Tag Archives Politics

Albawasil need protection!

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And so they should.

A security officer’s job is thankless, hard and requires intelligence, self-control, continuous training and much empathy with people of all walks of life. They also continuously have to make tough choices which must always fall within the rule of law; hence, their continuous appropriate training is critical. The title of “albawasil” – the courageous ones – which is given to them is not undeserved.

They must also continuously be on their best behaviour and must curtail and suppress animalistic instincts and urges to viciously respond to difficult situations with excessive use of force. As security officers, they know that they are always held to much higher standards than the persons they are paid to protect. It is a very tough and demanding job indeed. Not everyone is cut out to be one of the cadres of the Bawasil.

Unfortunately the above description does not wholly apply to the security forces in this country, as much as I would dearly love it be so.

Some of the security officers here do anything but suppress their urges, as witnessed by hundreds of videos on the Internet clearly showing them breaking the very laws they are employed to protect. The BICI itself reserved a large proportion of its findings to clearly show the intransigence of some of the security forces, the contempt they held citizens in and the havoc they wreaked since February last year which so far resulted in five confirmed deaths under torture while in custody and tens killed and attributed to their interventions.

Empathy, on the police’s part, seem to be completely lacking both in the local and foreign cadres. With some of the officers being Bahraini, one would think that they would be more empathetic; hence, act in a better and more humane fashion toward their charges, or in the least act within the bounds of international human rights and norms. That empathy, if it exists in the local cadres, seem to be evidently absent in the foreign recruits. With the vast majority of the MoI’s cadres being foreign and ignorant of our norms and language, how can they even begin to be empathetic to the citizens of this country? Is it a wonder then that they themselves resorted to their own embassies for protection rather than raise their concerns with their own superiors? Of course not. They sought empathy from their countries and brethren as any normal human would; but what they’ve demonstrated by that single action is show that their loyalty does not reside with their employer, let alone to the country that provides for their livelihoods. With that irresponsible action, they’ve also clearly demonstrated the fact that they do not hold their employers in much regard and trust, or at least, they must have recognised that those superiors would not provide them the needed succor and protection. For that, they resorted to their own embassies.

The Cabinet seems to have taken note of their fears and thought of doing something pro-active to address them by proposing tougher sentences on those who attack the police:

The Cabinet yesterday endorsed the compilation of a new bill to ensure stricter punishment for those who attack policemen. According to the suggested amendments, a penalty of 15 years in prison would be awarded to both inciters and attackers.

The Cabinet tasked the body concerned to prepare the necessary legal papers and refer the bill to the Legislative authority.

The decision was made after Interior Minister Lt General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa presented a comprehensive document on the growing violence in the Kingdom.

Prime Minister HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa said that the mounting violence, which resulted in injuries to security personnel in the Kingdom, must be encountered and halted.

He spoke as he chaired the regular Cabinet meeting.
The Cabinet then expressed sorrow in view of growing provocative calls to attack policemen in the Kingdom. [source]

I have no quarrel in principle for the cabinet to demand these increased penalties and I hope that these won’t be open-ended measures which could haphazardly open the doors for further abuse of rights. There is a question of degrees however. With 15 years nominally being a life sentence, isn’t the proposed penalty non-consistent with those limits? Or are there now consequent moves afoot to increase the other sentences to be in concert with this proposal?

With these tough sentences being proposed, it would have been an opportune moment to also remind police personnel that although the government is very keen to protect their safety, it is also the government’s foremost responsibility, as it is their’s, to protect the rights of the individual and it will hold them as security personnel of all ranks to a much higher standard of conduct. There is a real fear that this new proposal might increase the sense of unassailability, and impunity as the BICI report has confirmed, if penalties are considered like this without putting them in the proper frame of reference.

The Cabinet should have also dealt with the police’s loyalty issue, for those who sought the protection of foreign embassies have shown complete contempt for this Kingdom. Can we expect those very police personnel to then acquiesce to orders given by foreign leaders against instructions issued by the hierarchy of this country? I would have thought that the criticality of this issue should have been paramount in the Cabinet’s agenda. Ironically, its resolution is simplicity itself: hire local born and bred Bahrainis to have the honor to serve their flag and their leadership and phase out the foreign cadres with our generous thanks and help them transition to lead pleasant old lives in their own countries.

