Tag Archives Politics

Free Ebrahim Sharif

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One Bahraini politician whom I really respect is Ebrahim Sharif.

Ebrahim Sharif is the secretary general of the secular National Action Democratic Society, acronymed Wa’ad – which translates from Arabic to “promise”. I believe with his tenacity and steadfastness to the truth and his passion to get this country to a better plane on which all are equal under the law and everyone is held responsible for their actions is the salvation that this country is in dire need of.

Unfortunately, he currently languishes in prison with a bevy of his compatriots for what some have determined to be politically motivated charges.

I also admire Ali Salman, the general secretary of Al-Wefaq1 and some of his colleagues like Khalil Al-Marzooq for I believe that they too are sincere in their efforts to achieve the same ends that Sharif aspires to. I know that this concept might be very difficult for those who’ve put on the sectarian shades on and see Wefaq as being necessarily beholden to the Iranian Ogre – due to Wefaq’s membership being overwhelmingly Shi’a. I on the other hand don’t have those preset views to encumber my deductions and do see beyond a person’s chosen confessional beliefs and evaluate positions exclusively with what is good for Bahrain metric.

Ebrahim Sharif is spending his first of five years in prison for his beliefs amongst others of his compatriots who have been accused of similar offenses and have had sentences levied against them from five to life. I can’t do much about those sentences other than to hope that they know that they will for ever be remembered for their sacrifices, and hope too that they continue to stay true and strong. There is every chance that they will be exonerated soon.

Until then, please show your support by visiting a blog that has been especially created to support Ebrahim Sharif at http://freesharif.wordpress.com.

Stay well Bahrain.

Ed: typo corrected, was Wa’ad, now Wefaq – 11:52
“Bahrain demonstrates in solidarity with Egypt – Feb 4th, 2011 – with a quick interview with Ebrahim Sharif added at 17:22

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Selective security

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While I abhor the Molotov cocktail attack on Samira Rajab’s residence and regard it as a heinous crime not to be condoned at all, especially when consideration is given that this attack was most probably undertaken due to Ms Rajab’s opinions and political position, I am left at a loss as to how the security services can find and apprehend the perpetrators within a day of the incident and those even more severe attacks on the two Wa’ad HQs in both Manama and Muharraq, the attack on the Wefaq Secretary General’s residence and countless opposition MPs, doctors, journalists and writers are still at large!

What gives?

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Congratulations Libya…. Next?

The pictures speak for themselves.

The question that wise “leaders” should ask themselves is: “Do I want to end up like any of these?”

I suppose not.

So what they need to do is relax that grip of power, give people the chance to live with dignity, treat them as equals and that will undoubtedly prolong their rule.

But who’s listening?

Congratulations Libya. Now please work hard at demolishing the idolization of persons and establish laws that apply to all and institutions to run the affairs of the country transparently and forge the future that was stolen from you for over 40 years.

Now. Who’s next?

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If Bahrain is to learn something useful…

I agree. Wholeheartedly and hope against hope that something could be done, quickly, and hope once again that it’s still not too late to save this country and its people. All of them.

Bahrain Should Heed Lessons from Ireland

9-29-2011
By Brian Dooley
Director, Human Rights Defenders

Take two small island nations, each situated off the coast of a major power. Both have a history of sectarian conflict, fake democracy and misrule by monarchy. Both have a strategically important deepwater naval base. Crucially, both have a police force recruited almost exclusively from one of the sects.

Both have populations of around a million and a half, and both enjoy the dubious legacy of British colonialism and the traditions of its security apparatus.

There are differences, of course. Bahrain remains one country while Ireland was cut into two almost 90 years ago in a makeshift political solution to create Northern Ireland, which has a Protestant majority largely keen on continued British rule and loyal to the British monarch. In Northern Ireland, the fight for civil rights for Catholics (or for “parity of esteem” in modern jargon) has been conducted largely in the rain, cold and damp, whereas Bahrainis’ struggle happens in extreme heat and sunshine.

