Power outage confirms failure in policies Never has there been in the recent history of Bahrain a complete blackout rendering the whole country inactive at all levels. The Monday event can is nothing less than a scandal. With the temperature soaring above 40 degrees, thousands of people rushed across the causeway to Saudi Arabia in search for cool air. Others spent their time along the shorelines to cool off in the sea, while the few gas stations that were operating on standby generators witnessed long queues of cars, where some drivers waited for 2 hours for 20 litres of fuel. The questions that many ask is why should this happen in this little oil rich country? Despite the many warnings that were sent to the government by many politicians and professionals, nothing has been done over the past years to overcome the problem. The country has witnessed a number of power cuts during the summers of the past three years. These have worsened this year. The resentment of the people could be felt in the local press through the many articles and complaints filed by citizens. The systematic power cuts took place despite assurances on many occasions by the Minister of Electricity and Water that this summer would be different. And different it was on Monday. The country has suffered huge losses as businesses closed down and communications cut off. Being a main banking centre in the region, the reputation of the country has also suffered. Hospitals were also in a great predicament as the lives of many depend on life support instruments which require electricity. The Monday blackout reaffirms the government’s deficient policies. The planning practices, if there are any, are not adequate and do not relate to a clear strategic plan for the country. Development in the country is confused and does not follow a structured national strategic plan which takes into account infrastructure services. Some observers think there is a 10 years gap between the present state of development and the existing level of infrastructure services. The government’s failure to provide reliable services to the people include also the sectors of water, roads and sewer systems, where many places are still not provided with these basic utilities. Monday 23rd of August will be remembered for many years as it exposed the corruption and absence of planning that are deeply rooted in the country. Bahrain Freedom Movement
26th August 2004
Bahrain seminar August 17, 2004 Ali Rabe’a Speech The Political Reforms In Bahrain: The Tale Of Two Constitutions The experiment of the seventies Bahrain gained its independence from Britain on 14 August 1971 immediately after the people of Bahrain expressed their free will in a UN referendum to have an independent Arab state under the rule of the Al-Khalifa family with a democratic form of government. In accordance with the Amiri Decree Law No. (12) of 1972 a Constituent Council was established to draft a constitution for the State. This Constituent Council comprised of 42 members of which 22 members were elected by male voters in a universal suffrage and 8 members were appointed by an Amiri decree and the twelve ministers were members because of their portfolio. It is obvious from the above figures that the representative of the people formed the majority in the Constituent Assembly. On 16th of December 1972, the constituent Assembly was inaugurated and after 6 months of hot debate the Constituent Assembly accomplished its job on 9th June and submitted the Constitution to the Amir who ratified it and promulgated it on December 6th, 1973. It is very important to mention that this constitution does not give the people the right to choose their government and it does not allow the multi- party system . What we had in Bahrain was a rudimentary democracy or what they call in the West a partial democracy. Our constitution of 1973 is a replica of the Kuwaiti one where the ministers are members of the National Assembly by virtue of their portfolio. On 16 December 1973, the National Council convened and I am very proud to be one of the elected members and to be an eye witness on this short lived but successful experiment. As per article 43 the National Assembly is composed of thirty elected members and the 14 ministers were by virtue of their portfolio. The No. of the elected constitutes 68% and this percentage will be 74% when the No. of elected members is raised to forty with effect of the second legislative term. It is apparent from these figures that the elected members constituted more than the required two third majority a percentage which made the National Assembly a semi independent legislative power that enjoyed genuine legislative and supervisory powers. As a result the elected members of legislative power were able to perform the following functions and duties without any hindrances:- 1) They acted as legislators and no law may be promulgated unless it has been approved by the National Assembly. 2) They had a real check and supervision on the administration of the government by a)putting questions to the prime minister and the ministers . b) by passing a vote of confidence following a general debate on matters raised by the members. This vote of confidence could also be raised to the prime minister if he happens to hold ministerial portfolio. 3) The members exercised their full supervision on the annual budget and no loans or taxes or any transfer of money could effected without the relevant law. Even the Amiri annual privy purse is to be fixed by law as stated by article 33 of the constitution. 4) The National Assembly had set up a special committee to deal with petitions and complaints submitted by by citizens and in the years 1947 and 1976 the National Assembly received more than three hundred fifty petitions. 5) The National Assembly could act as a constituent council and pass amendments to the constitution as stipulated in article (104) because it had the two thirds majority. But this amendment should not be proposed before the expiry of five years from the effective date of the activation of the constitution. It is worth mentioning that clause (b) of Article (1) of the contractual constitution emphasized the hereditary rule and provided recognition that the rule in Bahrain is vested in Al-Khalifa family. But against this recognition the constitution states explicitly in Clause (D) of Article (1) that the system of government in Bahrain is democratic, under which sovereignty lies with the people, the source of all powers. Furthermore Clause (a) of Article (32) of the 1973 Constitution provides that “the system of government shall be based on the principle of separation of the legislative, executive and judicial powers, functioning in co-operation with each other in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. It is evident from this article no power is allowed to relinquish all or part of the other powers but the executive power did launch its assault in 26th August 1975 and abolished the legislative power while it was in its recess. While the reason for the dissolution was the lack of co-operation between the executive and the legislative power as stated in the Amiri Decree the real motive behind this step is that the leadership has discovered from this short experiment that the system of political participation contradicts with the traditional absolute rule that existed before independence. Though article (65) gabe the power to the Amir to dissole the National Assembly but in mean time it made it compulsory that He calls for election for the new Assembly within a period not exceeding two months. To our deep grief the proposed election was never held and instead the Amir enforced the notorious state security law which allows the ministry of interior to detain and imprison any person for three years being merely suspected that he intends to do harm to the security of the country. This period could be extended by another three years if the security court decided . This unconstitutional dissolution marked the first constitutional coup-detat in the history of modern Bahrain. The Uprising Of The Nineties In 1991 a group of 11 well known political figures three of whom are parliamentarians sponsored the elite petition in which three hundred and sixty six intellectuals and clerics put their signatures. This petition demanded the Amir to put in force the frozen articles of the constitution and to return to the semi-democratic rule. Other demands were related to the problems of unemployment and poverty. In the beginning of year 1992 the Amir met the delegation of the petition and after hearing from its members the demands that are contained in the petition he informed them that he is going to adopt the experiment of the appointed Shura Council rather than to go back for elections. The Amir ended the meeting by telling the members of the delegation that this elite petition does not authorize them to act on behalf of the people of Bahrain. In order to comply with the condition raised by the Amir the same sponsors took the initiative in year 1994 to sponsor the public petition which succeeded in collecting the signatures of more than 23 thousands of people from all walk of life . A delegation was formed by the sponsors to deliver this popular petition but the late Amir Sheikh Isa refused to receive the petition. In the year 1994 the unemployed the majority of whom are from the Shia sect took to the street and the use of force against the demonstrators sparked off the uprising that claimed more than forty innocent lives and opened up the prisons and police stations to accommodate thousands of political detainees. Between 1995 and 1999 the notorious state security law which was rejected by the dissolved parliament as unconstitutional and its relative state security court had inflicted too much injury and harm to the people of Bahrain. But the government never expected that its attempts to smear and demonize the people who strived for reviving the country’s constitution will bring catastrophic consequence for itself. No doubt the extra judicial killings and the victims of torture and banishment of people had tarnished the reputation of the government worldwide. The government was put under international pressure because its grave violation of human rights and was forced to open up for some sort of political reform. The Era Of Political Openness In Bahrain In March 1999, His Highness Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa succeeded his demised father on the throne and instantly declared that he is going for both administrative and p
