Tag Archives protest

Destroying a Revolution

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One of the most important ways to “win” a revolution in this day and age is the effective use of media tools and keeping your struggle peaceful. That wins you supporters both locally and internationally who can exert pressure on the ruling regime to elicit positive change. The minute that this struggle morphs into violence, that platform of support dissipates and the chances of a successful conclusion to the struggle for change evaporates.

Peace Dove written in Arabic CalligraphyThe recent escalation of violence which was undoubtedly translated form Isa Qassim’s last Friday prayer sermon is very worrying and most definitely does not serve the cause. What it does do is play into the hands of the hard-liners in the regime, giving them a gift they have all but lost hope of receiving.

A respected cleric like Isa Qassim should have known better than to allow his passions to boil over and he should have also known that his words will be taken to heart and each will interpret them to suit their own ends, all of which resolves into more violence which will rob the people’s struggles of their efficacy as well as sympathy.

I do hope that he will take the opportunity in his next Friday sermon to address these issues and urge the youth to return to their peaceful means of protesting. In the long run, violence of any kind will not serve any purpose. Peaceful protests and the effective use of media are key to winning not only a battle, but a whole war.

I do fervently hope, that Silmiyya will return, and along with it, a more urgent sense to get this country over its current climate of hate and mistrust.

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How to alienate sympathisers to your cause

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Like just about everybody in Bahrain, I’ve been caught in traffic due to roads being closed either by physical objects, oil spilled on the road or a combination of both. The end result of course is that the demonstrators want their message to be received by those in charge that they have legitimate demands and they will do whatever they can to disrupt daily life to get those demands addressed.

Fine. Ok.

But guys, why should you endanger the road users in this manner? What you’re doing is simply bolstering the position of those who oppose you and turn those who possibly sympathize with you into new enemies!

I completely understand that you have legitimate demands and those are being brought out in the open on a weekly basis in the various authorised and unauthorised demonstrations and gatherings, why do you have to resort to an activity that not only inconvenience road users, but put them in jeopardy as well?

There are other ways to get your message across in a peaceful manner without endangering others. I don’t mind you inconveniencing me to make me aware of your needs. I completely understand inconvenience, but when it comes to putting me in danger that’s a bit much.

So quit this please before you alienate many people who once were your supporters. Find other ways to make your voice and demands heard.

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General Strike in Bahrain

When the General Strike was announced yesterday, I didn’t give it much heed. I guess I’m conditioned to ignore trade unions as they have very little and smooth teeth which tickle more than cause injury. Well, it seems that today, they’ve sharpened them a bit and they’re starting to leave a mark.

Teachers, some of them at least, heeded that call. I noticed a few gathering with their Bahraini flags and a couple of hastily written placards standing in front of their school’s gate near where I live. I approached them, took some pictures and interviewed one. Wanting to check the other schools in the area, I hit the motherload at the Duraz Intermediate Girls’ School nearby – you’ll know what I mean when you view the following video – and then off I went to the school next door where they were striking too.

I’m not sure how many schools in Bahrain are striking today, most if not all the private schools have sent messages to parents to keep their children home, so they’re not functioning I don’t think, but it would be interesting to know the number and areas of the public schools that heeded the call to strike.

Is this the start of another “phenomenon” in Bahrain?

One thing is for sure: Bahrain before the 14th of February 2011 is most definitely different from the Bahrain after it.

 

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Lockdown

Four funerals are to take place today in various places in Bahrain for the four new martyrs of yesterdays brutal attack on the Pearl Roundabout. Essa Abdulhassan, the 61 year old gentlemen who went to reason with the riot police and got half his head blown off for his efforts is being laid to rest as I type this. Thousands are in Karzakkan to pay their respects. There will be thousands more at the other four funerals, three of which are going to be in the island of Sitra. I don’t know the schedule yet, but I hope that the police and military forces will restrict themselves and allow people to mourn peacefully.