From the early 1920s, when Northern Ireland was created, the largely Protestant ruling class excluded Catholics from top government jobs, and the police force was almost exclusively Protestant, fiercely loyal to the British Protestant monarch. Electoral districts were gerrymandered to give Protestants a permanent electoral advantage even in areas like Derry, which had a Catholic majority.

In Bahrain, electoral districts are gerrymandered in favor of Sunnis, while Shias are excluded from top government jobs. The police force is almost exclusively Sunni, fiercely loyal to the Sunni monarch.

In 1968, inspired by the Prague Spring, Northern Ireland saw its first civil rights protests. A wave of pro-democracy marches and demonstrations swept Europe, from Prague to Warsaw to Belgrade to Paris and beyond. In Derry in Northern Ireland, the protests were met with a violent crackdown from the security forces. Within a year, with protests escalating, the police in Northern Ireland had to be reinforced by soldiers sent from neighboring Britain.

This year, inspired by the Arab Spring and demonstration in Tuni, Cairo and elsewhere, Bahraini pro-democracy activists organised huge protests which were met with a violent crackdown from the security forces. Within a month, with protests escalating, the police in Bahrain had to be reinforced by soldiers sent from neighboring Saudi Arabia.

We could go on, listing the similarities in the special court systems, the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, the shooting of peaceful protestors, the deaths in custody, the fake shows of dialogue about power-sharing, the allegations of foreign conspiracies (led by Tehran or the Vatican), the social segregation of people living in different areas and shopping in different stores.

In neither place has the sectarianism been primarily theological. Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland were not killing each other over issues of transubstantiation or the rightful place of Jesus’ mother Mary in the pantheon of Christian hierarchy. The sensitive issues, like in Bahrain, were about identity, ‘foreignness’ and allegiance to the ruling elite. In both places too there were and are many exceptions to the Catholic v Protestant, Sunni v Shia equation. Not all Protestants were anti-reform, just as many Sunnis are embarrassed at the King’s intransigence and anti-democracy crackdown.

But what’s most useful is to see how some progress has been made in Northern Ireland. The clumsy British response to the civil rights demands for equal access to government jobs and services and to votes pushed many of those marching for civil rights to more radical solutions.

By the early 1970s the guerrilla IRA has resurfaced, and a long war of attrition began against the British security forces. More than 3,000 people died in the following 30 years until a political deal was finally reached.

If there are parallels, it would be nice to think that Bahrain might skip the decades of killings and chaos and go straight for the solution. The reforms in Northern Ireland have not been perfect. The most difficult has been in revamping the security forces. Decades of mistrust are hard to overcome, and Catholics are still reluctant to join the police force (rebranded with a new name and symbols) that was loathed and feared for so long.

But progress has been made, and there is a sense of a shared future, not competing and conflicting versions of how the next generation will live.

If Bahrain is to learn something useful from the experience of Northern Ireland it might start by:

  • accepting that these protests aren’t going away without wholesale, deep-rooted reforms;
  • making Shia teenagers believe they have a future in the country, and possibly a government job;
  • making everyone’s vote worth the same;
  • stopping the manipulation of state media;
  • starting to talk to opposition leaders, including those it claims are terrorists, and including those in jail;
  • accepting outside mediation and support (in the case of Northern Ireland the Clinton Administration played an invaluable role);
  • realizing that by refusing to share any power they risk losing it all.

Source: Human Rights First

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What will it take, to effect change?

The Dalai Lama was asked by Mother Jones Magazine in 1997 what he thought it would take for China to change its policy toward Tibet.

He responded with:

It will take two things: first, a Chinese leadership that looks forward instead of backward, that looks toward integration with the world and cares about both world opinion and the will of [China’s] own democracy movement; second, a group of world leaders that listens to the concerns of their own people with regard to Tibet, and speak firmly to the Chinese about the urgent need of working out a solution based on truth and justice. We do not have these two things today, and so the process of bringing peace to Tibet is stalled.

But we must not lose our trust in the power of truth. Everything is always changing in the world. Look at South Africa, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East. They still have many problems, setbacks as well as breakthroughs, but basically changes have happened that were considered unthinkable a decade ago.

I think if we look at our own situation in Bahrain in this enlightened context, we might be looking at a tangible solution to our current problems.

