Tag Archives human-rights

CNN: Poverty in Bahrain

Lulu once again has an excellent opinion which is well worth reading:

Hala Gorani, presenter of “Inside the Middle East,” apparently was in Bahrain, interviewing Shi’a poor villagers, Nabeel Rajab, and a couple of government Ministers. The program started with an assertion that Bahrain, despite being one of the world’s richest countries in terms of per capita GDP, has a “hidden population.” Political and economic issues in Bahrain were reduced to ” long-standing tensions” between the ” poor Shi’a majority” and the “ruling Sunni elite.” And that’s that.

update: Anwar Abdulrahman, that doyen of democracy and righteousness has also spoken about this subject in his column in today’s GDN:

This must reflect the extreme naivety of producer Hala Qorani, who has allowed herself and her film crew to be lured into exaggerated and unrepresentative situations.

I wonder what they hoped to achieve by such blatantly untrue, unfair and biased reporting. Bahrain is presently buzzing on the cusp of an economic boom, which must have been obvious to these cameramen and ‘journalists’ as they toured various parts of the country.

Ironically also, such irresponsible reportage has been released when the United Nations has bestowed high honour on our Prime Minister for his key role in human development, placing the urban poor at the very centre of Bahrain’s modernisation strategy.

can you smell the roses yet?


Loving thy country

Ali Al-Khabbaz, a Bahraini at the receiving end of police brutality

I’m not sure what the Ministry of the Interior wants to achieve by its continuous excessive use of force.

If this is their idea of instilling love for the country, they failed; if it is their intention to protect public and private property, they failed, their habitual use of tear gas and rubber bullets and other “crowd control” measures probably damage more properties than demonstrators do; if they want to live up to the “security” label in their name, they failed, you do not provide security by adopting terror tactics; if they want to cow people and dissuade them from talking about or participating in political activities, they failed, you do not do that by intimidation in fact the ministry’s action only strengthens the hand of the opposition and increase their sympathisers when they see images like these.

It is despicable that the ministry whose main task is to “serve and protect” is the very one that does quote the opposite.

The time has come for that ministry and its overlords to take real stock of their mandate and the situation on the ground to reevaluate their role as it is very clear to me that their leadership have lost their compass. It is high time for that compass to be restored and measures put in place to not allow the ministry to simply become a mercenary force whose only task is to the legal terror-mongering branch of government.

Talk. Discuss. Understand what the actual reasons for this discontent and work toward effecting a permanent fix. This is the way the government and the opposition should adopt. Continuous skirmishes will only lead to a further departure of opportunities from Bahrain.


Collecting the reigns

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Wasn’t it only a few years ago that the then Minister of the Interior got, erm, sidegraded because he ordered his troops to “intervene” against a public demonstration attended by high religious figures, in which one of those respected figures got injured and taken to hospital?

When the new minister took the reigns and due to new policies he put in place – community police, more openness, good PR, etc – he actually was loved and hope was hung on him that he will be changing the turbid reputation of that much loathed ministry into something more modern, tolerant, understanding and civic.

That ministry seems to be adopting the same tactics recently as its predecessor and negating all the hard work which has taken place since its leadership’s change, by essentially acting like a thug against any and all public demonstrations hiding behind a law which is directly at odds with international human rights covenants the kingdom has legally adopted.

I hope it is not too late for the minister to take control of his ministry again by demonstrating the same civic spirit on his accepting the responsibility. I have hope because the gentleman has amply demonstrated his willingness to listen and to take immediate actions to fix wrongs; he was the first, for instance, who has required all his top officers to attend human rights seminars and other programs which entrench the idea that they – the ministry – is there to serve and protect the public, and not be a tool for continued subjugation and silencing the voices of political opposition.

Is there a reason then for the continuous inordinate use of violence to quell demonstrations? Is there a reason for the continuous firing of tear gas into populated and sometimes crowded neighbourhoods? Is there a reason for rubber bullets? Is there a reason to face violence with even more violence?

Is there a specific and legitimate reason to target and shoot one of our leading national symbols of democracy?