No one wants a repeat of yesterday, especially what happened in Salmaniya…

Horrific scenes. The pictures and the screams will stay with me for ever and shall remind me, as it no doubt will others, of the brutality of the regime. One that I have always loved and am now looking to for much needed leadership. Essa Abdulhassan (61, Karzakkan), Mahmood Makki (23, Sitra), Ali Khudair (52, Sitra) and Ali Almoamin (23, Sitra) join the long list of compatriots in the pantheon of national martyrs yesterday, bringing the confirmed murdered to six so far with rumours of many more owing to the several people missing since Black Thursday.

Through their sacrifice, this country will change for the better for ever. It’s already in full focus in the international community with tens of articles and news reports on record, starting with the slamming of Bahrain by the UN Secretary General, to President Barak Obama, Secretary Clinton, British Foreign Minister William Hague and a flurry of other governments condemning the heavy-handedness of the Bahraini government and all of whom are asking for restraint. The people of Bahrain are indebted to this important showing of support. It’s good to know that someone’s got their back, and pressure must continuously be exerted to ensure that this country satisfies its national and international obligations.

To avoid further bloodshed, the country need more, much more. We need real engagement and partnership. We need the ruling elite to start treating the rest of the population as equals rather than subservient peons to be played with at their whim, and a good start to ensure that is the promulgation of a real constitution written by an elected constitutional council of high standing with the populace. At this stage, I don’t thing anything else would do. Good faith is also called for, and this is firmly in the hands of the king.

We have more than 450 political prisoners in this country, a third of them are children under the age of 18 according to various reports. They should be released. The trial of “the 25” whom have been labelled terrorists by the regime should be declared a mistrial immediately and they should be released, and the harassment and prosecution of bloggers and writers must stop immediately and Ali Abdulemam should lead those to be released. Five months imprisonment for doing nothing but expressing his opinion is diabolical in a country that oft-repeats that it’s a country of laws and establishments.

Today the country is still in shock and disbelief at the brutality of the attack on peaceful protestors at the Pearl Roundabout. It is still reeling with disbelief at the cold-bloodedness of the six murdered compatriots for doing nothing but joining a peaceful protest and expressing their love for their country by protesting to demand better conditions and a share of political and economic freedoms.

Today, we’re still too shocked to mourn. Leadership is called for more than ever in starting reconciliation which will eventually lead to forgiveness. Failing this, I can guarantee you that this country will descend very rapidly into the sectarian quagmire which is already accelerating. All one has to do is view some of the poisonous virulent posts on Twitter.

Coverage of the martyrs in Al-Wasat this morning.

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What’s there left to talk about?

Dialogue has no place in Bahrain at the moment.

And all space is left to the violence of a government that doesn’t seem to care about its citizens.

Dialogue is replaced with shotguns, tear gas and hundreds of riot police all exerting an inordinate amount of violence against unarmed civilians.

That was what faced unarmed sleeping civilians – men, women, children, old men and women – this pre-dawn residing in the Pearl Roundabout.

One would be forgiven for assuming that at least to those present there, and the families of the four more killed by riot-police shotguns at the roundabout this morning, not only the government has lost its credibility, but also the royal family.

This is a completely unnecessary escalation of events.

Why?

With the King appearing on national television offering his apology to those killed in the previous couple of days, one assumes by extrapolation that he would never have authorised nor condones such violence. So did the Ministry of Interior go it alone and completely against the king’s wishes and once again use an indiscriminate and an inordinate use of force?

Regardless. The royal family and the government aren’t gaining any friends now and lost quite a few too. If – and that’s a big – the government does want to restore calm, deep concessions must be offered. Unless we want to see the complete burning of the country unnecessarily.

God bless Bahrain. This time, it’s very difficult.

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“We don’t recognize leaders!”

When someone got onto the make-shift podium, already occupied by some turbanned gentlemen and started reading “The Youth’s Demands” he was shouted down by the crowd that they do not recognize him or any others who install themselves leaders. One shouted “our movement does not have leaders, get down!”