Another opportunity that the government might have considered through its judicial branch is to demonstrate to us citizens that no one is above the law. Just as it is expedient to apply the law onto those who attack the police, it is as such for those in power who abuse their positions, regardless of whomever they are. With over 80 current cases referred to the Public Prosecutor of police brutality and abuse of power ranging from killing protestors in their charges to torture and wrongful imprisonment, I can’t remember a case where a policeman was penalized – or even censured – for his or her wrongful actions, and I’m not talking about the known torturers who were let slip through due to Law 56 of 2002 either.

I pray for the protection of every single policeman and woman doing their honorable duty in this country and elsewhere around the world. Done properly and within the bounds of human rights, they are the vanguard of safety and security. They are the key to continued peace and stability in any country and they should – indeed, must – be protected physically, legislatively and mentally for their sacrifices, but not at the cost of their impunity. Having mechanisms to independently police the police will help them maintain that peace and tranquility that every society craves.

I also pray for the safety and security of every single citizen and resident of this country from violence and brutality howsoever those may occur and dream of a day where we all bask in the protection of universal human rights, equitable and honorable lives.

I beseech everyone, everyone, in light of the approach of the first anniversary of the Bahraini Spring, to stay calm and think of what is best for this pained and fractured country and its people and get those thoughts to transcend personal prejudices and hate. Think of resolution and rapprochement rather than pour even more fuel on already raging fires.

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A glimmer of light at the end of a rather dark tunnel

A group of Bahrainis gathered this morning at Al-Uruba Club, one of the oldest cultural clubs and apparently on their own initiative, to work out a plan to rescue this country from the various ills that has befallen this country. The meeting was led by the highly respected Dr Ali Fakhro, scholar, an ex-minister who held two of the most important portfolios of Education and Health who delivered the following opening speech which set the agenda and objectives of this gathering:

كلمة الدكتور علي فخرو في اجتماع اللقاء الوطني بنادي العروبة

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

ايها الاخوة والاخوات

اهلا بكم في هذا الاجتماع الوطني الجامع ، باسم الوطن كله ، ومن اجل كل شعبه ، بل من اجل كل فرد فيه ، دون منة ودون شروط ، واسمحوا لي ان اقدم خلفية ومقترحات ،ارجو ان تعيننا على اجراء مداولات ايجابية ناجحة هذا الصباح

اولا : لسنا بحزب ولا بجمعية سياسية ولا حتى تكتل سياسي وانما نحن مواطنون نحضر بصفتنا الشخصية البحتة ولا نمثل اي جهة قد ننتمي اليها ، لقد دفعنا الى هذا الاجتماع خوفنا على هذا الوطن الذي يعيش محنة الانقسام بكل انواعه ، ومشاعر التعصب الاعمى غير المنضبط بدين سمح او اخلاق انسانية رفيعة بكل انواعها وكذلك الممحاكات السياسية الت يؤججها اعداء البحرين وتغذيها جهات انتهازية او نفعية او جاهلة .
Dr Ali Fakhro
ثانيا : لقد تدارست مجموعة من اخوانكم واخواتكم المجتمعين معكم اليوم الاوضاع المأساوية التي ذكرتها اعلاه عبر اسابيع طويلة ، وقد ارتأوا ضرورة وجود صوت عاقل جامع ليقترح على اطراف المجتمع المختلفة فيما بينها ، وعلى الاخص السياسية منها ، يقترح عليهم الجلوس مع بعضهم البعض وبحضور ممثلين عنكم ان وافق جمعيهم على ذلك ، من اجل ان يتدارسوا امكانية الاتفاق على مطالب ومقترحات وطنية مشتركة في حدها الادنى المشترك على الاقل ولينقلوها بدورهم الى جهات السلطة المعنية في الدولة من اجل مناقشتها مع تلك الجهات والاتفاق ان امكن على حدود دينا يقبل بها الجميع ( المجتمع والدولة ) للخروج من الازمة الحالية الى رحاب استكمال المسيرة الاصلاحية الديموقراطية الدستورية البرلمانية الهادفة لخير الجميع العادلة مع الجميع ، الآخذة بعين الاعتبار مصالح الجميع