olitical development in Bahrain. On 22 November 2000 an Amiri decree was issued to form the Supreme National Committee for drafting a national charter. The committee was made of 44 members and headed by the minister of justice and Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdulla Bin Khalid Al-Khalifa. Both the initiative of the National Charter and the contents of the initial draft caused fear and suspicion towards the real aim behind this step. Though the opposition hailed the step of abolishing the state security law and the security court and releasing all detainees and allowing people in exile to return to their country this political openness never ever helped to clear doubt and fear regarding the future political project. This doubt and suspicion is a striking evidence of the erosion of public trust resulting from the long years of totalitarian rule that followed the dissolution of the parliament in 1975 . Later events proved that the opposition’s resentment and fear was in its place. The Supreme National Committee submitted the National Charter to His Highness the Amir on 23rd Dec. 2000 and we discovered that the corner stone of the Charter are the following two crucial constitutional amendments:- 1) The first one is to change the Emirate into kingdom. 2) The second is to adopt the bicameral system in replacement of the unicameral one. In the chapter under the heading ( outlook) the National Charter stated that the provisions of part 4 chapter 2 of the constitution ( of 1973) shall be amended to be consistent with democratic and constitutional developments worldwide in so far as the introduction of bi-cameral system is concerned. The National Charter continues to say ‘ this would mean that one chamber is constituted through free direct elections whose mandate will be to enact laws while a second one would have people with experience and expertise who would give advice as necessary. An in order to avoid the ambiguity and misinterpretation surrounding the relation between the two chambers the opposition insisted for more clarification from the leadership . In order to win the confidence of the opposition and the people His Highness the Amir , the crown prince and the minister of justice made their pledges and assurance that the elected members are for legislation and the appointed ones are for advice only and that the constitution of 1973 will have the upper hand on the National Charter and that the amendments will be dealt with constitutionally. It is only after these pledges and undertakings from the leadership that the opposition called on the people to vote ‘ yes’ to the National Charter and the ultimate outcome of the high rate of participation was 98.4% of the votes in favor of the National Charter. But what happened in Bahrain after this landslide victory for the National Charter is unprecedented , unconstitutional and hitherto unimaginable. Instead of applying the mechanism of the constitution or to call for the election of a constituent council to pass the amendments the leadership formed a committee to perform this task in grave Infringement of both the constitution and the National Charter. And what is worse is that while the National Charter and the leadership talked about two specific amendments to be passed to the constitution of 1973 the proclamation of a new constitution on 14th Feb. 2002 caused a shock to the opposition and the people of Bahrain. This onslaught on the constitution of 1973 lead to what we call in Bahrain the constitutional coup-detat and it is the second one since Bahrain gained its independence . In this new constitution the leadership imposed a very narrow concept of democratization in which the King and the appointed Chamber (both chambers have forty members each) enjoy most of the legislative power. Article 70 of the new constitution states that no law shall be promulgated unless approved by both the Consultative Council and the Chamber of Deputies or the National Assembly . The National Assembly is the combination of the elected and the appointed chambers in one room. The appointed Consultative Council which comprises 50% of the National Assembly vividly annuls the principle of the separation of powers as well as the principle which states that the sovereignty lies in the people and that they are the source of all powers. What is more damaging to the process of the minimum constitutional and democratic rights given by the constitution of 1973 are the vast powers that are entertained by the King in the gifted constitution and we hereby list the following:- 1) The king is the Head of the State, and his person shall be immune and inviolable. 2) The King safeguards the legitimacy of the government and supremacy of the constitution and the law. 3) The King exercises his powers directly and through his Ministers. Ministers are jointly answerable to him for general governmental policy, and each Minister is answerable for the business of his Ministry. 4) The King appoints and dismisses the Prime Minister by Royal Decree as proposed by the prime Minister. 5) The King appoints and dismisses members of the Consultative Council by Royal Order and appoints the President of the Consultative Council. 6) The King is the supreme commander of the Defence Force. He commands it and charges it with national tasks within the homeland and outside. The Defence Force is directly linked to the King. 7) The King chairs the Higher Judicial Council. The King appoints judges by Royal Orders as proposed by the Higher Judicial Council. 8) The King may amend the constitution , propose laws and is the authority for their ratification and promulgation. 9) The king and the cabinet has the authority to proclaim martial law by a Decree issued by the King and the Cabinet without justification, and without passing this law to National Assembly for its approval. The extension of martial law can be approved by the simple majority of the members of the National Assembly who are present. 10) The King shall appoint and dismiss civil servants , military personnel and political representatives in foreign States and with international organizations. 11) The King is entitled to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies by a Decree that states the reasons for the dissolution . 12) The King may conduct a popular referendum on important laws and issues connected with the interest of the State. The issue on which the referendum has been held is considered to have been agreed upon if approved by a majority of those who cast their votes. The result of the referendum shall be binding on all and effective from the date it is declared, and it shall be published in the Official Gazette. 13) The King has the authority to extend the legislative term of the Chamber of Deputies, when necessary, by a Royal Order, for a period of two years . This Article deprives the electors of their right to elect their new deputies in accordance with the principle of the regularity of elections. He could postpone the convening of the National Assembly for not more than two months in every session and this period of postponement should not be counted within the convening period 14) The King appoints by a Royal Decree the members of Constitutional Court and he appointed its head. 15) The financial control office which used to be under the authority of the National Assembly and to assist the Government and the National Assembly in controlling the income and expenditure of the State has been attached to the executive power . And by a Royal Decree this office is now under the control of the King and shall submit its annual report to both the government and the Chamber of Deputies . In this condition the National Assembly no more exercises its control over the State’s financial affairs as it did inn 1974 and 1975. From the above illustration we could conclude that most of the powers are in infringement of the principle of the country’s constitution of 1973 and in the mean time they are in contradiction of the principles of any parliamentary rule in the world. At the beginning of the political reform in the year 2001 we did genuinely think that the political reform would open up spaces to res
hape and develop our political participation to conform with the constitutional monarchy referred to in the National Charter and announced several times by His Highness the Amir. But we were dismayed to discover that we were wrong and that we have committed a fatal mistake by putting our trust in something vague and ambiguous. In the month of Oct. 2002 the first elections in 30 years were held in accordance of the new illegitimate constitution. Four major political societies ( political parties are forbidden) boycotted the election a result of which society in Bahrain was polarized between participants and boycotters. The boycotters had their fundamental reasons to boycott. Their argument was based on two main things:- 1) that their participation would be taken for granted as a recognition of the token constitution which is intended to replace the country’s legitimate contractual constitution of 1973. 2) that the balance of powers inside these institutions will not allow the representatives of the people to exercise their role as legislators and supervisors on the government in view of the limited powers granted to them by this new constitution. This argument of the opposition was further supported and strengthened by the comparative study of the constitution which was conducted by highly qualified Bahraini advocates and lawyers. The boycott of the election had its serious effect on the rate of participation which dropped from 98.4% in the referendum on the National Charter to only 53% . This big difference in voting reflects the deterioration of enthusiasm which resulted from lack of confidence and trust which lead the people to despair and frustration. Last June the National Assembly ended its second session and on this occasion the local Newspapers interviewed parliamentarians and other political figures and from these interviews the voters discovered for themselves the inability of their representative to hold the government and the leadership accountable for their use of power . The parliamentarians confessed for the first time that the absence of accountability is due to weak constitutional and legal checks and balances on the government. This statement made by the parliamentarians could tell that the political process is so bad that it has virtually collapsed. The constitutional Conference On 14th Feb. 2004 a constitutional conference under the banner ; Towards a contractual constitution for a constitutional monarchy; was held under the sponsorship of four boycotting societies and the group of advocates and independent constitutional activists. It was held amid threats from the government that it will cancel the licenses of the political societies if they insisted in receiving outside observers or participants. The government took the step to ban the entry of all foreign guests who came from Kuwait , Qatar France and other places and were compelled to change flight and return home. The Ex. Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly who came in his car through Bahraini Saudi causeway was also refused entry and he forced to drive back. On the specific date the conference convened without the presence of guests and after two days of debate it published a communiqué which contained the following resolutions:- 1) Asserting the system of hereditary rule under the reign of Al-Khalifa family. 2) Made the commitment to what is enshrined in the National Charter that the constitutional monarchy is the form of political system in Bahrain and the constitutional amendment is limited to what is stated in NAC. 3) Hold binding the official pledges made by HM the King, HH the Crown Prince and HE the Head of the Supreme Committee of the NAC as the basis on which the people approved the NAC. 4) Affirms the illegitimacy of the new 2002 constitution as it has not been consented by the people. 5) Affirms that the dialogue is the means to political compromise and calls upon the regime to hold a constructive dialogue with the opposition to resolve the constitutional crisis. 6) The amendments should comply with the NAC to realize the principles of constitutional monarchy. 7) Amendments must be consensual and in accordance with the legitimate constitutional mechanism. 8) Forming a follow up a committee. 9) Holding a public gathering in which a popular petition is to launched. It was decided that the public gathering should be held on 21 April and few days before the proposed date the government through the minister of labor sent verbal and written threats through the press warning the four boycotting societies either to cancel this function or to face liquidation. Later on the boycotting societies decided to launch the popular petition but again the minister interfered and told the societies that this popular petition is against the rules and that they con go ahead with it provided they limit the signature to their members. At last he served with a warning that their societies would be closed if they violated the law and went for their petition. Even there is no law which forbids issuing petitions the political societies have chosen the sacrifice the public gathering for the sake of their survival. In order to increase the number of signatures the boycotting societies thought of opening the door for new membership but again the minister was there to tell them that they have violated the rules of memberships. Now that the political societies have exhausted all their means of political pressure and maneuvers , that they have burnt so much political capital since they deviated from the resolutions of the constitutional conference they were at last invited for dialogue. But to the misfortune of the boycotting societies this dialogue was not with leadership as they called and planned but with the minister of labor. Knowing very well that this dialogue will not lead to solving the constitutional crisis the boycotting insisted to continue with it irrespective of the several press announcement which the minister made and in which he mentioned clearly that the constitutional amendments are to be implemented through the present. This critical situation was worsened when the minister of labour made a long interview with the local press and he clearly told that the aim of the dialogue is to convince the opposition to enter the elections of 2006 and that through their participation in the coming parliament they could amend the constitution . What is worse to come is the new law governing the political societies which implies that for political society to obtain or maintain its license it has to recognize the constitution of the 2002 otherwise it will lose its license. Concussion Recent events and results disturbingly echo the fall of the dialogue. In order to save the dialogue from its failure it should be conducted with the sovereign leadership directly. But the leadership has delegate the minister of labor in order to avoid committing themselves to any pledges and resolutions that might come up from the discussion. We have seen from the previous meetings how the minister of labour endangered the viability of the discussion by his controversial statements and how he eroded trust in politics and embraced the policy of exclusion. The government should realize that the fall of dialogue will leave behind it frustrated, disillusioned and angry people. And if the government is more intent to keep the status quo rather than heads for real political settlement based on consensus that will definitely result in loosing the peaceful means to solve our political differences . From the outgoing we could say that the National Charter did promise the people of a constitutional monarchy but after the landslide victory for the referendum the leadership denied its people the fledgling democracy that the constitution of 1973 brought. It is sad to say that the political reforms which were initiated by H.H. the King and have been stipulated in the National Charter have undergone too much cosmetic change to the extent that they have become completely paralyzed. The government has lost a great opportunity by not investing the landslide victory which the NC won on 14th Feb. 2001 and resort
ed to the legitimate constitution and rule of law in implementing the constitutional amendments. We understand the that constitutional way to deal with this critical situation is not through the present type of dialogue which has proved to be destructive and futile. The honest political way out is through electing a constituent council whose task is to carry out the amendments which serve the interest of the people. We sincerely look forward for building the constitutional democracy that was referred to in the National Charter . Only this political system can provide a non-violent method for the management of our political conflicts. We Hereby Decree As Follows: Article 1 The National Assembly shall hereby be dissolved. Article 2 The Prime Minister shall implement this Decree, which shall come into effect as of today. Tuesday, the 20th of Sha’ban 1395 Hijra, corresponding to the twenty sixth of August 1975, and shall be published in the Official Gazette. On the same date, the Amiri Order No. (4) of 1975 was issued, which states as follows: “We, Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Amir of the State of Bahrain, Whereas we found the reasons for which we deemed it fit to order the dissolution of the National Assembly, a threat to the national unity and the security of the country, that requires an amendment to be made to the electoral law. and upon the submission of the Prime Minister, and upon the approval of the Cabinet, We hereby Decree as follows Article 1 The election of the members of the National Assembly shall hereby be deferred until a new electoral law is issued. Article 2 The provision of Article (65) of the Constitution shall hereby be suspended, together with other articles that conflict with the provision of the foregoing article. Article 3 The Cabinet shall assume with us the legislative power during this period. Article 4
The Prime Minister shall implement this Order, which shall come into effect as of the date of its issuance, and shall be published in the Official Gazette
The Sunday Times – Britain August 01, 2004 Don’t call it a holiday, call it a fact-finding mission… Nicholas Hellen, Social Affairs Editor IT MUST be coincidence. Two senior Tory MPs keep finding themselves on the same important fact-finding trips in exotic locations and it so happens that they are also married. Andrew Mackay, a senior backbencher, and his wife Julie Kirkbride, the party’s culture spokesman, have been on a series of expenses-paid official visits together to hot countries, the latest register of MPs’ interests has revealed. The couple, who married in 1997, were both invited in their own right as MPs. They stayed in five-star beach hotels and safari lodges during part of their visits to Bahrain and Botswana. In Egypt they stayed at the Red Sea diving resort of Sharm el Sheikh. The timing of some of the trips last autumn and winter was unfortunate for Mackay, the MP for Bracknell — his career has been dogged by rows over his absence abroad at key political moments. Both MPs were in Botswana — a favourite destination of Princes William and Harry — during the Queen’s speech last November. Mackay, a former shadow Northern Ireland spokesman, was absent in Namibia when the Good Friday agreement was being hammered out in Belfast in 1998. He was also criticised for not returning immediately from a remote Greek island when the Real IRA bombed Omagh in the same year. Last November, Kirkbride, the MP for Bromsgrove, was promoted by Michael Howard to the front bench as shadow secretary for culture, media and sport. Instead of devoting all her energies to mastering her new portfolio, she headed for the African bush. This meant that she missed England’s greatest sporting moment in recent years — victory in the rugby World Cup, which came barely 10 days after her appointment. In January she was presented with a superb opportunity to land a blow on Tessa Jowell, the minister she shadows. There was an anti-government backlash after the resignations of Greg Dyke and Gavyn Davies from the helm of the BBC. Shortly afterwards, however, with the row still raging, Kirkbride was on her way to Egypt with her husband. During the couple’s week-long visit to Botswana, they stayed for a night at the five-star Mowana Safari Lodge on the edge of the Chobe game reserve. Drivers in open-safari vehicles were on offer to the nine-strong delegation of MPs. This weekend Mackay said he would sue if anybody claimed that he or his wife had gone on safari. “We went up country but we didn’t go on any safari trip, I can assure you,” he said.
When asked directly whether he and his wife had taken a game drive in one of Mowana’s open-safari vehicles, he replied: “We were up there on official business, I can assure you. It is fully registered. It is totally legitimate and it is part of my job. I do find this slightly frustrating that it is somehow not considered part of my job.”