My humble advice to the good minister is that it is high time to take up the reigns again and tighten that slack a bit, else the horse will bolt. And that doesn’t take a violent pull to achieve, just a gentle gathering up of the reigns and the horse will be beautifully collected.

A kind work and a judicious glance is sometimes all that is needed.


Temporary cessation of hostilities announced

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And this is how the political situation – or at least what they want to desperately term as political – goes. A continuous cat-and-mouse game with no regard nor any attempt is made to encode and inculcate just laws which serve as a benchmark that is applied to everyone regardless of shape, colour or size.

The king has ordered the the case dropped which was levied against Hassan Mushaim’i, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Shaker Abdulhussain for “publicly inciting hatred against and scorning the regime and broadcasting news and rumors that may cause internal unrest and publicly inciting resistance to the authorities and not to bow to laws.

That is excellent news of course, especially – as I predicted earlier – at a time when quite a number of Bahraini villages were rioting against not only this particular case but due to the general anger people are feeling on how this “democratic experiment” is going.

So the case is dropped, no more rioting (hopefully) will occur on the 21st, a day which was earmarked as “support Mushaim’i day” throughout Bahrain, but how long will this situation last? Any spark here will light the fires again because there is no equitable base to maintain a state of political equilibrium.

It seems that the government only reacts when it is absolutely necessary for it to do so, giving the impression that they are telling the people that they will only get what they want only if they forcefully demand it, or drag it out from between the government’s clamped jaws.

This “getting it by force” attitude was quite evident recently with the government’s repeated attempt to derail the newly proposed Press & Publications Law submitted by five members of the Shura Council by submitting its own amendments to the old law immediately! According to parliamentary bylaws, the government’s submissions take precedence, therefore, the Shura submitted laws will constitutionally be ignored.

One has to ask the question; however, if those amendments were obviously ready for some time, and demands for the Press & Publications Law number 47/2002 have been continuous, why did the government wait for an action to effect a reaction?

My view of governments’ function and primary task is to not just establish a bar to which all can strive to, but also continuously raise it in order to encourage creativity and competitiveness engendering continuous development; thus, raising the standard of living of all its citizens by doing so by placing the country at good international competitive plains at which it will excel by virtue of these functions.

What this government seems to be doing is quite the reverse. It is high time that it woke up from its lethargic slumber and realize that the times have been changing and the world no longer can afford to wait around for us to catch up. We will simply be left behind and quite quickly forgotten.

It is high time that the constitution and laws be retooled to take this into account and the sooner we get this done, the faster we can really turn the page and get on with our lives within a modern world order. Comprehensively retooling the constitution (which is the mother of laws) and removing the shackles on criticism, freedom of speech and personal freedoms will afford us the necessary agility to compete in this day and age; continuous cats-and-mice games will not.

I salute his majesty the king for ordering the case against these activists be dropped, but I also implore him to lead the kingdom into the future by ordering already agreed constitutional amendments to be adopted so that we can truly be a globally competitive Constitutional Monarchy.


It’s over

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I’m glad to inform you that the libel case levied against me by the minister of agricultural affairs and municipalities Mansour bin Rajab has officially been dropped this morning and the judge has accepted our joint signed document.

As such, I have removed the gag!

I’ll blog more about the whole experience at a later date, maybe even write a book, goodness knows I have enough material to fill a few pages up!

Thanks once again to everyone for your invaluable support especially to Adel Marzooq and Fatima Al-Hawaj for their tremendous unselfish efforts exerted on my behalf.


BJA Press Release in regards to the case settlement between Al-Yousif and bin Rajab

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بيان من جمعية الصحفيين البحرينية

الجمعية تعلن ارتياحها للمصالحة بين البلوغر “اليوسف” والوزير “رجب”

تعلن جمعية الصحفيين البحرينية عن ارتياحها للمصالحة التي تمت بين البلوغر البحريني محمود اليوسف ووزير البلديات منصور بن رجب والتي أفضت إلى سحب القضية المرفوعة أمام القضاء البحريني ضد البلوغر اليوسف.

