Statements, Questions & Answers, relating to BFM policies
Bahrain Freedom Movement
Bahrain Freedom Movement (BFM) is concerned with promoting representative political participation and respect of human rights in Bahrain.
BFM is a mass movement founded in 1982 bringing together political activists, intellectuals and professionals, amongst others, from diverse sections of Bahrain society. The movement takes its roots from the parliamentary experiment that existed in the period between 1972 and 1975. Following the dissolution of the elected parliament and suspension of key articles of the constitutions by the Amir (ruler) of Bahrain, pro-democracy activists went underground. BFM reflects the aspirations of Bahraini pro-democracy tendency and shares the vision of reviving the rule of constitutional law. The movement is an integral part of the popular and general pro-democracy trend in Bahrain. It strikes a balanced line of thought and action that integrates Islamic values with pluralism.
BFM believes that a Bahrain ruled by constitutional law, as existed in the early seventies, is the most secure route for stability in the country. This in turn can guarantee the interests of the State of Bahrain as well as respecting regional and international frameworks of relationships.
Bahrain can only prosper through the continued diversification of the economy. Growth of business and development of market economy require a stable political environment. This, we believe, can only be achieved through the respect of the will of the people of Bahrain and their rights as specified by the constitution of the country.
BFM aims at freeing the people of Bahrain from repression and lack of civil liberties. A key objective is the restoration of the parliament based on the constitution which was enacted in 1973. BFM believes that the constitution represents the national consensus and the will of the citizens of Bahrain. Civil liberties, freedom of speech and assembly and the principles enshrined in the United Nation Universal Declaration on Human Rights as well as Islamic values are regarded as ideals by the BFM.
The Bahrain Freedom Movement believes that attaining its principled goals shall be through peaceful means. BFM adopts civilized ways for settling disputes and conflicts.
Issued in August 1995
(1) Question and Answer
Question: I would like to know how crucial economic reform is to the Bahrain Freedom Movement and in what specific areas would they implement reform?
Answer: Thank you for your e-mail message showing interest in the current affairs of Bahrain. As you know the BFM has been campaigning for the restoration of constitutional life in Bahrain and the ending of all violations of human and civil rights. The BFM also believes that after more than 25 years of absolute rule, the government of prime minister Sheikh Khalifa has failed to meet the economic and social aspirations of the majority of the population through its misallocation of resources and its squandering of the fruits of the oil wealth.
The obvious manifestations of the government’s failure are high unemployment among certain sections of the population, falling standards in education, widespread corruption and nepotism in the administration, the emergence of monopolistic business owned by the prime minister and other key members of the ruling family and their friends, etc. Addressing these and other issues is crucial for the sustainability of economic growth and the raising of living standards. Although we and the government know what needs to be done to tackle these issues, implementing economic reforms is a process rather than a one shot change and as a result it needs good governance and popular consultation. Until and unless these preconditions are in place any talk of economic reforms is bound to be futile. Having said that, our agenda would include, inter alia, transparency of public finances, the reallocation of funds from internal security to civilian purposes especially education, removing the distortions and the segmentation in the labour market, protecting workers rights including those of expatriates, rooting out corruption and insisting on efficiency in public spending, introducing an appropriate system of taxation and encouraging private savings and investment. As we said above there are many more necessary reforms which would need to be introduced in the appropriate sequence.
We believe that this agenda is also relevant to our partners in the GCC and its implementation in a concerted and coordinated manner would be highly desirable. We hope this answers your question and thank you once again for your interest.
Issued in November 1996
(2) Question and Answer
BFM Statement: The pro-democracy movement represents the will of the Bahraini people
“The Bahrainis I met were virtually unanimous in wanting a fully independent sovereign State. The great majority added that this should be an Arab State”. This was the concluding sentence of Mr. Winspeare Guicciardi who briefed the United Nations Security Council on 11 May 1970 about the findings of his exploratory mission to Bahrain. The fifteen nations of the Security Council unanimously accepted and voted for a sovereign and independent State of Bahrain based on the wishes of the people of Bahrain.