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The King Speaketh

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I was happy to learn of the King’s speech on Aug 28th, 2011. As has become his custom, he addressed the nation at the end of Ramadhan. In his much awaited speech, he addressed several issues, but did not offer any new political concessions, probably leaving those to the enactment of the National Dialogue demands.

In his speech, he ordered:

  • pardoning all those who insulted him during a month of pro-democracy protests
  • civilians that were being tried in military courts for their participation in the protest will eventually be handled by civil courts
  • those employees who were dismissed from their jobs will be reinstated
  • dismissed students shall be reinstated
  • those who had been mistreated in custody in the aftermath of the crackdown should file a complaint as that the law allows compensation for them

I wonder how long those responsible in government will take to enact these orders. Recent history suggests; however, that they will either be ignored, or some excuses will be created to slow down their implementation to the degree that frustration will continue to rise in the country.

The king also stated:

“The recent period was painful to all of us. Although we live in one country, some have forgotten the inevitability of coexistence. Therefore, we should not abandon our belief in having the same and common future, and should not lose trust in each other as brothers, colleagues and citizens.”

King Hamad once again reminded us that our common denominator should be our Bahraininess, rather than our personal religious beliefs. These thoughts are nobel, of course; however, I’m afraid for them to be implemented in reality much more is needed. You do not inculcate this sense of belonging and unity via slogans and banners on the streets. What is needed is action and lead by example in order to restore faith. Courageous unconventional steps must be shown in practice to show that the regime is absolutely serious about wanting the issues which beleaguered the country resolved, and of course, the opposition must now help in this by allowing the benefit of the doubt to be given and received. Also, the continuous deluge of filth and sectarianism pouring out of the mouths of known so called clerics and MPs like Mohammed Khalid, Jassim Alsaidi and others of the same ilk without any public censure by the regime. The same should be applied to the filth being broadcast on the official media channels and sectarian newspapers and so called journalists, rather than celebrating them by seeing their pictures being greeted by very highly placed officials in the country. The message these actions promote is the diametric opposite of what the king is espousing publicly.

Like many of my compatriots, I am rather tired of the duplicity happening in our country. I am convinced that nothing will fix this situation and bring Bahrain back to the normality we all desire than actual determined and unambiguous actions by the country’s top officials to fight this disparity with absolute and unwavering resolve.

Let’s hope that this speech is a harbinger of better things to come. Eid Mubarak Bahrain.

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Traitors abound, or it least this is how the story goes

There is no margin of difference any more in Bahrain, it seems, for the most preferred epithet for one who differs in opinion from one’s own is – must be – a traitor! Who decides what a traitor is and who it might be is left to personal fervor in one’s own hazy state of “the nation’s defense”.

Over a period of Friday morning (20 Aug 2011), I was thrilled to have had a polite conversation with Adnan Al-Shaikh, a good friend and professional communicator, about this particular topic.
It started with me taking offense at one of his tweets this morning:

لنكون منصفين الى المخلصين يتوجب علينا كشف الخائنين.
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
In this tweet, Adnan stresses the need to be equitable to the sincere by exposing traitors.

Needless to say, I didn’t expect this from Adnan, so I took him up on it and started the conversation:
@adnanalshaikh وش هالمنطق يا صديقي؟ فإن نجح هذا المنطق فالخاسر هي الوطن بكل مكوناته. فلدع الكراهية و لنتكلم بالتي هي أحسن.
mahmood
August 20, 2011

Mahmood: “What’s this logic my friend? If it succeeds then the loser is the Nation with all of its constituents. Let’s leave hate and grant the benefit of the doubt.”