ثالثا : ولان هناك ضرورة لوجود ورقة ينطلق منها النقاش اثناء اجتماع القوى السياسية المجتمعية التي نرجو ان توافق على الاجتماع ØŒ فإننا رأينا ان نقترح عليكم ان توافقوا معنا – مع حريتكم التامة في الرفض او التعديل – ان ينطلق النقاش من النقاط السبع التي اطلقها سمو ولي العهد في فبراير 2011 ØŒ وبالطبع فإن المجتمعين سيكون لهم الحق التام في تعديل تلك المبادرة ،اضافة او انتقاصا او فهما مشتركا لمحتويات بنودها التفصيلية طالماان ذلك التعديل سيكون حصيلة مناقشات المجتمعين واتفاقهم

لقد اعتمد مقترحنا هذا على ان مبادرة سمو الشيخ سلمان هي ارضية معقولة ومقبولة من الكثير وصالحة للاخذ والعطاء وتعبر في مجملها عن قبول كثير من جهات اتخاذ القرار في الدولة على الاقل لغالب ما تقوله وتقترحه .

رابعا : اذا اتفق المجتمعون في ذلك القاء حول مطالب سياسية صالحة لهذه المرحلة من مسيرة البحرين الديموقراطية ، ولنتذكر ان الديموقراطية هس سرورة لها بداية وليس لها نهاية ، فإنهم يستطيعون تكوين وفد ليتقدم بتلك المطالب للجهات المعينة في نظامنا السياسي من اجل مناقشتها ومحاولة اقناعها بتبني تلك المطالب وتنفيذها ضمن جدول زمني وخطوات تراكمية لا تراجع عنها قط

خامسا : نقترح على الاخوة الحاضرين ان ينتخبوا عددا يتراح بين عشرين وثلاثين شخصا ليكونوا لجنة تنسيق ومتابعة تقوم بالاتصالات بكل القوى السياسية والجهات الوطنية المعنية من اجل اقناعها بكل ما ذكر سابقا ومن اجل حضور اعضائها كممثلين عنكم ان تمت الاجتماعات المشتركة

وستكون اللجنة مطالبة بأن تبقى على صلة وثيقة بكم كجمعية عمومية وان صحت التسمية بدعوتكم للاجتماع اذا لزم الامر لاعلامكم بنتائج ما تقوم به وللحصول على موافقتكم ان احتاجت الى وظائف جديدة تقوم بها باسمكم .

سادسا : ان لم نوفق في هذا المسعى فإن الامر سيرجع لكم : تغييرا للاهداف والوسائل او الاكتفاء بما تم وترك الامور للآخرين ،وعند ذاك نكون قد قمنا بواجبنا كمواطنين حتى لا يسجل التاريخ علينا اننا رأينا الوطن وهو يحترق دون ان نحاول ان نقوم بواجبنا لاخراجه من محنته

سابعا : واخيرا رجاء حار ان نبتعد هذا الصباح عن شتم او تحقير ايا كان واي جهة كانت وان نركز على الموضوع الذي جئنا من اجله ، اننا لسنا في مهرجان خطابة وانما في اجتماع لايجاد وسائل وحلول ، فاعينونا على ذلك ، ولنتذكر اننا يجب ان نرتفع فوق الانقسامات ونبتعد عن المهاترات ويكفي الوطن ما يفعهله به بعض المتورين والجهلة والانتهازيين .وبعبارة موجزة نحن معنيين في هذه المرحلة بالاتصال بكل الجمعيات المعنية لحثها على التواصل والاتفاق على مطالب مشتركة ولسنا معنييين حاليا بالاتصال بالجهات الرسمية فقد يأتي ذلك في وقت لاحق مع الآخرين ان امكن او بدونهم ان رغبتم في ذلك في اجتماعات قادمة

لكم التحية ، لكم محبة وطنكم وشعبكم ، والله ندعوه ان يجزيكم الف خير

والسلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
د . على محمد فخرو
اللقاء الوطني
نادي العروبة
28 / 1 / 2012

English translation by Dr Mike Diboll – with many thanks!