Statement on Independence Day and the 26th August 1975 fiasco Bahrain: What went wrong? As our people remember the Independence Day on 15th August questions continue to be asked about the British legacy in the Gulf in general and the island of Bahrain in particular. It had been hoped that the British withdrawal from the region in 1971 would lead to a democratic experience after decades of struggle and an end to corruption, nepotism and hereditary dictatorship. After a brief flirtation with democracy in the first half of the seventies, the Al Khalifa brought that experiment to an end. They had a problem recognising the right of the people to take part in running the affairs of their country. Decades of dictatorship led to a state of political tension, human rights violations and loss of faith between the people and the ruling Al Khalifa family. The British legacy has been symbolised by the numerous personnel in the notorious secret service which carried out horrendous crimes against innocent people for demanding their democratic rights. The British colonial officer, Ian Henderson, epitomised that legacy and has been sheltered by the Al Khalifa from prosecution under international as well as local laws. The people of Bahrain had hoped that the ascendance to throne in 1999 by Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, following the demise of his father, would open a new chapter in the relations between the people and his family. It was a short-lived hope. After the initial optimism, a new era of deception, nepotism and dictatorship has dawned on the country. Despite the apparent “openness” the new regime has harnessed evil policies, more serious in their aims and long-term effects than those adopted by Sheikh Hamad’s predecessors. The self-styled king has institutionalised dictatorship in his 2002 document that he imposed on the country to replace the contractual constitution of 1973. Bahrain is now being transformed into one of the worst examples of absolute dictatorships through a sophisticated process entailing corruption, blundering the country’s oil wealth, exploiting the state’s power to change the demographic composition of the country, silencing opposition figures through policies of containment, cooption and coercion and enlisting the services of British and American mercenaries as “advisors” to implement his political designs. Sheikh Hamad had been plagued by inferiority complex resulting from his family’s lack of credibility as a governing power, with no historical roots in the island and no religious identification with the majority of the population. He has sought to change this through a process of political naturlisation that amounts to cultural genocide, or ethnocide. To achieve this, the extra revenues from oil are being exploited to silence people through “gracious acts” and buy foreign advisors and mouthpieces to project unreal image of this antiquated regime. The struggle for democracy goes on. This is the message the Bahraini people like to convey to the outside world. So does the relentless endeavour to stop the destruction of the cultural fabric of the society and the demographic composition of Bahrain. Two occasions are of significant relevance to our struggle, the Independence Day on 15th August 1971 and the anniversary of the coup against democracy on 26th August 1975. Our people are appealing to the world to intervene to end the absolute dictatorship and stop the cultural genocide being implemented by Sheikh Hamad through royal decrees and personal instructions. We are aware of the uphill struggle facing the pro-democracy activists who are threatened with evil consequences by the Al Khalifa for collecting signatures to petitions calling for democracy, holding conferences to discuss the constitutional crisis or speaking against dictatorship outside Bahrain. It is a war of wills between the people of Bahrain and the Al Khalifa dictatorship. We assure the world that the democratic movement will not be deceived again by the promises of the Al Khalifa, and will continue to pursue its objectives to achieve democracy through peaceful means. We need your help, can you give it? Bahrain Freedom Movement
17th August 2004
Bahrain: The political crisis continues Ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to be with you again, and I should thank you very much for being here and for your cooperation. In recent years, we have seen some movement in the areas of democracy and human rights. But the question is; what sort of democracy do we have in the Gulf, especially in Bahrain? Since the political changes were initiated by the king, out country has entered into a constitutional crisis that is worse than the crises we had experienced in the nineties. The present constitution was introduced after a referendum in which the people were asked to approve “a National Charter” which they believed would involve the restoration of the 1973 constitution as a preliminary to further progress towards democracy. Instead, the royal family’s power gas been entrenched further, and it is impossible for people to have any affect on the government through the ballot box. The king appoints and dismisses all ministers in his unfettered discretion and the majority of the sensitive positions in the government are held by members of the Al-Khalifa family, depriving citizens of such positions even when possessing higher qualification. A government whose members never have to go before the electorate, and are not appointed by an elected body or person, has no democratic legitimacy. The advances mentioned were all gifts of the monarch, not the result of joint efforts by the people or dialogue and debatein legislature bodies. Can you imagine how the Al-Khalifa family gradually increased their ownership of lands through confiscation since the 19th century? Now the family owns more than half of the national income for its members. It’s obvious that the family intends to own the country and the nation. They have no further steps towards freedom, democracy and the rule of law. The four political societies and other non-governmental bodies have enjoyed very limited freedom of expression, but there are certain topics which are taboo. No criticism of the ruling family is allowed, no discussion of the endemic corruption, no talk of discrimination in certain fields of employment, and no debate on the whole sale granting of Bahraini citizenship to foreigners. The issue of political naturalisation is becoming one of the most explosive problems in the country. Although different modes of official discrimination were very active in the political life of Bahrain, the widely practiced sectarian discrimination against the “Shia” was colourful, harsh, and humiliating. It did not save communist, liberal, conservative, rich or poor, religious or non-religious, you are judged by your identity. Constitutional conference: In February 2004 the ruling family tried to sabotage a conference on constitutional reforms convened by the four political societies which are recognised as forming the opposition in a political system which does not allow political parties. The government refused entry to Bahrain of a number of invited observers from the Gulf and Europe, which included two UK constitutional lawyers. At this conference, the participants rejected the 2002 constitution, and decided to present a popular petition calling for the re-instatement of the 1973 constitution. On the allegation that this petition was illegal and unauthorized, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs instructed the organisers of the conference to obtain permission to connvene the conference. The orgnanisers were threatened with legal action, with the possible outcome of suspension or dissolution. The government claimed that they had violated the law by collecting signatures of the people. The government insisted that they would allow only the members of the societies to sign. Towards the end of April, the societies opened their membership to any citizen who wished to join and sign the petition. Tens of thousands of people began signing up, especially to the Al-Wafaaq society, the largest of the political societies. Within a few days, the government deployed their militia to attack the villages. Twenty men were arrested because they were collecting memberships and signatures, some of these 20 were 15, and others between 25 and 50. Abdul Rahman bin Jaber Al-Khalifa, Chairman of the notorious State Security Court, warned those involved in the petition that they were liable to life imprisonment and charges of calling for change to the political system, provoking hatred, and trying to destabilize public security. The ill-treatments and threats of the State Minister of Labour to the societies came as a result of the societies stand and views. The MOL had been empowered by the Bahrain Society Code No 21 of 1989 which came to light during the State Security era and aims to restrict freedoms, gives absolute power and authority to the executive authority. The societies law exerts multifaceted conditions giving the state discretionary powers to direct the civic societies in the direction it sees fit and appropriate. Any attempts by management of the civic Societies to orientate themselves in a direction not approved by the state will face various forms of punishments, dissolution and/or closure as postulated by the code which is further supported by the panel code (Law No 15 1976, No 9 1982). The MOL actions are in violations of the basic rights of freedom of expression guaranteed by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is of great concern that the actions of the MOL should intimidate the people of Bahrain who strive peacefully to improve the situation. Its actions could end public tranquillity and pave the path for the return of political unrest. Obstructing people from expressing their views with peaceful means will force them to seek other means, which could affect the peace and security of the country. On another front, the elected members of the government’s parliament have not been demanding the rights of the people because they too are willing accomplices in the domination of masses by the hereditary elite. The parliament shows no inclination to stop the train which has smoothly taken them to a hollow prestige and fat salaries. They have made no radical proposals, , and have turned a blind eye to the corruption and nepotism in which they all wallow alike. The law on citizenship is one of the different cases, with many significant problems which have not been redressed. Finally, we in Bahrain, like other people in the world, are looking forward to the real democracy, peace, and harmony. I am sure that the more you learn about our crisis, the more you will support and cooperate with us, in order to find a better life. Hassan Mushaime
17 August 2004