@mahmood عزيزي محمود هل ترضى أن أتستر على من يخونك؟
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
Adnan: “My dear Mahmood, would you condone me covering up who betrays you?”
@mahmood فكما نؤشر الى المخلص يجب علينا أن نؤشر الى الخائن. من حق الناس معرفة ذلك.
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
Adnan: “So as we point out the sincere we should also point out the traitor. It’s the people’s right to know that.”
@mahmood إنما الذي لا يجب علينا فعله هو تخوين المخلص وإن شككنا في إخلاصه حتى تثبت خيانته.
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011

Adnan: “But what we should not do is accuse the sincere with treason even if we suspect this sincerity until his treason is proven”

@adnanalshaikh اذا من الذي يقوم بتصنيف هذا من ذاك و ما المعايير المستخدمة؟ يا اخي الناس غير مؤهلين لذلك عدا القضاء النزيه فابتعد جزاك الله.
mahmood
August 20, 2011
Mahmood: “Then who categorized this from that and what are the used metrics? My brother, normal people aren’t qualified for that except for the fair judiciary so please desist for God’s reward.”
@adnanalshaikh انت – كما أنا – لسنا في موضع ان نشير لهذا و ذاك بتهم قد تؤدي للقتل او اسواء. لنترك هذه النعوت و نعمل لتهدئة الوضع.
mahmood
August 20, 2011
Mahmood: “You, as I am, aren’t in a position to accuse this or that with accusations which could lead to death or worse. Let us leave those descriptions and work to calm the situation.”
@adnanalshaikh و ان خونا شخص ما، فما هي مصلحتك و ما هي مصلحة الوطن الكبرى؟ التناحر و سوؤ العاقبة؟ اترك عنك يا صديقي فخبرتك اكبر من هذا.
mahmood
August 20, 2011
Mahmood: “And if we accuse someone with treason, what is your benefit and what is the larger nation’s benefit? Rivalry leading to bad consequences? Leave this my friend, for I thought you to be much higher than this.”
@mahmood لم أذكر معايير وﻻ من المؤهل لتصنيف هذا وذاك،إنما أتحدث عن قاعدة.
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
@mahmood مرة أخرى أنا أتحدث عن قاعدة.
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
Adnan: “Again, I speak of a principle.”
@adnanalshaikh القاعدة تحتاج براهين ثابتة و غير قابلة للتأويل. فما براهين أولائك المتلذذين بالتخوين يا أستاذي الكريم؟
mahmood
August 20, 2011
Mahmood: “A principle needs solid and unshakable evidence. So what evidence to those who revel in describing people with treason offer my learned teacher?”
@mahmood اذا لنحذف كلمة خائن من القاموس وليكن من أحياها كمن قتلها!
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
Adnan: “So let us omit the word ‘traitor’ from the dictionary and let the one who makes something lives as the one who killed it.”

(sorry, don’t know how to properly translate that idiom)
@adnanalshaikh ليس هذا المطلوب، حبذا لو نترك هذه الوصفات لقضاء نزيه و نعطي الآخر برائة الشك.
mahmood
August 20, 2011
Mahmood: “This isn’t what is needed, it’s preferred to leave these categorizations to the fair judiciary and give the other the benefit of the doubt.”
@mahmood محمود .. القاعدة هنا بمعنى مبدأ وهو ليس معني بتحديد معايير وبراهين فكل ثقافة لها معاييرها وادلتها لتحقيق هذا المبدأ.
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011

Adnan: “Mahmood.. the principle here means a standard and it’s not the meaning of defining the standards of evidence and every culture has its standards and its evidence for this principle