هذا، وتتقدم الجمعية بالشكر الجزيل إلى المحامية فاطمة الحواج – ممثلة الجمعية في الدفاع عن البلوغر محمود اليوسف على ما قدمته من جهود في سبيل إتمام هذه المصالحة مقدرة الدور الإيجابي للمحاميين البحرينيين في الدفاع عن الصحافة والصحفيين وعن حرية الكلمة في البحرين.

هذا، وتأتي هذه المصالحة بعدما عبرت شتى الفعاليات السياسية في البحرين عن مساندتها لموقف الجمعية الداعم للبلوغر اليوسف، ومن هذا المنطلق، تتقدم الجمعية بشكرها لجميع المؤسسات السياسية والحقوقية التي ساهمت في دعم قضية البلوغر محمود اليوسف من داخل البحرين وخارجها.

إننا في جمعية الصحفيين البحرينية نؤمن بأن حرية المدونيين البحرينيين في تناول شتى الموضوعات السياسية والحقوقية والاجتماعية والثقافية هي جزء لا يتجزأ من حرية الإنسان البحريني في التعبير عن رأيه. ونؤمن أيضاً، ان المدونات البحرينية اليوم هي إحدى فصول المكون الإعلامي في البحرين.

إن حرية الكلمة والفضاءات المفتوحة للرأي هي الضمانة الرئيسية في اكتمال العملية السياسية والتنموية في البلاد، وهو ما يجعلنا في جمعية الصحفيين مسئولين عن الدفاع عن هذه الضمانة في وجه إي محاولة لقمعها أو الانتقاص منها.

عادل مرزوق
نائب رئيس جمعية الصحفيين البحرينية

Sorry, I don’t have time to translate it just now as I have to be elsewhere, but will try to do so tomorrow. Needless to say, I would like to thank the BJA very much indeed for standing by me and all bloggers in Bahrain in support of the basic human right of freedom of speech.


Demands for change are gathering apace

The weather was hot, the temperature was certainly over 40 degrees Celsius and the humidity wasn’t forgiving and neither was the sun, but the intelligentsia or Bahrain gathered yesterday in front of the Parliament building to demonstrate in commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day, in solidarity with Isa Al-Shayji who is demanding that MP Mohammed Khaled’s parliamentary immunity be lifted in order for him to stand trial accused of publicly insulting him and of course to show the community’s refusal of that heinous Press and Publications Law of 2002 in which journalists could be (and have) summarily imprisoned for simply practicing the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression and demanded that that law be withdrawn, amended or replaced.

World Press Freedom Day demonstration in Bahrain

The number of people present were a cross section of society but all of whom share a basic understanding that they support the basic human right of the freedom to express oneself without fear of persecution.

In spite of the heat and humidity, the general atmosphere was happily cautious; yet generally hopeless that we could look to an the impotent parliament to our backs of doing anything germane to help in raising the bar and allowing this great society to elevate itself to a status equal to those it admires for freedoms others take for granted.

Even though the general average age of those gathered was certainly in the twenties, all were aware of these facts and everyone’s hope was tempered; optimism does not come cheap in these circles, all have suffered directly, or know someone who has, a judge’s gavel which shattered the even tenuous illusion of freedom gained.

Greetings done, hands shaken, smiles exchanged and the general somewhat expectant gaiety was not even shattered by the arrival of a jovial officer soon after the first few members gathered at the announced time. Half an hour or so later our numbers were bolstered with a few more individuals each of which carries the weight of whole cross-sections of society: Qassim Haddad, Ebrahim Sharif, Hassan Madan and a plethora of human rights activists lending their much needed support.

90 minutes or so after the initial gathering final communiqués were read, placards were stowed and streams of these guardians of the freedoms of expression started to drift away, hopefully to continue to exert and sustain pressure on parliament and government to force infusion blood into flaccid brains to get them to realise that if left alone, the press can and will be the ideal and unwavering partner for progress they sorely need.


Demonstration at Parliament on Thursday, be there!