Bahrain seminar August 17, 2004 Welcome Speech We are here again, as we have been for some years past, to mark Bahrain’s Independence Day, the anniversary of which fell on Sunday. Its becoming something of a tradition for us to hold some discussions on these occasions of the topics which are taboo in Bahrain itself, though of great interest and concern to the people: the inability of the people to change their government through the ballot box; the absence of any process leading to constitutional reform; corruption at the highest level; discrimination against the Shi’a; demographic engineering by manipulation of citizenship; restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, and the illegality of Decree Law 56, which granted an amnesty to past torturers. We have a distinguished panel of experts who I expect will touch on some of these matters, and we also have a message from our colleague Professor Abdulhadi Khalaf, copies of which are available. May I welcome you all here, and particularly the representative of the Gulf Centre for Strategic Studies, the PR voice of Bahrain in the UK, who are regular attenders at our seminars. I am sure it would be of interest, not only to those present here, but to a wider audience in Bahrain, to know how much they get paid for their services, and perhaps they will enlighten us later. I read in the Gulf Daily News the week before last that two of the Bahraini detainees in Guantanamo Bay are said to have been tortured by their US captors, and that the chairman of the Detainees Support Committee has said this is unacceptable. Torture is indeed seen as so heinous an offence, by all right-thinking people, that it is treated as a crime of universal jurisdiction. Persons who commit torture, whether in Guantanamo Bay, Baghdad, Kabuk or Manama should be brought to trial and punished. According to the GDN, Bahrain asked US authorities more than two years ago for an investigation into injuries sustained by detainee Juma Muhammad al-Dawsari, allegedly in an attack by eight guards. The injuries were discovered when the Ministry sent a delegation to Guantanamo Bay in April 2002. But they can hardly demand that the Americans put their torturers on trial, while at the same time exonerating Ian Henderson and Adel Flaifel for the tortures over which they presided in Bahrain over many years. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights says that Bahrain and other Arab states should take up the ill-treatment of detainees by the Americans, and it will be interesting to see whether they get any reply. Unfortunately, the authorities have regularly threatened to close down the BCHR over the last year, under the Societies Law of 1989, which gives a Minister power to shut down any NGO for a period of 45 days if, for instance, it engages in politics. This power is being used to restrict any discussion of constitutional change, as we saw when Samantha Knights form the Bar Human Rights Committee and her colleague were turned back at Manama airport when they were on the way to address a seminar on the subject. Why is the constitution a matter of such sensitivity that Bahrainis were not even allowed to know what Ms Cherie Booth QC said when she addressed a closed door meeting in Manama about constitutions in general? The main reason, I believe, is that any discussion would have to begin with an analysis of the differences between the National Charter, for which the people voted in the referendum, and the present constitution, promulgated by Decree, and without the normal process which precedes the adoption of a new constitution in any country that doesn’t already have a working legislature, of a constitutional convention or equivalent process for extensive participation by the people. There would be unfavourable comparison between what happened in Bahrain, where this constitution was foisted on the people by a three-card trick, and what is planned for Iraq, for example, if the security problems can be solved. Clearly also, the extent of the executive power still held by the ruling hereditary oligarchy, and its compatibility with the principles of constitutional monarchy, would arise in any such discussion. Where the monarch has the absolute right to appoint Ministers, Ambassadors, Judges and Governors, and to dismiss the legislature, the system of government should perhaps be described as an executive monarchy. Nor can it be described as a democracy when, although people go through the motions of casting votes, they cannot change their government, or even talk about possible reforms. I did think, when I met the King at the beginning of 2003, that he agreed with me when I suggested that all democracies had one essential characteristic in common, whatever stage they had reached, and that was receptivity to further improvements. It is perhaps the lack of this property, more than any one particular grievance, which is causing dissatisfaction and concern in Bahrain today. There are no mechanisms by which fundamental changes can be promoted, because the existing settlement, handed down from on high, can only be amended by the monarch himself, and it has been made painfully clear, that he doesn’t want the matter to be raised.
It is in these circumstances that I believe our seminars have a crucial function to perform. Although we are not reported in the mainstream media in Bahrain, a telling indicator of the lack of freedom of expression, what is said here is widely disseminated by alternative means, and we keep alive the hope of progress which was raised when the King embarked on a set of reforms which might have been the curtain raiser to a genuine political transition.
MP and his wife enjoy £80,000 free hols Aug 15 2004 By Jeanette Oldham, Sunday Mercury 15th August 2004 A Midland MP and his wife have enjoyed £80,000 worth of free holidays at some of the world’s most luxurious hotels over the last seven years. Ken and Brenda Purchase have jetted out for no fewer than FIFTEEN breaks to the Gulf state of Bahrain – infamous for its human rights abuses – and Egypt. They have stayed in some of oil-rich Bahrain’s finest hotels and have received gifts such as an expensive watch and jewellery. The Labour MP and former trades union boss, who represents deprived Wolver-hampton North East, claims that he was on legitimate ‘fact-finding’ trips. But he and his wife get the VIP treatment when they visit the Gulf. Among the hotels they have stayed at is the Ritz Carlton in Manama, Bahrain. Owned by the King, its usual customers are world-leaders, Royals and the fabulously wealthy. But fury has erupted about the breaks, which have been paid for by the Egyptian government and a London-based lobby group with links to Saddam Hussein. The Gulf Centre for Strategic Studies is run by Palestinian Omar Al Hassan, who lobbied for the Iraqi dictator in the late 1980s. Last night Simon Jevon, a Tory councillor on Wolverhampton City Council, said: “This is appalling. I’m staggered and outraged by the amount of hospitality he has received. “What on earth have his constituents got out of all this? This is just blatant freeloading. “Why would he take his wife on these trips if they’re meant to be business trips, not summer holidays?” The lavish hospitality enjoyed by the MP and his wife were an insult to hard-up families in Wolverhampton, Mr Jevon said. “Some of us have been asking for years what Ken Purchase does for Wolverhampton,” he added. “Now his constituents will know – he’s been staying at the Ritz Carlton in Bahrain.” But Mr Purchase, 65, denied any wrongdoing – and insisted that he was working while he and his wife were staying at the hotel. “What do people expect me to do?” he asked. “We’re guests of the King and the government. We stay where they put us. “We only stay in ordinary rooms.” When the Sunday Mercury pointed out that ordinary rooms at the hotel all had ‘executive’ status and cost £405 a night, he said: “I’m sick and tired of being asked about this. “The only people who ever ask me about these trips are my Tory enemies and the Bahrain human rights bunch. “I declare these trips and not one constituent has ever asked me about them.” Asked what benefits the UK and his constituents had received from his trips, he said: “There is an American army base in Bahrain and we are allowed to keep a military presence there. “When I am representing my country, I am representing my constituents.” Mr Purchase has come under fire in the past because of his close relationship with Mr Al Hassan, who also administers the All-Party Bahrain Group in the House of Commons for which Mr Purchase acts as secretary. Mr Purchase and Mr Al Hassan take MPs to oil-rich Bahrain every year. The country has had no democracy since 1975 and dissidents have been tortured and murdered. In 1983 Mr Al Hassan was dismissed from his job with the Arab League in London. He later said his dismissal had been a ‘political conspiracy’ and said there was no shame in having lobbied for Iraq. Mr Purchase was forced to go public on his trips by House of Commons laws which require MPs to declare any free benefits. The Register of MPs’ Interests show that the Midland member went on eight ‘factfinding’ trips to Bahrain and seven to Egypt in the past seven years. His wife accompanied him on all of them. The Egyptian visits were paid for in full by the country’s Government. The register does not require MPs to reveal any further details about foreign trips, such as the cost. In 2001 he was criticised after he failed to declare one of his Bahrain visits during which he received free medical treatment for kidney stones. A millionaire Gulf businessman who met Mr Purchase at a sumptuous dinner at the Bahrain Labour Minister’s house during one of his many visits said political guests were given jewellery by their hosts. “Even minor dignitaries get very expensive guests,” he said. “Foreign politicians are routinely given $12,000 watches, like Rolexes. “They’re discreet about it. Nobody comes up to you and says ‘Please accept this gift as a thank you for coming.’ Presents are left on guests’ pillows.” The businessman’s identity is known to the Sunday Mercury but he has asked us not to disclose it. Mr Purchase has previously declared an oriental rug from Egypt and a watch from Bahrain on the Register of Interests. Asked about claims that he had received more jewellery, he said indignantly: “I’ve never had any!” Then he reconsidered, and added: “Well, there was the watch. And my wife had a bangle. But that’s it.” Mr Purchase confirmed that he had stayed at the Ritz Carlton several times and at other hotels. Sources in Bahrain confirmed these included the ultra-luxurious Regency Intercontinental. With its own private beach, a selection of swimming pools and a world-class spa, the Ritz Carlton is Bahrain’s finest hotel. Rates range from £405 a night for executive rooms to £868 for diplomatic suites. Reservations spokeswoman Asima Abduk said that British MPs who stayed at the hotel were always given diplomatic suites. Occasionally, a British politician stayed in the Royal suite at £1,851 a night, she added. Lord Avebury, vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, said that Mr Purchase’s trips could not be called anything other than ‘junkets’. “It’s appalling when you consider Bahrain’s dire human rights record,” he said. “If you’re wined and dined by the King of Bahrain, and stay in luxury hotels and only visit palaces and attend sumptuous dinners, how can you know what life is like for those who have been abused, and for the thousands of people who live in poverty?” Dr Saeed Shehabi, of the Bahrain Freedom Movement, said: “Mr Purchase’s trips have been the talk of certain circles in Bah-rain for years. He’s well-known. He and his wife and treated like royalty when they go. “The itinerary for the MPs’ trips he organises are always the same – going to palaces, meeting Royals and the Prime Minister, and going to business centres.” When the Mercury challenged him on Friday night Mr Purchase remained unrepentant. “What do you expect them to do? Put me up in a B&B?” he demanded. “If anyone thinks I am doing wrong they can report me. I imagine that you will write a report that is hostile. I will just have to live with it.” * The world-class hospitality lapped up by the MP and his wife for free would have cost paying holidaymakers up to £80,000. * The Register of MPs’ Interests states that Mr Purchase usually stays in Bahrain for six days and has visited the state eight times in seven years. * Eight six-night breaks in a £868-a-night diplomatic suite of the Ritz Carlton hotel – where visiting politicians are put up for free – would cost a paying customer £41,664. * A similar standard of accommodation in Egypt would take the couple’s total bill to more than £80,000 – and that’s without flights, travel expenses or meals.
