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The Return of the “Traitor Circles”

The Return of the “Traitor Circles”

This is very troubling:

Crackdown on cyber defamation

Posted on » Monday, September 10, 2012

THE Interior Ministry is set to crack down on defamation against national and public figures on social media networks, the acting general director for combatting electronic and economic crimes revealed yesterday.

He said anyone can report violations with details of the websites and eForums involved to the ministry website.

He said the ministry had received complaints by personalities who demanded an end to such acts.

“Online smear campaigns are tarnishing the reputation of national and public figures,” he said, warning that violators would be prosecuted.

He stressed that legal procedures wouldn’t mean curtailment of the freedom of expression but to deal with cyber crimes.

No matter how well intentioned this move is, some will take full advantage of it to continue to sow the seeds of discord in this country. This will be their ready and preferred method of exacting vengeance by levelling baseless allegations against those whom they don’t agree with. It will of course waste a lot of the authorities’ time who will be required to following up those allegations. At best, this move will see the return of the “traitor circles” this society has been suffering to this day for the past 18 months.

This is a very dangerous, not well thought out and completely unnecessary escalation that will further relegate Bahrain’s already damaged reputation to the very back of the various press, human rights and freedoms indices around the world.

The timing of announcing and enacting such a scheme is very wrong too, just days before Bahrain has to face the music in front of the UN Human Rights commission. Regardless, we have enough problems to contend with, why add one completely avoidable issue on an already heaping plate? A reboot and a grounded rethinking is very much required, gentlemen.


Bahrain in the news

Two pieces of international news are hitting our screens regarding Bahrain that deserve a mention: The first is that Bahrain has been elected once again to the Human Rights Council – congratulations! The other is that it has slipped 9 places in this year’s Global Peace Index – commiserations.

The first, though welcome news, needs to be followed up immediately by the government and parliament with concrete steps and actions in order to institute the required changes in our laws and legislation to rise to the level of Bahrain’s legal international commitments. Some of those require changes to our constitution, election laws, and instituting new laws to criminalise discrimination in all its forms. If and when these things happen, Bahrain will become a peace of Heaven for everyone who lives in it, and should make it proud to occupy such an exalted seat.

The worrying part in this is not about Bahrain, but the council itself. I’m not sure if the metrics used to elect members to the HRC conducive to the propagation of human rights globally as some of those elected are clearly not worthy of even being considered to that illustrious panel, one which has been presumably been created to ensure that human rights abuses do not go unpunished. I am quite certain that many will raise their eyebrows when they hear that countries like Pakistan and Gabon, amongst others, have been elected to it. I might even go as far as suggesting the renaming of the Human Rights Council to a currently more appropriate Human Rights Abusers Council.

global peace index 2008 mapThe second piece of news worth noting is that Bahrain has regressed once again in the world’s perception by 9 whole places, while our compatriots in the Gulf did not fair as badly. Even Saudi’s descent has not been as far as that experienced by Bahrain.

The criteria that the report uses is quite exhaustive, but although a lot of it is subjective, the basis on which it was drawn is solid; hence, this report and its ramifications should be taken seriously and steps must be enacted in order for us to overcome the outlined shortcomings.

Maybe the pending creation of a national human rights organisation at the parliament is one way to go, another is to have the political will and courage to effect anti-discrimination measures – rather than categorically denying their evident existence. Instituting a national reconciliation program to finally put the past behind us will also be much welcome and will go a long way at ameliorating the national conscience.

If these things are considered and enacted, I am fairly certain that all of these detrimental reports will be just another part of our collective history, one we can proudly look back on, because we will have proven to ourselves first and the world too that we can learn from our mistakes and have the courage and determination to rise above them.


In support of the World Autism Day

April 2nd was declared by the UN to be the World Autism DayOn 18th December 2007, United Nations General Assembly has designated 2nd April as World Autism day.

Like a lot of people, I don’t know much about autism. I did come in contact with several children and young adults who suffer from autism during the recent Earth Day Art Competition organised by the Rotary Club of Adliya who are no strangers to autism causes; they have worked very hard at establishes both Al-Rashad and Al-Wafa Centres for Autism in Bahrain.

However, as far as my personal experience goes, I will never forget one single incident for the rest of my life I think; this was when I tried to help Othman, a young adult who participated at the competition and was accompanied by his mother. His mother was quite frustrated because at the table he was sharing with other “able” children who were just inconsiderately staring at him, they too probably didn’t know much about autism. This, she told me, sent Othman back into his own world. His mother was ready to walk out.