«الصحفيين» تدعو للاعتصام أمــــام «النيــابي» الخميــس المقبــل

ناشدت جمعية الصحفيين البحرينية جموع الصحافيين والمثقفين والفنانين البحرينيين ”الاعتصام أمام مجلس النواب الخميس المقبل، احتجاجا على مجمل ما أنتجه المجلس في دورته الحالية من قرارات ولجان تحقيق بحق الثقافة والإبداع وحرية الكلمة”.

وفي سياق متصل، استغربت الجمعية في بيان أصدرته أمس (الأحد) رفض لجنة الشؤون التشريعية بالمجلس رفع الحصانة عن عضو كتلة المنبر الإسلامي النائب محمد خالد في القضية التي رفعها ضده رئيس الجمعية عيسى الشايجي.

وعبرت الجمعية في بيانها عن ”كامل تضامنها مع الزميل الشايجي فيما تعرض له من إهانة وقذف مباشر من قبل النائب خالد”ØŒ معربة عن قلقها من ”اتجاه الكتل النيابية الأعضاء في اللجنة للمساس بحرية الصحافة وقمعها معتمدين على الحصانة النيابية ”ØŒ وفق البيان. واعتبرت الجمعية، هذا الموقف من قبل النواب ”مخزٍ، ويطرح الكثير من الأسئلة عن مصداقية المجلس من جهة وعن تلك الوعود التي أطلقوها في الدفاع عن الصحافيين وإصدار قانون صحافة متطور من جهة أخرى”.

The Bahrain Journalists Association has called for a demonstration in front of the Parliament building this Thursday at 5pm 4.30pm to show to denounce the dearth of parliamentary output in its first session.

The BJA also expresses its deep concern for parliament’s refusal to remove MP Mohammed Khaled’s parliamentary immunity so that he can be tried in a case levied against him by the president of the BJA Isa Al-Shaiji for defamation and slander.

I plan to be there, it is important to demonstrate to the “people’s representatives” that they are anything but. Especially with the ridiculous efforts exerted by them collectively to restrict personal and all other freedoms.


mum’s the word

This sounds SO familiar!

وقال العضو البلدي ربيع في رده على الاتهام الموجه له: أنا قلت ما قلت من باب ممارسة دوري الرقابي الذي يكفله الدستور لي كمواطن وكعضو بلدي، وقد ناشدت جلالة الملك بالتدخل لإصلاح أوضاع الوزارة إصلاحاً كلياً.

وأكد «أنا لم أهن أية سلطة، وإنما كنت أمارس دوري الرقابي، وهدفي كان الصالح العام وليس توجيه الإهانة لأي أحد».

يشار إلى أن المادة (216) من قانون العقوبات تنص على أنه «يعاقب بالحبس أو الغرامة من أهان بإحدى طرق العلانية المجلس الوطني أو غيره من الهيئات النظامية أو الجيش أو المحاكم أو السلطات أو المصالح العامة».
الوسط – ١٩/Ù¤/٢٠٠٧

The councillor stated that: “I did not insult any authority, what I did was exercise my oversight responsibility and my intention was to the general good of the country rather than purposefully insulting anyone“.

In an email interview, the Jerusalem Post reporter asked me whether the troubles I am facing are symptomatic of attempts by the government of Bahrain to silence criticism. I answered no, of course not, I don’t believe in conspiracies.

I would like to change my answer now to the affirmative.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any shadow of a doubt any more. Any criticism is not taken as just that any more, an attempt from concerned citizens to better their lot and to act in a supervisory role and attempt with their criticism to correct or at least highlight the various ills they experience on a daily basis in their own country, but as personal attacks and summary insults that hurt delicate feelings of purer than pure government organs and their officials.

More gardening and photography posts coming up!


Squeeky clean government

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Bahrain’s is the only country in the world that can claim that its government organs and personnel are completely free of corruption.

Saying anything to the contrary, even if you were an elected official, would put you in the dock.

How is that for an ordinary citizen then?

I think it’s probably safer to avoid even hinting of these things from now on…