That made my day, especially with the turbanned lot wanting to take centre stage in this event.

Click for more pictures

There were thousands of people on and around the iconic Pearl Roundabout in Manama. There were even tens of people standing on the flyover looking down with banners hanging from the railings as well as a huge Bahraini flag.

I went there this afternoon to distribute what remained of the “Just Bahraini” buttons and wrist bands. I have to thank my friend Mohammed Al-Maskati (emoodz) who rose to the mark and helped me distribute them to the crowd as well. I have to thank a few people at the site who also helped distribute the bands and the buttons. I h0pe not only for them to enjoy them, but heed the message.

I have to once again thank those generous people who supported the cause by donating money to allow the buttons and the bands to be printed. You people, just like Bahrain, rock!

NOTE: The Just Bahraini site is STILL blocked in Bahrain. To side-step that block, please use the secure protocol to access it at https://justbahraini.org

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“The People Want to Overthrow the Regime!”

That was the chant that was continuously repeated throughout today. Just like the Tunisians and the Egyptians before them, Bahrainis today took to the streets in their tens of thousands to bid farewell to a fallen comrade. Gunned down in cold blood by a riot policeman for doing nothing other than joining his compatriots in demanding the reformation of the governing establishment and to amend the constitution in order for it to be more binding and fair on both the ruler and the ruled.

The chants and slogans were different yesterday; however, then, the general cries were to urge reforms. That changed when Ali Mushaimi fell. The blood of a martyr is precious, and it provides the catalyst on which people from all walks of life converge. Knowing what the Ministry of Information did was incendiary, they immediately withdrew almost all the riot police from the intersections they’ve been occupying for a year or more, thus acknowledging the provocation their sight engenders, and presumably so that people can mourn the loss of Mr. Mushaimi with dignity and without the presence of any further provocation in such a charged atmosphere. Driving to the mortuary this morning and not noticing any police presence, I was relieved and thought that finally someone evaluated the situation correctly, but that’s not to last.

Arriving at the Salmaniya Medical Complex – the main health facility in the island and in which the mortuary is located, I noticed three police jeeps with some ten or so riot police milling about just opposite one of the entrances of the hospital nearest to the mortuary. I paid them no heed as I thought that they must’ve been there as a token force and they won’t dare do anything when the funeral cortege passes by in an hour or so. I carried on and went in to the mortuary and joined the several hundred mourners already present there, with a lot more pouring in as time went by. The atmosphere, though tense, remained peaceful with occasional political and religious chants. Once the body was brought out, the crowd galvanised and started moving in an orderly and peaceful fashion to the main exit. The plan was to bury Ali Abdulhadi Mushaimi in the nearby village of Jiddhaffs’ cemetery, just a few kilometers away.

But as we arrived at the gate to exit – and I was almost at the front of the mourners – the tear gas was fired at us and live bird-shot too was fired into the crowd, the latter was the ammunition whcih was used to kill Ali Mushaimi, the person we were carrying to his final resting place. I didn’t know it at the time, but another martyr was mowed down not more than ten meters ahead of me. Fadhel Almatrouk now joins the pantheon of fallen Bahraini martyrs. I suspect that he won’t be the last. The people of Bahrain have paid dear with their lives over decades fighting for their rights and will continue to do so until their rightful demands are met.

Unable to breath and faced with an inordinate use of force against unarmed civilians, the cortège driver decided to drive away from that exit and attempt to get out another exit on the other side of the hospital. People were scrambling about trying to protect themselves and show respect to the deceased at the same time; however, even that was not to be. The so called security forces encircled the protestors between the original exit and the one at the far end and started shooting tear gas at us inside the hospital grounds. Some protestors out of anger and frustration started lobbing stones at the police, but when I shouted at them to keep it peaceful with another phrase taken from our brothers in Tunisia and Egypt (سلميه سلميه) others took up the cry and prevented demonstrators from resorting to violence.