The Speech of Dr. Ali Fakhro at a Meeting of the “National Encounter” Group Held at the Al Uruba Club

In the name of God the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Oh Brothers and Sisters,

Welcome to this comprehensive National Encounter, held in the name of the entire nation, for the sake of all its people, and for every individual without favour, without preconditions. Allow me present the background to this meeting and its recommendations. Kindly assist us by ensuring that our deliberations this morning proceed in a positive and successful manner.

Firstly, we are not a political party or association, nor are we even political grouping. Rather, we here purely as private citizens are preparing we do not represent any viewpoint to which we might have allegiance. What has motivated us to call this meeting is our fear for our nation which is suffering from every kind of tribulation, division, and fanatical sentiment and blind bigotry unmitigated by any consideration of tolerance or higher human ethics, and political intrigue promoted by the enemies of Bahrain, fed by opportunism and ignorant self-interest.

Secondly, the brothers and sisters gathered here today have carefully studied the tragic conditions mentioned over long and arduous weeks. They have perceived the necessity of a comprehensively acceptable Voice of Reason that can propose to parties from the various communities, in particular political groupings, to sit together in the presence of trusted representatives in order to frame a set of minimum national demands and proposals that are commonly agreed. These in turn can be presented to the relevant state authorities in order to discuss them with the parties concerned, and reach agreement on them if possible along lines acceptable to all stakeholders from both state and society. This is so we may find a way out of the current crisis, magnanimously completing the forward march of parliamentary democracy and constitutional reform aimed at the fair for the good of everyone in the interests of all.

Thirdly, we hope to call a meeting of political and community groups. There must therefore be a document upon which discussion can proceed. Accordingly, it is our suggestion — and you are fully free to agree with us on this suggestion, or reject or amend it — that the discussion commences with discussion of the seven proposals put forward by His Highness the Crown Prince in February 2011. Naturally, the meeting will have the absolute right to amend this initiative, or add to it or subtract from it, or to formulate a common understanding as to its contents, so that the detailed amendments would be the outcome of the discussions the two communities and subject to their agreement. The principles put forward by His Highness Sheikh Salman form the basis of our proposal as they are a reasonable ground for discussion, acceptable to many, and subject to some give and take should render most of what we propose acceptable to many of the state’s decision-makers.

Fourthly, should those gathered at that meeting reach agreement on a set of political demands that are appropriate to this stage in Bahrain’s progress toward democracy, we should remember that while democracy is blessed with a beginning it has in fact no final outcome. Therefore, those gathered should be able to form delegation to present those demands of the appropriate parts of our political system in order to discuss the demands with them and try to persuade them to adopt these demands, implementing them within an agreed timescale, according to a cumulative timeframe which is absolutely irreversible.

Fifthly, we suggest the brothers here present elect a number between twenty and thirty persons to be a coordinating committee following up contacts with all political forces and national stakeholders in order to convince them regarding all that has been mentioned above, and to ensure that its members, as your representatives, conduct joint meetings. It is demanded that the committee will need to remain in close association with you as a general grouping to arrange the public naming of the group, and to invite you to meetings as necessary and to inform you of the outcomes of our activities and to obtain your consent for new roles undertaken on your behalf.

Sixthly, should we be unable to reach any agreement this endeavor, the matter will return to you: this could mean a change of goals or methods, or leaving the matter to others. However, what is essential is that we do our duty as citizens, so that history cannot record against us that we saw our nation aflame, but did nothing to relieve our country from its tribulation.

Seventhly, and finally, it is our ardent hope this morning that we disregard slurs and insults from whatever any party they may arise, so that we may focus on the matter in hand. We are not attending a festival of rhetoric, but are meeting in order to find ways forward and solutions.

Let us fix our sight on that. Let us remember that we must rise above all that divides us, we must banish the vituperation, wrangling and bickering that are harming our nation, we must save our nation from what some hypocrites, ignoramuses and opportunists are putting it through.