August 09, 2004 Briton sues over Bahrain ‘torture’ By Tosin Sulaiman A BRITISH man who served nearly four years for manslaughter in a Bahrain jail is to sue the Middle Eastern state for false imprisonment and torture. Richard Mechan, 38, of Kingsholm, Gloucester, was sentenced to 15 years for stabbing to death Marshall Emmons, 31, a fibre optics engineer from Tucson, Arizona, in Bahrain in July 2000. The term was later reduced to five years after his case of self-defence went before a court. Last summer Mr Mechan, a father of one who was earning £75,000 a year as an information technology manager for the Aramco oil company, was freed to return home after Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, intervened on his behalf. On Wednesday he will issue a writ on four members of the Government of Bahrain, claiming false imprisonment and torture. He is taking the action against Sheikh Khalifa bin Rashid al-Khalifa, deputy head of the Supreme Council for Justice, Colonel V B Walmsley, a Briton working for the Ministry of the Interior in Bahrain, Colonel Abdul Racman Amuruci, director of Jau prison in Bahrain, and Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, the Bahraini Ambassador to Britain. Mr Mechan said: “I tried to go back to Bahrain in March to begin my legal action but was denied admission to the country. Now I’m refreshed and I’m ready to have a go at them. “I’m one man with a private case and they have deep pockets — so what are they scared of? They know I have a solid case. Jack Straw’s plea was based on solid legal opinion. If I can’t do it there, they forgo the States Immunity Act and I’m allowed to have them tried by the courts in this country.
“What they did was contrary to just about every human rights convention,” Mr Mechan said. “There are nearly 5,000 Brits wrongly imprisoned abroad. If you don’t have a father like mine, who’ll fight for you, you’re in trouble with these flaky governments.”
To mark the Independence Day and 29 years of unconstitutional rule The Parliamentary Human Rights Group Cordially invites you to a seminar on Bahrain: political, constitutional and human rights scandal A number of Bahraini and British experts will speak at the seminar 10.00 am – 3.15 pm Tuesday 17th August 2004 The Committee Room 1 Abbey Gardens (Annexe to the House of Lords), London SW1
For further information please contact Lord Avebury on 020 7274 4617, email: email@example.com
Bahrain after Thirty Three Years of its Independence Introduction Bahrain was once part of the ancient civilization of Dilmun and served as an important link in trade routes between Sumeria and the Indus Valley as long as 5,000 years ago. Bahrain embraced Islam in the 7th century. Since the late 18th century, Bahrain has been governed by the Al Khalifa family, which created close ties to Britain by signing the General Treaty of Peace in 1820. A binding treaty of protection, known as the Perpetual Truce of Peace and Friendship, was concluded in 1861 and further revised in 1892 and 1951. This treaty was similar to those entered into by the British Government with the other Persian Gulf principalities. It specified that the ruler could not dispose of any of his territory except to the United Kingdom and could not enter into relationships with any foreign government other than the United Kingdom without British consent. The British promised to protect Bahrain from all aggression by sea and to lend support in case of land attack. After World War II, Bahrain became the center for British administration of treaty obligations in the lower Persian Gulf. In 1968, when the British Government announced its decision (reaffirmed in March 1971) to end the treaty relationships with the Persian Gulf sheikdoms, Bahrain joined the other eight states (Qatar and the seven Trucial Sheikhdoms, which are now called the United Arab Emirates) under British protection in an effort to form a union of Arab emirates. By mid-1971, however, the nine sheikhdoms still had not agreed on terms of union. Accordingly, Bahrain sought independence as a separate entity and became fully independent on August 15, 1971, as the State of Bahrain. Based on its 1971 constitution, Bahrain elected its first parliament in 1973, but just 2 years later, in August 1975, the Amir disbanded the National Assembly. Political unrest broke out in December 1994. In June 1995, the first Bahraini cabinet change in 20 years took place, producing mixed public response. In 1996, the Amir increased the membership of the Consultative Council, which he created in 1993, from 30 to 40, to provide advice and opinion on legislation proposed by the cabinet and, in certain cases, suggest new laws on its own. In 1999 Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa became Amir after the death of his father, Shaikh Issa bin Salman Al Khalifa. Al-Khalifa and the people of Bahrain Al-Khalifa tribe is not originally from Bahrain they have a long history of moving from country to country. They were forced out of Kuwait so they went to Qatar and the same thing happened to them in Qatar so they chose Bahrain and till today they are controling Bahrain. Before Al-Khalifa took over the country, Bahrain used to be governed by local tribes, as soon as Al-Khalifa conqured Bahrain they started the master-slave mentality with the people of Bahrain. Bahrain consist of Majority of Shia Muslims and the Al-Khalifa ruling family is from the Sunni Muslim sect, which is the minority group in Bahrain. History tell us whenever we have minority ruling majority, you should expect unjustice, unfair, unfitt type of ruling. The minority always feel thratened by the majority of the people, they always feel like the majority is planning to over through their rule and take over the country. This is exactely what happened in Bahrain, Al-Khalifa ruled Bahrain with an iron fist. Bahrain had and have one of the worst record in Human Rights and Civil Liberities, it reached to a level that the UN Human Rights group condemed the government of Al-Khalifa for their inhuman treatments to the people of Bahrain. Al-Khalifa came to Bahrain with a conquest mentality, in the history of Islam you call the people who bring Islam to a new region (Al-fateh) which mean the conqurer so Al-Khalifa consider themselves to be one, although the people of Bahrain were Muslims before Al-Khalifa took over Bahrain. There are lots of animosities from the people of Bahrain against this issue and many other issues. Al-Khalifa never felt that they are part of Bahrain but they always felt that they own Bahrain and they own everything in Bahrain including the people. They have mistreated the people of Bahrain and I will not be exaggerating if I say that they have slaved the people of Bahrain since they took over the country and it continues till today. In the beginning of their ruling they started to capture lands by force from its original owners and some times they used to kill the owner if he shows any resistance. They started taxing the people of Bahrain and anyone who refuses to pay the tax was punished severely by the Al-Khalifa ruling family and their thugs. This method of ruling continued for long time. Today the Al-Khalifa ruling family owned most of the lands in the country. Almost in each and every village you will find their property which they obtained by looting the wealth of the people of Bahrain. The Al-Khalifa ruling family has no popularity in the country, if you could take a poll today their popularity would be the lowest in the region if not the world among the people of Bahrain, but of course you can not conduct such poll there because Bahrain is ruled by an absolute dictatorship regime. The Al-Khalifa ruling family is not a large one. This is contrary to common assumptions about their large numbers. Within Bahrain, the total Al-Khalifa population is estimated around 1000, most of whom live in an exclusive area, West Rifa’a. Since the discovery of oil, the then British Advisor, Charles Belgrave allocated one-third of oil revenue for the Al-Khalifa ruler, one-third for public spending and one-third for saving. In the days of the National Assembly, 1973-75, the question of funds received by the ruling family was raised several times. The first budget announced in 1974 totalled 29 million dinars (around 80 million dollars), with 4 million dinars (around 11 million dollars) allocated for the Amir. Corruption is also rampant in the country. Mismanagement and misappropriation of public money is a known policy of the Al-Khalifa’s rule. Members of the ruling family enjoy a monthly salary for life, while most families in Bahrain are living in poor conditions, many of whom live below the poverty line. The wealth of the prime minister is unknown but it is a well-known fact that he forces people to become their partner or they would lose government contracts. Members of the ruling family deal with the public through the Ruling Family Council. If a member of the public has a dispute with a member of the ruling family, the Ruling Family Council intervenes to act on behalf of the Al-Khalifa person. They deal with the people as a corporate body. Members of the Al-Khalifa family are exempt from paying duties, tax etc. They usually default on bills for utilities and municipality. At the end of the year, the various departments are ordered to write of the debts as “bad debts”. Revenue from oil remained a top secret. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia shared the oil revenue from the Abu-Sa’afa offshore oil field. While in-shore Bahrain’s oil production fluctuated around 40,000 barrels a day, the Abu-Sa’afa oil field production fluctuated around 140,000 b/d. Bahrain received the revenues from the 75,000 b/d but this amount somehow was kept out of sight. In the eighties Bahrain suffered from loss of revenues from oil due to lowering of prices in the international oil market. Hence, the revenue from the Abu-Sa’afa oil field was considered a rescuer for the state. Negotiations in 1996 with Saudi Arabia resulted in the allocation of the total amount of 140,000 b/d for Bahrain. Saudi Aramco Oil Company controls the production and access to the field, but Bahrain received the money from sales (minus cost of production of course). Bahrain is one of the few countries in the world if not the only, which does not celebrate its Independence Day (August 15) instead they celebrate another day (December 16), the government of Al-Khalifa call it the national day. Why this day is important for the government? The answer to that question is unbelievable to any fair minded person. Is the day, which the late Amir Sh