The tear gas was choking us. With eyes streaming and lungs on fire, we sped off after the cortege to continue to be faced by the riot police and their liberal use of tear gas. The avenues and lanes around the hospital were saturated with people walking away in the direction of the chosen grave yard, but coughing and trying to cope as much as possible with the poisonous atmosphere. People, though, were stopping and helping each other. Some producing tissues to help wipe away eyes and others sharing their water or offering a helping hand when needed. The atmosphere, though charged, was still determined. We are going to do good by the fallen martyr.

I decided to go retrieve my car and rejoin the protest in Jiddhaffs. My knee was killing me and walking that distance unfortunately isn’t an option. I drove over and parked about a kilometer or so away from the venue. There were hundreds of cars parked along the street. I walked into some friends going in the same direction, Wa’ad’s Ebrahim Sharim amongst them and carried on to the main Jiddhaffs intersection where the cemetery is. Thousands were already awaiting the arrival of the funeral by the time we arrived. That number swelled to more than ten thousand by the time the funeral arrived.

Several international journalists were in attendance, from Reuters to the New York Times – both of which interviewed me along with several people in the crowd. Wa’ad’s Ebrahim Sharif and MPs from the main Al-Wefaq political party were in attendance and they too were interviewed by probably all journalists present. The common denominator to most of the answers were the need for real reform of the government, the constitution, addressing corruption and attending to the people’s needs.

By the time the body was interred, people streamed out of the area in the direction of the capital Manama, specifically to the Pearl Roundabout, a main landmark celebrating the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council, but now rechristened by the protestors as “Bahrain’s Tahrir Roundabout” with people camping there under make-shift tents complete with their blankets and necessities fully intending to stay until their demands are met. From the latest pictures I’ve seen, there must be considerably more than ten thousand.

The government and the ruling elites have done themselves a disfavour by the ham-fisted way they’ve handled the situation – again. I know the King and the Minister of Interior appeared on the local television this afternoon offering their condolences to the families of the martyrs, but that’s hardly enough to satiate the demands of their citizens. I don’t think that any sane citizen now will just accept these appeasements. The atmosphere is now different from what I remember it when the Bandargate fiasco exploded. Then, hardly a soul protested, now with the inspiration of Tunisia and Egypt, they will not stop and they should not stop until basic demands are met: respect for human rights, better political and economic rights and proper freedoms of the press, expression and personal freedoms along with a representative government and parliament rather than the sham we currently have.

I do hope they continue. I fully support them in their quest for justice and a better way of life. It’s high time this has happened and I’m proud to have taken part of protests today and in paying my respects to both Ali and Fadhel, two names which should be etched in the Bahraini psyche for ever as their sacrifice should never be squandered.

One more thing: throughout today I have not heard even a single sectarian chant. They were passionate and serious to be sure, but none were sectarian. The issue the demonstrators have are with the government and the ruling family, not each other. I have also seen Bahrainis from all walks of life, from all political spectrums and certainly from different sects taking part in the procession and funeral cortège side by side today without any of them pointing a finger of blame on the other. They were very much united

The Pearl Roundabout - a main landmark in the capital Manama - courtesy of Hubail

in spirit and demands, which are:

14 February Statement

In the name of freedom and the people

“It was a dream, then a thought, then a possibility, then it became a reality not a dream”

We, the Bahraini youth, from all the different sects and ideologies, call the people to unify their position in demanding their rightsWe, the Bahraini youth, from all different sects and backgrounds, call the people to unify their position and demand their rights. We call on Bahrainis to take to the streets on Monday 14 February in a peaceful and orderly manner. The time of waiting has ended, and the time of action is now. If we do not demand our rights by our own hands then no one will grant them to us. We have witnessed our brothers in Tunisia and Egypt carry the banner of freedom and justice. For what is the value of life without freedom? And how will we have our dignity without justice? Change will not come without sacrifice, so let us sacrifice for the sake of our future and the future of our people.