In short, we are at this stage concerned to communicate with all groupings, urging them to communicate with one another and agree on common demands. We are not at this stage concerned with communicating with official parties, although this may come about at a later date, possibly involving others, or without them, according to you wishes at further meetings.
Greetings to you all, you are all patriotic and have love for your people. God reward you a thousand-fold.

May peace and God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.

Dr. Ali Mohammed Fakhro
The National Encounter
Al Uruba Club
28th January 2012

The essence of the action here is to define a route to get back to the negotiation table using the Crown Prince’s agreed principles of discussion which he announced in February last year which are:

    1. A fully representative parliament with exclusive legislative authority
    2. An elected and representative cabinet
    3. Equitable electoral districts
    4. Review of Naturalisation Laws
    5. Address administrative and financial corruption
    6. Review sovereign wealth
    7. Address the sectarian impasse

According to reports, some 200 people attended the Uruba Club gathering and 21 were elected to form a committee under the leadership of Dr Ali Fakhro who was elected as Chairman. The others who signed the founding document were Dr. Ali Fakhro, Jassim Murad, Hameed Ali Abdulla, Radhi Al-Mousawi, Ubaidly Alubaidly, Shawqi Alalawi, Mariam Alruai’ie, Abdulmonem Alshirawi, Yousif Zainal, Dr. Mohammed Isa Alkuwaiti, Jameel Alalawi, Ali Rabi’ea, Saeed Alasbool, Abdulla Mutawiee’, Esmat Almousawi, Dr. Wedad Kaiksow, Dr. Hasan Madan, Dr. Hasan Alaali, and Abdulhasan Alhasan. All of these people are luminaries of society and are known for their patriotic stances away from sectarianism which gives this particular committee credibility to try to bridge the chasm and hopefully find a solution.

I wish them all the best of luck. There is an awful lot of hard work to be done yet, and with the first anniversary of Feb 14 approaching fast, things will get very ugly if even a glimmer of resolution is not seen.

I hope that this is the genuine glimmer that everyone is hoping for.

Main sources for this article: Esmat Almousawi on Facebook and @HameedAlmulla‘s Twitter feed
Edit 30 Jan 2012 @ 19:58 to include English translation by Dr Mike Diboll

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Bassiouni’s Disappointment

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Professor Cherif Bassiouni is visibly disappointed with the regime’s response to his BICI report and is frustrated with the pace of adoption of its recommendations. While he suggests that the US administration should have a more active and visible role into urging the Bahraini regime to accelerate reforms as pointed out in his report and do so in a public manner.

Professor Bassiouni’s also not averse to naming and shaming those who have been proven at fault. Although I don’t regard this last fact as a threat of him actually doing so himself if the pace of change continues in its spiral of deceleration, I too see the merit in exposing them if only to act as an example for others to think of before they too take the path of subjugation. As the saying goes (loosely): the security from punishment is misbehavior (من أمن العقاب أساء الأدب).

What is much more damning in this short report; however, is his evaluation of this snail-paced and superficial changes, is due to the royal family’s overarching preoccupation with their own familial loyalty, unity and internal conflict rather than that of unifying the country itself.

Very perceptive.

The logical thing, in my humble opinion and if I may be so bold as to offer some advice, that would be for the regime to relax its grip on power somewhat and spearhead true reforms. As I’ve said countless times before, this single action will not only save the country from dire consequences, but ironically, will also ensure the regime’s very own survival.

I’m not very sure that at this particular juncture that anyone is intent on listening to logic or sincere advice.

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Just how long will “Silmiyya” last?

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Not very long, I think.

After close to 60 people giving their lives up for their country in under a year, with this number set to rise, by all indications, with thousands dismissed for their jobs for no good reason, for hundreds still in prison just for expressing their opinions and for untold police brutality and daily reports of various levels of abuse levied on unarmed men, women and children, people will start to retaliate if for nothing but to defend themselves.

Zainab Al-Khawaja being bodily dragged by policewomanAnd now, they’ve received the approbation to do so… and to crush anyone who abuses or perpetrates violence against women.