aikh Issa bin Salaman Al-Khalifa was officially announced the Amir of Bahrain. So the Al-Khalifa don’t care when the country was liberated, but they care when one of their dictator took over the country. This example shows what kind of mentality the people of Bahrain dealing with. Struggle for Democracy The people of Bahrain have been struggling to gain some democratic reforms from the Al-Khalifa ruling family for long time. They had their first constitution in 1973 as a result of the British withdrawal from the region. One of the most important rights, which they gained, was the elected parliament. It was a dream that did not last long. In 1975 the then Amir of Bahrain (Shaikh Issa bin Salman Al-Khalifa) dissolved the Parliament. With this act he not only violated the constitution of the country but he also plunged the country into instability, chaos and backwardness. After the death of Shaikh Issa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, his son (Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa) took over (no surprise) and promises the people of Bahrain of new era and beautiful days, which they have never experienced before. In February 2001 the Bahraini Amir and the Government led by his uncle the Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa (who had been in this post since 1971) announced their secret plan, which they had been preparing for long time with the help of some legal experts from outside Bahrain. The plan was about a referendum on a National Charter that would take the country out of its political unrest and transform its legal status to a kingdom. When it became clear that the opposition opposed the Charter, Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa went on the record to promise the opposition and the people of Bahrain that the Charter would not replace the Constitution of 1973, which would remain the principal legal reference. Only then did the people endorse the Charter. Some governmental propagandas accused the opposition of backwardness because we in the opposition demand the constitution of 1973 be reinstated and they want to move on with their document of 2002. My message to them is: The people of Bahrain and the opposition believe that the constitution of 1973 is the real base for any real political reforms and the constitution could be changed but through the legal channels and through direct voting from the people of Bahrain. If the government of Khalifa bin Salman believes in real political reforms, so let us have a vote on their document of 2002 and they will find out how much of unpopular their document is. Since the Bahraini regime announced its illegal Document of 2002 the people of Bahrain have started their peaceful resistance to that Documents; first by boycotting the elections (held on 24th October 2002) for the Council of Representatives envisaged by the 2002 document, and second by using all the legal and possible peaceful resistance to announce and explain their position against this Documents. They view the present “parliament” as an illegal entity and only represent the ruling Al-Khalifa family. Because of the tremendous amount of embracement that Shaikh Hamad and his government faced after the failing of so called parliamentary election, now the government is trying to gain some time and momentum before the next election date. Shaikh Hamad ordered his minister of labor to engage four of the major political societies, which boycotted the so called parliamentary election in the country in a dialogue, the ultimate goal of Shaikh Hamad’s government is to convince the four societies to end their effective boycott and eventually participate in the next parliamentary election. I personally believe that this dialogue is going to fail because Shaikh Hamad and his government are not serious to adapt real reforms or to empower the people of Bahrain through an effective Parliament rather than the paralyzed assembly of theirs. The people of Bahrain do not believe that there is real change or real reforms in the country, but a well-entrenched program of deception to the public opinion outside the country. The regime has continued its policies of discrimination against the majority Shia population, who are not allowed to take employment in the armed forces or the ministry of the interior. Shaikh Hamad took the situation many steps further down. He embarked on a political naturalization program in order to offset the demographic balance in the country. Until now, the Al Khalifa ruling family has not come out clean on this issue, which is tantamount to cultural genocide. Another issue that I like to raise here is that the people of Bahrain cannot change their government peacefully (according to the State Department’s report). They cannot criticize the government without the fear that they might be prosecuted or hurt by governmental revenge. The Bahraini regime is running one of the biggest campaign of deception in the region. The Government claims to be democratic or on the steps to a prestigious democratic government, but political parties is prohibited by the government. Instead there are societies, which are threatened with closure on daily basis because of their occasional involvement in politics .As my friend Dr Abdul Hadi Khalaf ( Bahraini activist and associate professor, Department of Sociology, University of Lund, Sweden, he was a member of the National Assembly of Bahrain in the early seventies. The assembly was dissolved in 1975) said: “Under the new constitution the king is “the protector of religion and homeland”, “symbol of national unity”. He is Head of State, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the Head of the executive legislative and judicial branches. And, he may amend the constitution and propose laws. He is also the authority for their ratification. This is probably one of the reasons for Lord Avebury, a long-time observer of Bahrain, to remark that the absolute monarch’s of medieval Europe would have “given their eyes and teeth for the powers held by Shaikh Hamad.” Conclusion As the relations between the people of Bahrain and the Al Khalifa ruler took a sharp downturn in recent months, questions are being asked as to whether the rulers had really grasped the significance of recent developments on the world stage, and their impact on dictators and despots in the region. The opposition is guided by several principles. The first is that the political problem is not with the government but with the system. It is the ruling family and its laws that are the main foe, the government is merely a tool to implement the policies of the regime. The second is that a meaningful dialogue can only be achieved through direct contact between representatives of the people of Bahrain and senior members of the ruling family. Intermediaries from the government are powerless and thus engaging with them in debate is futile. They cannot either promise or deliver. Thirdly, the regime is devoid of legitimacy outside the only binding document; 1973 constitution. As long as this document remains shelved, legitimacy cannot be granted to the regime. The 2002 document is not a source of legitimacy because it was produced by one party without the approval, or acceptance or consent of the other. Fourthly, the opposition has adopted peaceful means to achieve its aims. It has, so far, adopted an approach of reconciliation with the regime, but it may have now realized that this path is not productive. It will, however, continue to adopt peaceful means and it is likely that this will gradually lead to a civil resistance program. The regime is, undoubtedly in a political quagmire. They do not want the opposition to take an active role and expose the contradictions of the Al-Khalifa. At the same time they are resisting to carry out real reforms that may curtail the excesses of the senior members of the ruling family. There are many evidences that the Al-Khalifa ruling family is supporting terrorism directly and indirectly, one of the prominent members of this family was found in Afghanistan fighting with the Taliban’s. Al-Khalifa ruling family never paid attention to the Wahabbi extremist in the country because they are too busy fighting the p