I prevailed upon her to allow me to take them to another table which will ensure that they will be alone, and that Othman can continue to paint his wonderful frog, which he expertly copied from a drawing and was proceeding to paint. She agreed and I moved the material to the new location and helped Othman to get comfortable by just talking to him. I was really surprised when he just put his arms around me and kissed me on the cheek! That was a complete – and nice – surprise! I guess he took to me. But regardless of what prompted it, this made my whole day.

Othman did finish his painting and it will be available for auction at the club (and hopefully the website) soon. Guess who’s bidding for it!

Did you know:

  • Autism affects as many as 1 in 150 children and 1 in 94 boys
  • Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the world
  • More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with diabetes, cancer, & AIDS combined
  • Boys are four times more likely than girls to have autism
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism, but early diagnosis and intervention improve outcomes
  • Autism does not discriminate by geography, class, or ethnicity

Spare a thought to those who suffer from autism, and lend a hand if you could. We have two centres in Bahrain who need your help [translate].


Provisional UNHCR report on Bahrain

unhcr-report-bahrain.jpgKiwi Nomad alluded to the “special” way that the GDN chooses to report the news, especially when the news is somewhat critical of the government. In this case, Geoff Bew seems to have chosen the ‘glass half full’ approach (of maybe his editor did? I don’t know) and printed the effervescent headline “UN report praises Bahrain’s progress” to describe how the UNHRC Advanced Unedited report on Bahrain human rights record classifies the country. While he is technically correct, the report does praise Bahrain for some advances, he neglected to highlight that more than half of the 45 issues raised are negative and urges Bahrain in unequivocal language to clean up its act.

You can download the report and read it yourself, but as far as I am concerned I fully stand by their requirements for change to the better – every single one of them – and I have called for the very issues to be championed and adopted.

I fully believe that should the government take up the task and implement the recommendations, our society as a whole will move inexorably forward to a better future.

I guess this is the golden opportunity for the government to show its probity by implementing the recommendations now, especially as parliament is a bit busy these days.

update 2306: hot on the heals of the UNHCR report, the US State Department released it’s report on Bahrain. Thanks to the BCHR for the heads up.


HR Universal Periodic Review published

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published the Human Rights report it is going to submit to the Universal Periodic Review panel at the United Nations in April 2008. The Arabic report is available here while the English, once it is published, is going to be available here.

I’ve had a brief look at the report and am impressed in the fact that it provides some recommendations on what the government should do in the future. The question is not that, anyone can table recommendations, the question is does the report have teeth? Will the government – the very one who published it – take heed of the recommendations and enact them?

I must admit that I’m not very encouraged when I see a recommendation like that given regarding the Freedom of Speech in which it says that “there are some journalists who are against imprisoning journalists for their opinions while there are others who condone and encourage it“. It goes on to say “they will look into the situation”.

There are other sections such as those on discrimination and anti-torture; which, although recognised that these things happen in Bahrain – barely, there are no real solid recommendations like proposing changes to questionable laws or proposing new legislation to correct a situation.

Is this report just a stop-gap measure until – once again – the spot-light points elsewhere and then recede once again into our own little hole?

Well, the absence of concrete steps to enact changes leads me to believe that it might be. The lottery was drawn, our name came up, and this is the response. But don’t get me wrong, I recognise that at least they pinpointed areas which must be looked into, maybe next year we will get some concrete steps enacted.

If there is a real will, both societal and political, to fix our situation, I am sure just like those magical days of 2001, changes could be done overnight. We all know what needs to be done, and in the preceding 7 years we have heard and read a plethora of ways to get there.


O’ Oh

I think it’s time to duck or find another place to enjoy the forthcoming summer in as summer in Bahrain is promising to be a tad hotter than usual:

The prime minister receiving the news that he has been awarded a UN prize

Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, addressed today the meeting of the Human Rights council in Geneva regarding inadequate housing in Bahrain, which he said is the result of corruption and acquiring most of the country lands by members of the ruling family.

In his speech before representatives of Governments and NGO’s from around the world, Alkhawaja criticized the “United Nations Human Settlements Programme” for giving the prime minister of Bahrain an award related to achievements in human settlements. He said that the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has addressed the UN Secretary General to review the criteria and nomination procedures for such award to make sure that it is not given to officials who are well known for corruption and human rights abuses.