Today they hold a special session to discuss and amend the Press Law which contains parts which necessitate imprisoning journalists for what they write.

The islamists – as expected – are all for imprisoning the writer AND his managing editor who dares challenge any of their beliefs and crosses what they mark as a red line. Demanding respect by terror, but not stopping of course at denigrating God, religions, the Qur’an and the Prophets, but going further by criminalising anyone who dares question the Prophet’s (Mohammed) companions and wives, and as a nod to the Shi’as I guess, the Prophet’s progeny.

The penalty for this is a minimum prison sentence of 3 months to 1 year AND a fine the minimum of which is BD 5,000 to 10,000.

I’m not sure how they could reconcile this over the top punishments when (a) the king specifically said that he is completely against jailing journalists for their thoughts, and (b) the constitution which specifically says that punishment should be individual rather than several.

I’m not sure either how they could reconcile this with the two agreements the king has signed (but parliament didn’t pass yet) which deal with the political and human rights as detailed by the United Nations.

The thing is, reading the papers since last Tuesday, several political parties have changed their tune (read Al-Wasat and Al-Waqt of today for analysis) and most are not doing away with imprisonment and replacing that with heavy fines.

We await the outcome of these special sessions… I just hope that they look at this law as an important democratic tool to insure Bahrain’s progress going forth, rather than some known numbskulls translating it into ways to get their own back at the press and handcuff journalists from exposing corruption and reporting the truth.

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Dr. Munira Fakhro

Dr. Munira Fakhro

Dr. Munira Fakhro“When the political turmoil happened in the 1990s, I signed a petition for the return of democracy and for a parliament, as one of the fourteen leaders, and the only woman, I added a paragraph on women’s equality. I realised there was great injustice during the 1990s which was happening to a large number of Bahraini people, those who were against the government.”

Then, along with 350 other women, she wrote another, sharper petition, which was sent to the late Amir Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa in 1995. She and many others were suspended or fired from their jobs. She went to America for several years as a visiting scholar to Columbia, her alma mater, and then to Harvard where she presented the Bahraini case for democracy. She returned in 2001 to Bahrain and to the university.

As a member of the political association, The National Democratic Action Society, she believes, “You cannot separate democracy from other women’s causes … I believe that men and women should work together, for women or men or the whole society. We have so many men who believe in such issues (women’s rights), who work with us either at the university as scholars or at the political association.”

Bahrain is in fine form, as long as she continues to produce people like Dr. Munira Fakhro, a person who should be emulated and respected for all the sacrifices she already offered and continues to do so daily.

Looking at some of her various scientific and political contributions, I realise now that she not only touched Bahrain, but through her work she also influenced countless others in the world too.

It is people like Dr. Fakhro who should be celebrated, and roads and towns should be named after them, because their contribution to this society far outweighs what society can actually give them back.

And I would rather have her in parliament, helping and deciding Bahrain’s future, than the whole bunch who occupy it at the moment.

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