eople of Bahrain who are demanding democracy. It is possible that Al Qa’eda had infiltrated the country through the newly naturalized non-Bahrainis. The Al-Khalifa selected particular regions in Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan for the process of political naturalization. These regions are known for breeding extremism and religious fanaticism. Most of those who had allegedly taken part in the 9/11 attacks came from these regions. They are fertile regions for recruitment of Al Qa’eda members. The aim of the Al-Khalifa is to bring into the country elements that could offset the overwhelming dominance of the Shia faith. But they have, perhaps inadvertently, created a suitable environment in our country for these tendencies. It is therefore the duty of the international community to put pressure on the Al-Khalifa rulers to stop this illegal process whose ill-effects have already been felt both by the natives and the guests of the country. It may be the aim of the Al-Khalifa to preserve their dictatorship at any cost, but the people of Bahrain and the international community share the anxiety resulting from the material support offered by the Al-Khalifa to potential extremists. This is, of course, a direct consequence of the dictatorial policies and corruption of the ruling family, which have been endorsed and entrenched by Shaikh Hamad. The opposition is resolute in its stand to fight dictatorship, corruption and despotism. While they accept that the ruling family, which had occupied the land in 1783 by force, may remain in power, they demand that this is acceptable only within a contractual constitution which binds the Al- Khalifa to acceptable standards of rule and behavior. Without this, the situation could only deteriorate and create favorable atmosphere for terrorism and violence that have been made easier by the naturalization project imposed by the Al-Khalifa. After thirty three years the people of Bahrain are still struggling for democracy, still struggling to live under a government respect their rights as equal citizens under the law. The people of Bahrain gave their lives and they are welling to continue till they achieve real reforms in Bahrain. People of Bahrain have a dream, which they are not welling to give away under any pressure from the ruling family of Al-Khalifa. Shaikh Hamad and his government has more money and wealth than the people of Bahrain, but one thing I can say for sure they don’t have the patient, courage and determination of the people of Bahrain. The dream would be reality one day, but till then they would continue the path of struggle to gain their freedom from the dictator of Bahrain. Shaikh Hamad promised the people of Bahrain when he took over the country after the death of his father: “New era and beautiful days, which they have never experienced before.” The people of Bahrain are still waiting for those beautiful days, will they ever see them under the government of Khalifa bin Salman? Thank you very much for coming! Reaction after the speech The presentation was held in Nelson Mandela Building in the conference room. The event was organized by Department of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. The building was named after the former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela and he personally inaugurated the Building. After the speech Mr. Husain Abdulla was given massive amounts of applause. Over 60 people attended the speech between students and faculty members of Southern University. In the question/answer session Mr. Husain Abdulla was asked great number of questions by the audience. The audience wanted to know more about Bahrain and the atrocities done there by the Al-Khalifa ruling family. The talk and the discussion was scheduled for two hours, but because of the discussion that took place after Mr. Abdulla’s speech the mediator decided to extend the event another extra hour. There were some local media outlets for the city of Baton Rouge. In the event Mr. Abdulla suggested creating an organization called: “American citizens for Democracy in Bahrain”
The idea was received very well by the audience and Mr. Abdulla started taking the names of the people who are interested in joining the organization.
Bahrain An Arab exception Jul 29th 2004 | MANAMA From The Economist print edition The sheikh who made himself king looks like a genuine reformer AFP Hamad likes reform THE causeway that leaves the Saudi city of Khobar, scene of a bloody terrorist attack on foreigners in May, threads through the islet of Umm Nasan (Mother of Drowsiness) before reaching the Bahraini capital, Manama (Sleeping Place). But it is not just salt water and soporific signposting that separate the Gulf neighbours. As giant Saudi Arabia tenses for what some believe is an impending civil war between autocratic rulers and Islamist fanatics, little Bahrain is cutting a different course. Not only may its women go out unveiled and drive cars, they may even vote. The course may be slow and not always steady, but the country’s 675,000 residents already have more freedom than those of any neighbouring country—so much so that they are noisily demanding more. Bahrain has not always been a happy place. In the 1970s its feisty parliament so annoyed the then ruler, Sheikh Issa bin Salman al-Khalifa, that he closed it. The country remained firmly under martial law until his son and successor, Sheikh Hamad, brought in sweeping reforms three years ago. The changes instantly made him the most genuinely popular of Arab leaders. Few Bahrainis grumbled when he elevated his own title to king. But doubts about the ruling Khalifa family’s commitment to reform keep re-emerging. This is not surprising. While the Khalifas and the bulk of their army and police are Sunni Muslims, 70% of Bahrain’s citizens are Shia. Unlike other Gulf monarchies, Bahrain does not drip with oil. Most of its people actually have to work, and increasingly there are not enough jobs or houses for newly-weds to go round. The country does nicely enough by offering services, from banking to bars, that are unavailable in nearby Saudi Arabia, yet the Khalifas themselves control a fat slice of the cake, including all the best land in the crowded archipelago. And while Bahrain is an old and staunch ally of America, whose Fifth Fleet is based here, many of its people loathe America’s foreign policy. Given the potency of such grievances, King Hamad has been careful not to relinquish too much of his birthright. The constitution he decreed in 2002 kept half the legislature’s seats for his appointees and hobbled its power to initiate laws or question officials. The king gave himself a veto, and the right to dissolve the council, while his ministers redistricted the country to the Sunnis’ advantage and allegedly tilted the communal balance by granting passports to thousands of Sunni immigrants. In response, the mainly Shia opposition boycotted elections in October 2002, leading to a low turnout and a heavily Sunni-dominated parliament. Since then, wiser heads in the opposition have kept a lid on the more hot-headed of their fellow Shias, some of whom admire Lebanon’s Hizbullah and Iran’s ayatollahs. Earlier this year a wide-ranging group of critics launched a petition calling for Bahrain’s tentative democracy to be given real clout. The police reacted by jailing 19 of them.
This episode seems to have had a happy ending. King Hamad swiftly pardoned the petitioners and called for dialogue with the opposition. When police then roughed up some Shia clerics who were demonstrating against America, he promptly sacked his own uncle, who had been interior minister since 1974. The king’s popularity has again soared.
Wed 4 Aug 2004 Jailed Briton to Sue Bahrain Government “PA” A Gloucester man who served a prison sentence for stabbing to death an American in Bahrain said today he had begun the process of suing the Gulf kingdom’s government, claiming he was falsely imprisoned. Richard Mechan, 38, was released last August after serving three and a half years of a five-year sentence for killing Marshall Earl Emmons, 31, of Tucson, Arizona. He was released after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wrote to officials in Bahrain. Emmons died on January 6, 2000 from a deep chest wound. Mechan claims he acted in self defence and says he did not receive a fair trial. Bahraini officials could not be reached for comment. “I have served a notice that I intend to sue the government of Bahrain for falsely imprisoning me and for torturing me physically and mentally,” Mechan said in a telephone interview. He said he had started the legal process in a London court by filing notice of his intent to sue. “I was treated appallingly and I am not going to take this. Now I am a free man and I am using the rule of law in my country,” Mechan said. “I want my name cleared and I am seeking financial compensation from Bahrain,” he said. In his first trial, which ended in July 2000, Mechan was sentenced to 15 years. A year later, an appeal court reduced the sentence to seven years. Mechan’s lawyer appealed again, arguing self-defence.
In May 2002, the High Appeals Court reduced the sentence to five years and he was released last August.