This, my friends, is not just an angry Friday sermon by the leading religious cleric here, this is an indication of the impasse that this country has reached. Patience, has run out. The rhetoric from both sides has been ratcheted up and with the first anniversary of the “Bahraini Revolution” on Feb 14 approaching, things will only get uglier if sane men and women don’t halt this probable descent into the abyss of civil war. Then, no winner shall be declared and it will be too late for even sincere efforts to repair a shattered society.

What is needed now, right now, is an honest look at the root causes of discontent and effect real change without the drag of personal, tribal, sectarian or any other biases to cloud actions to redress the balance and put this country back on to its rightful path.

Time, though, won’t wait for half-hearted measures or more placatory gestures.

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The Twitter Embassy

Two articles have been published over the past few days about the pioneer bloggers in this area of which I am privileged to be counted as one. The first article written by Sultan Al-Qassemi and the other published just today by Dr Mansoor Al-Jamri in his daily column in Al-Wasat newspaper in which he too asserted the role that these bloggers have played over the years in shaping self-expression and speech in the Arab world specifically.

While both should be thanked for their excellent articles and thoughts, I suggest that some attention should also be paid to the others who are shaping opinion on Twitter whose effect far outstrips that of many bloggers combined; those ladies and gentlemen are the politicians and other opinion formers who are normally not as approachable as they should be in real life, understandably so of course, their agendas and meeting schedules are probably filled for years to come, and in order to secure an appointment with them might take weeks to find that crack in those agendas where one might squeeze in. But in the Twitter world, they are as available and approachable as any other person simply because they choose to utilize those precious seconds between their appointments or from what little time they give themselves to relax in to dedicate to interacting with their countrymen and others around the world.

I’ve written about these people a few months ago – just days before the Bahraini revolt – in a “Twitter, or the Olive Branch” in which I identified a few of those I admire for their social media activities, chief amongst them are:

Twitter has become the activists’ best friend and confident. To me what’s as important, is the direct connection it offers to people who could actually effect change, and if they can’t at least they are veritable influencers in their spheres to move issues into resolution or focus timelines. Through Twitter and its 140 characters, people from all walks of life can directly communicate with influencers like our very own foreign minister, Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, as they could too with US President Barak Obama, the US State Dept, the United Nations Secretary General, Carl Bildt, Kevin Rudd and the British Foreign Minister William Hague. Most of the ones listed above actually tweet themselves or are very aware of their channels, therefore, what better chance is there for us plebs to affect our circumstance by not only following, but engaging with these forces? I don’t think this state of affairs is going to last long, sadly. As Twitter and its influential tweeps bloom, it’s only natural to expect that the direct channels to wane.

Now that I think of what I have written then, the availability of these influencers is more important than ever. No matter how you view these people and regardless of whether you agree with them, their continued availability in Twitter especially is very welcome. The reason is as simple as why warring countries keep their embassies open in each other’s countries. How else could those warring countries even consider peaceful overtures if they can’t transmit them through those communications channels?

While I don’t suggest for a minute that Bahrain is at war, it is extremely important to understand – and yes, support, these influencers to stay within this open virtual space using their own names and positions in order for them to be much closer to a wider section of society. This does allow them to immediately understand the “street’s” feelings and hope that through this awareness, they will be in a better position to transmit those needs and feelings to those in power to influence them enough to effect change.

Therefore, to me, I must confess my utter disgust to witness some who fancy themselves as “activists” use this space to destroy such an important bridge which could be used for helping the whole country by working as a pack to attack someone like our foreign minister amongst other influencers in government. The ethics of democracy and discussion which they are calling for day and night should be respected and as such, these stupid attacks must stop. They are only doing possibly irreversible harm to their own cause. I am relatively sure; however, that Shaikh Khalid and hopefully others in his position understand that these attacks are mounted by simpletons who do not represent the people who do want to take this country to a better, more equitable platform to be enjoyed by all.

Understand that I’m not calling for handling these public figures with kid-gloves, far from it, they can take much more than what has been levied so far I suspect, but ethics must be respected in order to portray grievances in a sphere on which some action can be taken, rather than because of crudeness, legitimate causes be discarded and discredited.

I admire Shaikh Khalid for having the required thick skin to ignore these attacks and doing the astute political thing of not engaging with them. How long he will stay to take that kind of abuse is another matter altogether; for had it been me I would have probably escaped Twitter and closed my account a long time ago. He, I know, is better than me and is with a wider and more tolerant heart.