Mr. Guicciardi, the Personal Representative of the UN Secretary General, toured Bahrain in March 1970 and met with dignitaries and various sections of the society. The will of the people was reflected clearly for an “independent sovereign state”. Bahrain was accepted as a member of the UN after consulting the wishes of the people of Bahrain. This is why the Constitution of Bahrain states in Article (1) that “the system of government in Bahrain is democratic, under which sovereignty lies with the people, the source of all powers. Sovereignty shall be exercised in the manner specified in this Constitution”. The first article continues to say, “the citizens shall enjoy the right to participate in the public affairs of the State and enjoy political rights, beginning with the right to vote”.
The Constitution of Bahrain is an intrinsic part of the “independent sovereign state”, and the governing rules are above the whims of holders of authority or law-makers. This is also in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 21 of the UDHR states that the “will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures”.
The Al-Khalifa ruling family unilaterally dissolved the parliament in 1975 and suspended the important articles of the Constitution which mandate the existence of an elected National Assembly. Since 1975, the Al-Khalifa family resisted all calls for the reinstatement of constitutional rule. By doing so, the “independent sovereign state” had been undermined. The Bahraini people have suffered immensely from arbitrary governance. The opposition has peacefully campaigned for the rights of the people and for the sovereignty of Bahrain as specified by the Constitution. The ruling establishment used brutal force, torture, extra-judicial killings, forcible exiling, arbitrary detention and sentencing as well as various other means aimed at abolishing the basic freedoms of the nation. The ruling establishment has adopted policies based on racial, religious and tribal discrimination amongst the population. Tens of thousands of people had been imported, awarded citizenship, recruited in security and defence forces, and granted favourable treatment in an attempt to change the demography of the country.
The drive for democracy can not be halted and the people of Bahrain are entitled to struggle for their rights. The pro-democracy movement articulates the will of the people on the basis of national consensus. Such consensus is based on pluralist and civil rights concepts commonly enshrined in Islamic values, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution of Bahrain.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
16 December 1997
Bahrain: A call for standing up against dictatorship and discrimination
The Bahraini nation has been drowned in sorrow for more than two years. The high-handedness of the security forces from the first day agitated those sections of the population which are considered as the underdog of the society. Following independence in 1971, all sections of Bahrain society came together to agree on the constitutional framework of the young state. The legitimacy of the ruling Al-Khalifa family was defined on the basis of popular participation through the National Assembly. Without a parliament there is no legitimacy. The constitution sets-out the pillars for freedom of expression, individual and group rights, equality before the law, freedom from exploitation, torture and abuse, the right to elect representatives for enacting laws and for monitoring the proceedings of the government, the right to appeal to a just and impartial judiciary, and above all the right of citizens to live with dignity.
The story of Bahrain is a sad one. In 1975, the Amir abrogated the parliamentary experience and decided to rule the country by combining the executive branch of the government with the legislature and judiciary. Moreover, the Bahraini society became the victim of a political establishment that practice the worst forms of apartheid. Bahrainis nowadays are judged not on the basis of their contributions and capabilities to contribute but on the bases of tribal, ethnic and sectarian discriminatory divisions. The ruling wing of the Al-Khalifa family denied all citizens, including members of the Al-Khalifa family, from their rights for freedom of speech. The ruling wing has annually consumed over one-third of the state budget on military and security expenditure. The ruling wing has imported many types of people for the sole purpose of consolidating its oppression and discriminatory principles.
Bahrainis, whether Shia or Sunni, rich or poor, elite or underdog , are either suffering or are lined-up for future suffering. If the ruling wing is allowed to get away with abusing the Shia today, the Sunnis will suffer from the same practice tomorrow, as no human being accepts to be degraded to the level of an animal. Freedom to pursue happiness with dignity is a basic human right. All people of all races, backgrounds and culture aspire for these types of values.
