Bahrain Freedom Movement

Sources at Bahrain’s ministry of information talk of an atmosphere of acrimony as the reputation of the regime has been tainted by articles published in the British press last week.

 The articles appeared in major newspapers such as The Times, The Guardian and the Independent, written by senior journalists in these newspapers after visiting the country at the invitation of the ruling family. The new information minister, Jihad Bu Kamal, attempted to present a respectable face for the regime, but what he achieved has been damning international verdicts against an antiquated political system that has failed to adapt to modern standards of democracy and human rights. The new minister sought to enhance his chances of survival by these invitations, but what come out is a fiasco. The British journalists proved to be far beyond the regime’s hopes of containment or influence. Large budgets were assigned to a new media drive designed to counter the negative image of this hereditary dictatorship, especially after the decision of the UN Human Rights Council to scrutinize Bahrain’s human rights records. The visit to Bahrain by these “guests” has, once again, proven to be a losign game. The excesses of the regime were exposed. The Times article on Friday 2nd November described the failure of Sheikh Hamad’s political programme which left the majority of Bahrainis with a feeling of subordination and humiliation as a result of the political naturalisation programme. The writer also described the systematic “discrimination by the ruling Al Khalifa rules against the majority Shia Muslims. He also talked of the “big demonstrations” against the regime that flare up regularly.

The “invitation” of the press came as the ruler, Sheikh Hamad, was preparing to open a new session of his shura council, half of whose members are elected. It was evident that the regime had another motive. The ruler, Sheikh Hamad, is suffering from an unknown ailment and his health has become a matter of concern to the ruling family especially in light of the jostling to power by the various members of the Al Khalifa. It appears that the aim was to “prepare” the crown prince for the ultimate job, in case his father failed to survive much longer. He received the journalists, talked to them in polished English and attempted to present a near-normal feeling of ease and power. The visiting journalists were shocked to see how inexperienced the cp had been and how the functions of the government has been sidelined by the persistent conflicts between the prime minister and his less experienced stage actors, headed by Sheikh Hamad. The crown prince has become one of the new thieves in the country, having usurped large areas of reclaimed sea lands and coasts. His preparation for succession is encountering resistance from the prime minister’s camp as well as the opposition who view him as yet another corrupt member of the ruling Al Khalifa family.

In the past few weeks more unsettling developments have shaken the stands of the ruling family First came the revelations by the foreign minister, sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, that he had been holding secret meetings with the Israelis. This is in contradiction to the Arab governments directives that only Egypt and Jordan were to hold these meetings. The people of Bahrain have all along suspected the ruling family of closer relations with the Israelis, but have sought their help in three major areas: how to hold on to lands occupied by force, how to deal with rising and un-defeatable opposition, and how to change the demography of the land and turn the natives into a minority in their homeland.

Meanwhile the ruling family is under international scrutiny for its dismal human rights records. This problem has been intensified in recent weeks as the civil resistance campaign by the people takes new dimensions. The decision by individuals and groups to “explore” the islands occupied by the Al Khalifa senior members has caught the ruler and his entourage by surprise. A massive crackdown against those intending to visit Umm Al Na’ssan, the largest of the islands and home to Sheikh Hamad’s palaces, has led to the arrest of several individuals. They were subsequently released as their case threatened to destabilise the regime. Their release has been hailed by the opposition as a victory against the ruling family and an encouraging factor for them to continue their peaceful civil resistance campaign.

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