My friends, temper your attacks and choose your battles wisely. Refrain from childish attacks on the very bridge who can help your cause. The last thing we want at this important juncture in our country’s history is to continue to shout at each other, rather than find the platform to engage and talk to each other to fix the situation and move forward.

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GCC WHAT?

Saudi King Abdullah called for the formation of a Gulf union in response to growing threats, as rulers of the wealthy Arab GCC met on Monday against a backdrop of regional turmoil and fears over Iran.

“I ask today that we move from a phase of cooperation to a phase of union within a single entity,” said the Saudi king, addressing his counterparts at the opening of the annual Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh.

He did not elaborate on what form such a union might take, or any proposed steps to create it.
“You must realise that our security and stability are threatened and we need to live up to our responsibilities,” said King Abdullah. [source]

With all due respect, ehm, we see an above-the-fold headline in all the papers today stating that the GCC Currency, something that was supposed to be in the works for some 25 years and was supposed to be enacted in 2000, then in 2010 and now completely off the table and now you talk of a full fledged GCC Union? (previous link in Arabic, but have a look at this quick search and prepare for an enviable head-spin!)

Well, I’m normally an optimist, but in this case and based on precedent, you will forgive me for not holding my breath.

What else will this GCC summit come out with I wonder?

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Wait oh Saar fire….

A local saying immediately popped into my mind as I read these words in today’s Al-Wasat:

وطالبت لجنة الحقوق الدينية في وزارة الخارجية الأميركية بـ «تقديم أي من المسئولين في الحكومة البحرينية الذين ثبت تورطهم في انتهاكات صارخة للحرية الدينية إلى العدالة ومعاقبتهم بموجب القانون، ويجب على الحكومة البحرينية إصدار اعتذار رسمي لتدمير العشرات من دور العبادة، وهو الأمر الذي وجدت اللجنة البحرينية المستقلة لتقصي أنه ينتهك بوضوح القانون البحريني والدولي»

 

and represented in this official statement from USCIRF:

 

Soon after the release of the BICI report, King Hamad al-Khalifa appointed a committee to review how to implement the report’s recommendations. The committee is expected to report back to the King in February.

USCIRF urges the committee to address the following concerns during its review of the BICI’s recommendations:

  • The report recommends the government of Bahrain should “consider rebuilding, at its expense, some of the demolished religious structures in accordance with administrative regulations.” USCIRF is concerned that the government may rebuild only a few of the religious structures with legal permits and decrees, and not many of the other structures. In consultation with the Shi’a community, the government of Bahrain should restore or rebuild all the structures that were illegally destroyed;
  • The report does not address the loss and destruction of religious materials in some of the demolished structures. The Bahraini government should restore, replace, or compensate the local Shi’a community for the loss of these materials;
  • The report’s findings do not address allegations by multiple human rights groups that some individual members of the Shi’a community were harassed, interrogated, and arrested for returning to some of the destroyed sites to pray or retrieve religious materials. These allegations should be addressed and officials responsible should be reprimanded and held to account;
  • Any Bahraini government officials found to have committed severe religious freedom abuses should be brought to justice and punished under the law; and
  • The Bahraini government should issue a formal apology to the Shi’a community for destroying dozens of religious structures that the BICI found clearly violates Bahraini and international law.

“USCIRF welcomes the King’s decision to establish the BICI, as well as his public announcement that the government intends to rebuild Shi’a places of worship. It is important that these structures be rebuilt in close consultation with the local Shi’a community and not unilaterally,” said Leo.

The emphasis is mine and the cause of my raised eyebrows and that idiom popping into my mind. To represent it fully, the idiom goes:

Wait oh Saar fire for water from Hnainia

Saar being a village in the north of the island while Hnainia is in the south. We use that expression to represent the improbability (or even impossibility) of an event ever happening…

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Crowdsourcing BICI’s report


Commission's Chair Professor Mahmood Sharif Bassiouni

Overall, from the various tweets I’ve seen and the snippets I’ve already read from the report, there are inconsistencies in incidents I attended personally but notwithstanding that, I believe – so far – that it’s balanced enough and can serve as a catalyst for real change in this country if it is adopted immediately and transparently. Heads MUST roll, the first of which is the Minister of the Interior for him and his ministry botching the whole affair and holding the country in terror for all this time. As the cabinet did not take any meaningful action, I believe they should do the honorable thing and summarily resign. If they don’t the king should fire them all without delay.