Bahand Bahrainis are in danger. No one is safe from the abuses of the foreign security forces. Those who are safe today (as part of the policy to tackle one-by-one) are not safe tomorrow. What we demand is fairness before an impartial state administration and before an impartial and constitutional judiciary. If a person is found to have violated constitutional laws, then he or she must be punished by an impartial constitutional judiciary that guarantees all human rights and ensures that no torture or abuse take place.
We call on all Bahrainis of all origins and backgrounds to say their word and to let the ruling wing of Al-Khalifa and their security forces realize that Bahrainis are not prepared to enter the 21st century with a dictatorship that denies them human rights. We call for political reforms in accordance with the constitution. But what happens these days can only be a recipe for disasters to come, as the presently targeted sections of the population continue to be singled out for victimization. Pastor Niemoeller, a victim of the Holocaust, said about Nazi-Germany: ((First they came for the communists and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist. Next they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me)).
Bahrain Freedom Movement
3 March 1997
Political reform will come, we want it through dialogue
It is now more than eighteen months since the people of Bahrain rose to demand the reinstatement of the 1973 Constitution, the release of political prisoners and the return of the exiles. The popular uprising followed the refusal by the Amir, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, to receive the petition calling for the Constitution and signed by 25,000 people. Throughout that period the government stopped at nothing in its attempt to crush the largely peaceful protests in almost all villages and towns of the country. More than 20 citizens were killed either by police fire or under torture in police custody. The British officer, Ian Henderson, who is the Director General of Public Security, has engineered the repressive policies against the people of Bahrain ever since he came to the island thirty years ago. As the popular movement made headway worldwide, the Al Khalifa tribal regime grew more tense, especially after they realized that their policies have failed to convince the world opinion of the wisdom of their refusal to reinstate the Constitution.
Last week (3 June 1996), the government announced the sudden discovery of a grand design to topple the tribal rule, allegedly to be carried out by a group, hitherto unheard of, with the name “Hezbullah”. Young Bahraini men were forced to appear on TV screens to read their “confessions”. Marks of torture were visible on at least one of them (Hussain Yousif) whose arm looked swollen, and their staring eyes indicated the terror to which they had been subjected to. The testimonies contained many loopholes, dates that could not be matched together, a language that is definitely not their own, names of persons whose professions did not match the allegations and tactics that did not correlate with the declared grand aims. The government thought that using the name of Hezbullah would enable it to enlist the support and sympathy of the international community, and would make it justifiable for her to unleash a reign of terror against the Shia of Bahrain. Among its objectives were the breaking up of the national consensus on the demands, the flaring up of sectarian emotions, and the destruction of the achievements of the people.
However, the campaign soon ran out of steam as the reaction of the people, which is the most crucial factor in the equation, surprised those who had planned the government’s attempted coup against the opposition. The allegations came too late to save the despotic regime and could not salvage its sunken reputation as one of the most repressive in the world. Apart from some local and regional media, there was reluctance worldwide to swallow the allegations which have clearly been intended to score points rather than to solve the problem. The alleged plotters were not amongst the leadership of the popular movement, and could not have been so foolish to attempt to overthrow the Al Khalifa tribal rule with what the government has alleged they had in their possession.
It is therefore our view that the popular constitutional movement will continue unabated, and will not be affected by the Al Khalifa’s sinister designs. We call on the Government to abandon its intransigence, stop the collective punishment of our people, end the state of emergency which has been in place for than twenty years, and start a constructive dialogue with the opposition to reach a common stand vis-a-vis the demands. The continued detention of Sheikh Al Jamri and his colleagues, the massive use of torture against the thousands of detainees including women and children, the all-out media war, the targeting of the Shia villages for indiscriminate collective punishment, and the threats to escalate violence against the peaceful people of Bahrain, can never lead to the solution of the crisis. The government may have all means of repression, but it has failed to tame the aspirations of the people for a better life under the constitutional law. Having failed to contain the situation with the means of arms, it is time for the government to try dialogue as a vehicle for peace and tranquillity of the country. We are confident that change will eventually come to Bahrain; the government wants it to be through violence, we prefer it to be through dialogue.
Issued in June 1996
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