@adnanalshaikh والمبدأ كذلك مبني على قواعد والقاعدة تحتاج لبراهين كما سلفت. فبأي مبدأ تتكلم لم توصف الناس بالخونة؟ أليس بهذا المبدأ العكس صح
mahmood
August 20, 2011
Mahmood: “And the principle here is based on foundations and foundations require evidence as I’ve said before. So what principle are you using when you accuse people with treason? Isn’t this principle also applies to those who throw those accusations?”
@mahmood علينا حسن النية بالآخر دائما الى أن يثبت لنا هو عكس ذلك فنحكم عليه كما أثبت لنا بنفسه ولكن يجب ترك التعامل معه للقضاء في كل الأحوال
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
Adnan: “We have to always apply the benefit of the doubt until the opposite is proven so we can judge him as has been ascertained by himself but we have to allow the judiciary to take care of this in all cases.”
@adnanalshaikh اذا اتفقنا! مبدأ حسن النية يتطلب منا عدم تخوين الآخر عدا ان ثبتت عليه جريمة الخيانة من القضاء المستقل والنزيه. فكف يرحمك الله
mahmood
August 20, 2011
Mahmood: “Therefor we agree! The principle of the benefit of the doubt demands that we do not accuse others of treason unless that crime is proven against him by the fair and independent judiciary. So stop may God be benevolent with you.”
@mahmood المبدأ هو قاعدة مستخلصة من دلالات وشواهد تنطبق على الأعمال التي تتوافق نتائجها مع تلك الدلالات والشواهد.
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
Adnan: “The principle is a rule derived from the indications and evidence applicable to the deeds that are compatible with those indications and evidence.”
@mahmood يخون الخائن فقط ما أن رجع وتاب في أي مكان في العالم. وحسن النية تجب حتى في قضائنا فلا داعي أن نقول نريد قضاء مستقلا ونزيها.
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
Adnan: “The traitor is negated only when he repents (? Adnan help me with this translation! don’t understand the first part of the sentence) but benefit of the doubt should also be applied to our own judiciary so there is no reason for [your] statement that we want an independent and fair judiciary.”
@adnanalshaikh او ليه التشكيك بئه؟ متى شككت أنا في القضاء البحريني؟ تكلمنا في المبادئ فإذا كلامي ينطبق عاما و ليس حصريا على وضع البحرين!
mahmood
August 20, 2011
Mahmood: “Why this supposition? When did I question the Bahraini judiciary? We’re talking about principles therefore my statements applies generally and not exclusively to Bahrain’s situation.”
@mahmood جميل. اتفقنا.
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
Adnan: “Beautiful, we agree.”
@adnanalshaikh اكسلينت ماي فريند!!
mahmood
August 20, 2011
Mahmood: “Excellent my friend.”
A few hours later, Adnan posted a beautiful tweet in which he stated:
You could be courageous by saying a word of truth, but can be more courageous and even a hero if you regret, retreat and admit your mistake.
adnanalshaikh
August 20, 2011
This is what I call a constructive and polite exchange that is sorely missing from Twitter, as we have seen just a day before.

Thank you Adnan for being a gentleman who cares deeply about his country, without losing sight of civilly discussing its situation and coming to a pragmatic conclusion.

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Medical sector in shambles

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This was reported in Al-Wasat this morning:

وأكد أطباء موقوفون أن السماهيجي بحاجة إلى عملية فوراً، حتى لا تتضاعف حالته الصحية، وذلك بعد تعرضه لجلطة، مشيرين إلى أن العملية تتطلب قدوم طبيب من خارج البحرين، أو السماح لأحد الأطباء الموقوفين عن العمل بإجراء العملية.

Translation:
The suspended doctors confirmed that Dr. Al-Samahiji requires immediate surgery in order for his situation not to be exacerbated which could lead to a stroke, pointing out that the operation requires either the provision of a specialist doctor to be brought from abroad, or to allow one of the suspended doctors to perform the operation.

The article goes further in naming two doctors who are qualified to perform the operation both of whom are suspended due to their political opinions.

This is just one of several cases in which the medical community have been criminalized and incarcerated for nothing more than performing their work, voicing their opinions and talking to the foreign media during the Feb 14th rebellion. And this particular case exemplifies the inhumane way that the regime continues to use the medical cadres for its own political ends, all of which resolutely failed in the eyes of the world.

So now the country is left without proper medical expertise; as those committed doctors are either incarcerated under trumped up charges, or they are unfairly suspended from duty. The irony of this situation is that the people who do suffer from this state of affairs are the normal Bahrainis and residents, those from the middle classes upwards won’t at all as they can and do resort to alternate private medical care due to their lack of trust in the medical system here due to their own prejudices, but that’s another story.

So what now?

Ship a foreign surgeon from abroad to perform Dr. Al-Samahiji’s operation and “save face”, or would they do the honorable thing and return those suspended medics to their rightful positions to perform their avowed duties and release all of those who are unfairly imprisoned to resume their lives and continue to positively contribute to their country?

My fear is that prevarication will rule, again, and the good Dr. Al-Samahiji will die waiting. A double victim, if you will.

Who gains from this?

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