Thank you Professor Bassiouni and the other commissioners for taking our affairs seriously.

Now with 501 pages, the BICI Report takes a lot of reading. I propose that we start posting interesting snippets or facts drawn from it here to create our own executive summary. Click here to download it, read it and I look forward to your comments.

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The Source of Instability

Posted on

Secretary Clinton encouraged both Bahrain and Saudi to embrace the Arab Spring. I do hope that they do because it IS in their best interest t do so. What we actually see on the ground now; however, is abstinence and a deep sense of denial. It’s almost as if some in both countries’ administration are refusing to believe that the Arab Spring has arrived at their shores and that it could never happen to them. For those still in disbelief, she had these wise words:

“The greatest single source of instability in today’s Middle East is not the demand for change,” she said, “It is the refusal to change.”

ArabianBusiness.com

These words should have jerked them awake to the fact that the US administration (and the democratic world) recognizes that they are the biggest rocks in the path to democratic change. To me, what’s veiled within them as well is the somewhat diplomatic warning that if they don’t embrace such change and acquiesce to their public’s legitimate demands, the US might well not stand by them but for once actually stand on the “right side of history” and gladly watch them fall.

The whole Arab world, not just Bahrain, needs to embrace change and use the positive energy within change to forge forth with a better more inclusive and democratic future in which institutions rule, rather than the whims of individuals.

Clinton continued:

Clinton said the United States would continue to have “frank conversations” with long-time allies such as Bahrain, where the Sunni ruling family brought in troops from Sunni allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help crush a protest movement earlier this year.

“Mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away,” Clinton said, saying the tiny Gulf country’s monarchy had made public promises to begin political dialogue and investigate abuses.

“We intend to hold the Bahraini government to these commitments and to encourage the opposition to respond constructively to secure lasting reform,” she said.

Reuters

Good. I know that intrinsically everyone wants to be on the right side of history, ultimately, but some need to be judiciously encouraged to tread a path in that direction. This pressure by a major power which has a vested interest in this region as well as the local political opposition groups are good manifestations of the much required pressure. The momentum of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya will gain strength and the laws of motion will take root. Whether the remaining Arab countries will use that momentum for their benefit, or get rolled over and discarded in the process remains to be seen.

Eid Mubarak!

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Civil War is in the offing

Civil War is in the offing

If you’re not afraid of what and where Bahrain is going, then this clip should give you a good indication. In it, a bunch of ignoramuses are taking the mic in front of a government building in Muharraq inciting not only hatred, but openly calling for the killing of the Shia in Bahrain, and threatening that Muharraq will be the Shia graveyard. Muharraq, that lovely island we’ve always associated as being the model of tolerance, understanding and multi-cultural living seems to be now degenerating at the hands of murderers, torturers and thugs.

All this in front of a government building.

In addition to that, the nefarious convicted torturer Adel Flaifel is calling for the formation of armed gangs with the help of the Muharraq Municipal Council and the Ministry of Interior to “deal” with the Shia – whom he calls traitors – and protect Muharraq from their advance!

I don’t care for these people nor their message of intolerance. What I care about is that by virtue of them being in front of a government building, using the building’s PA system it seems, preaching hatred to the crowd and not a single person is stopping them and to date, I haven’t heart of any official condemnation of that gathering and not a single legal channel has been moved to curtail them when they are clearly breaking the law. If my memory serves, a police station is directly opposite of that location too, so why the police didn’t intervene is mind boggling too. Unless of course the police there don’t understand Arabic and the gathering was deemed authorised and legal?

Enjoy the clip, and pack your bags while you’re at it. Bahrain – with these morons openly operating in it with the full aid and knowledge of the government – is not a place that I want to spend my future in.

Disgusting.

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