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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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Abundant signs of a disintegrated, fractured Bahrain

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When one-time valued friends choose to become enemies and permeate mistrust in those they once held in high regard and trust, a reboot button might be the only way forward, because continuing like this, will turn the whole situation uglier than our darkest nightmares.

Twitter’s a place where you go to get your blood pressure up these days. It has become a longer a place where intelligent conversation seldom takes place, especially when engaged with the majority of people who flooded in after #feb14. I normally don’t partake in those conversations because I know why they’re there and what they want to achieve. I never thought; however, that I would be faced with a situation where one of those would be a person I sincerely thought be a good and valued friend. This now erstwhile friend seem to have inexplicably taken umbrage with my ideology and positions and wasted not another opportunity to pounce by levying baseless assumptions and accusations against me. I know that he’s not the first and won’t be the last. The tragedy of the situation is that I held him in very high regard and I liaised with him in cordial business for over three years and I had nothing but praise for him in front of everyone. Professional, educated, erudite and a general good guy is the impression that I’ve built of him over the years…. After an exchange over a period of few minutes last night though, it was quite evident to me that once again, I have been a bad judge of character.

It started simply enough with challenging a statement made in a tweet from @saqeralkhalifa in which he stated that:

I’ve been meeting numerous journalists who wrote untrue stories on #Bahrain. They were disappointed on opposition when I presented evidence
SaqerAlKhalifa
August 17, 2011

As the gentleman is an official in the our embassy in the US, I thought he should know better than to make such a statement without offering a semblance of proof or evidence to support his assertions. He’s at that position in the first place to probably monitor the media and “correct” some errant thoughts about our dear country – amongst other valued cultural activities of course. He should know; therefore, that making unfounded statements can and do hurt the country rather than help it.

So I asked:

@SaqerAlKhalifa care to share the names of those journalists?
mahmood
August 17, 2011

To date, there has been no response from the original author. There was; however, this shocking comment from my so called “friend” of several years:

@SaqerAlKhalifa don’t bother replying to @mahmood . He will probably just pass the names of the journalists for the opposition to target.
BuYasmeen
August 17, 2011
Talk about giving a friend the benefit of the doubt… I decided not to take offense at this statement and to politely ask him to mind his own business:
@BuYasmeen @saqeralkhalifa ooh, love you too! But I think the gent can make up his own mind.
mahmood
August 18, 2011
Unfortunately, the gentleman seems to be filled to the brim with either anger, or hatred, or may be both:
@mahmood @SaqerAlKhalifa can certainly make his own mind up, but it is my national duty to warn him of sneaky buggers like you.
BuYasmeen
August 18, 2011

National duty? How can this be construed as national duty in even a moronic and infantile mind?

However, once again, I tried to calm the mood and give him a hint to stay out of this as it most definitely does not concern him.

@BuYasmeen @saqeralkhalifa oooh behayve, I thought we was friends! What did I sneak up you?
mahmood
August 18, 2011
but unfortunately to no avail
@mahmood Friends we can always be, but if you sneak up on my country, then you sneak up on me. I’m just sharing the love.
BuYasmeen
August 18, 2011
What? So I’m an enemy who sneaks up on the country? ME? I’m not sure what Mohammed was smoking to have reached that conclusion, so maybe offering a reset might be advisable. Once again.
@BuYasmeen moe we shared teas and meetings for over 3 years. I never saw the hate in you like this. What happened? What did u c in me 4 this
mahmood
August 18, 2011
@BuYasmeen sorry, if this is your attitude, I don’t want your friendship. So disappointed in one that at one time I held in high regard.
mahmood
August 18, 2011
@BuYasmeen and if this is your true self, and I thought once that you were intelligent enough to rise above this, then Bahrain has problems
mahmood
August 18, 2011
@mahmood don’t put words in my mouth that I never said. I would gladly have teas and meetings with you for years to come.
BuYasmeen
August 18, 2011
@BuYasmeen explain this: “national duty to warn him of sneaky buggers like you”
mahmood
August 18, 2011
@BuYasmeen and this “but if you sneak up on my country, then you sneak up on me”
mahmood
August 18, 2011
@mahmood my attitude has always been open minded. It is your attitude that is in question, pointing north one day, and south the other.
BuYasmeen
August 18, 2011
THIS is his interpretation of an open mind?
@mahmood I don’t need to explain myself as my stance has always been clear. It is your comments since Feb that need explaining.
BuYasmeen
August 18, 2011
@BuYasmeen another baseless allegation mohammed. if you have any examples, offer them. else, I suggest that it’s you who have changed 180d
mahmood
August 18, 2011
@BuYasmeen mohammed, find a mirror, look into it, and tell me in a moment of honesty if you like what you see. truly disappointed.
mahmood
August 18, 2011
@mahmood I don’t need a mirror as I weigh my deeds everyday. Did you weigh ur self before publishing Bahrain’s Shame?
BuYasmeen
August 18, 2011
@BuYasmeen oooh, so that’s what pressed your button? I’m glad to contribute to your deep thinking. I stand by every single word.
mahmood
August 18, 2011
@mahmood and do u stand by the words of AJalilKhalil regarding al jazeera English documentary on bahrain?
BuYasmeen