We have been suffering the ills of unmitigated corruption and brutal oppression for far too long, established under an irresponsible and unaccountable regime. The grievances may diverge but the cause is one. The regime has grown accustomed to creating crisis after crisis under the constructed banner of sectarianism, escaping accountability and suppressing the legitimate rights of the people. The plunder of the nation’s wealth has reached unprecedented proportions, including the expropriation of public land and sea. They have used foreign security forces to humiliate and attack citizens, and endemic corruption has seeped throughout the state’s institutions. Our thoughts and voices have been controlled through censorship and press control, while political naturalisation to change the population of the country has reached unprecedented levels. Anger and frustration is boiling amongst us all.

It is time for us to unify, and for the nation, the entire people of this land, to take control of its destiny. For we either awaken and live, or die and be forgotten. We are demanding a new constitution, where every letter is written by the people. Furthermore, we demand that a special body, fully mandated by the people, is established with the purpose of investigating and holding to account violations in the economic, political and social spheres. These include the theft of public wealth, political naturalisation, human rights and security transgressions, as well as institutional corruption. The aim is to reach national agreement and conciliation. These are the demands of the people, and these are the rights of the people. They are based on universal human values and principles of equality and justice, and the rulers must heed to these demands.

To all freedom-seeking people of Bahrain, now is the time for change, and now is the time to unite. Let us make February 14 a day of glory in the history of Bahrain – the day where all the Bahraini people emerged, in all their colours and from all its towns and cities: from Manama to Muharraq, from the northern villages to the the central governate, from Sitra to the southern governate. Our demands and aims are constructive, our means are peaceful, and they are not stained with the sectarianism and division that the regime has sown over the years. There is no difference between Sunni and Shia, rich or poor, between Bahrani, Ajami, Houli or members of tribes – we are all Bahrain. We all sacrifice ourselves for this beloved land. Let us be proud that we emerged on this day to demand our right to a dignified life that embodies our legitimate rights, and to create a state that represents our aspirations and dreams.

Yes to unity, yes to change, yes to human dignity, yes to our demands and rights!

On behalf of the Bahraini youth to the sovereign people of Bahrain.

The demands made on February 14:

A new constitution written by the people

Important next steps:
Forming local committees in every area to manage and direct gatherings on the day
Choosing a central and busy area that is easy to reach in the capital
Drawing maps to guide protestors
Taking precautions to avoid disclosing protest tactics to officials
Full use of media and internet tools such facebook, twitter and web forums

The establishment of a body that has a full popular mandate to investigate and hold to account economic, political and social violations, including:
-Stolen public wealth
-Political naturalisation
-arbitrary arrests, torture and other oppressive security measures
-Institutional and economic corruption

God save Bahrain.

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I believe in a better Bahrain.

There are a number of demonstrations and protests happening right in several areas in Bahrain, I think I can hear and smell some of the effects from my office.

The basic demands of the people is for a better life with dignity, respect for human rights, freedom of express and the release of political prisoners. None of those demands differ from the universal demands of people everywhere. Those demands are legitimate.

The bottom line is that a new and more just contract between the people and the rulers must be agreed upon and that should done with haste. We all know what needs to be addressed, and the wise would choose to enact these changes, rather than go into a protracted violent confrontation where one would come out the loser.

The platform exists for a win-win situation, which is the ideal outcome. I hope that wisdom prevails and Bahrain comes out the winner of this difficult time.

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Protest in Bahrain against the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla

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Dr. Ali Fakhro, Bahraini intellectual, thinking and ex-minister for education and health speaking to the protesters in front of the UN House in Manama. People protested and demonstrated against the barbaric attack on the Freedom Flotilla and the killing of a large number of activists on-board.

Feelings, as you will see from the video, are running quite high against Israel.

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