Solving the crisis needs a successful dialogue There is now talk of political dialogue to be initiated in Bahrain to narrow down the differences concerning the current political stalemate. The debate about this political dialogue is continuing while the Government has not yet taken serious steps to initiate a serious debate. The opposition has been calling for dialogue to come up with agreements on critical issues like the constitutional changes, political naturalization, unemployment and sectarian discrimination. Again, the Government has not been moved by such calls, nor has it confessed that these issues are a problem at all. We believe that the success of political dialogue needs a number of important conditions to be met. First, the political dialogue must be held as soon as possible between the Political Societies who are at difference with the political programme of the ruling family and many of its senior members. It is meaningless if the dialogue takes place without the involvement of the true representatives of the political system in Bahrain. We think the main representative of the Government in any dialogue should be the Sheikh Hamad himself. The dialogue needs to be monitored and documented. All deliberations have to be kept in records to register the proceedings and reflect the outcomes and agreements. The Government can always come back and deny any contacts with such dialogue, as it has always done in the past. The dialogue has to be comprehensive covering all the political issues which have led to the present political stalemate. The Government may attempt to derail the dialogue by introducing issues that are of no relevance to what thePolitical Societies are after. The dialogue has to be governed by an agreed agenda and clear objectives. The dialogue has to be transparent. Observers and those interested must have access to the progress of the dialogue. The political issues to be discussed concern all citizens, they should therefore be informed of the status of the dialogue as it develops at all stages. The Dialogue has to go through an agreed time table with agreed pre-defined milestones. It cannot progress open-ended with no known and mutually agreed stations to measure progress. We hope that the Government does not use this initiative for dialogue to distract the attention of the people from its failures and the breaking of its promises. We also hope that the Political Societies concerned with this dialogue will stand against any attempts to confiscate further rights and put forward all the national issues that have to be resolved. Bahrain Freedom Movement
17 June 2004
The Constitutional Crises in Bahrain A presentation conducted by Mr. Husain Abdulla: BFM representative in the United States of America; University of South Alabama; Political Science and Criminal Justice Department; Mobile, Alabama – USA June 17, 2004 Mr. Husain Abdulla, a Bahraini citizen and a representative of Bahrain Freedom Movement in the United States of America conducted a presentation that was host by the Political Science and Criminal Justice Department at the University of South Alabama. The presentation started at 8:30 am by Mobile, Alabama time and ended at 10:30 am. Mr. Abdulla started his presentation by giving some historical background about Bahrain and its ruling Al-khalifa family. He talked about the demographic balances and the early political history of the country and the relationship between the ruling Al-Khalifa family and the people of Bahrain. Then he entered into more recent era when he introduced Bahrain after its independence from Great Britain and the first and only legal constitution of the country, which was establish in 1973. Bahrain had its first elected parliament in 1973, but soon after that the then Amir Shaikh Issa bin Salman Al-Khalifa dissolved the parliament and entered the country in along political unrest, which continues till today. After the Amir dissolved the parliament the country was ruled by royal decrees, which mean there is no rule of law in the country. Al-Khalifa controls the country politically and economically. According to Mr. Abdulla the Shia majority does not enjoy rights of citizenships that is giving to any citizen in any civilize country; they cannot join the arm forces or the police forces just because they belong to the Shia sect of Islam. “It is a clear discrimination against the majority people of Bahrain” Mr. Abdulla said. “One of the first questions on the job application for the Arm forces is: Are Shia or Sunni? What is your sect? Is this an act that is conducted by a government claimed to adopt reforms and democratic changes?” Mr. Abdulla asked. In February of 2001 the Bahraini regime announced their plan, which they had been preparing for months secretly away from any public hearings or participations. The plan was about a referendum on National Charter that would take the country out of its Political unrest and transform its legal status to a kingdom. The people of Bahrain did not endorse this plan till Shaikh Hamad and his regime promised them that the Constitution of 1973 would not be touched. The ruler of Bahrain and his Government started their secret efforts to design a new constitution that would undermine the rights of the people, which were guaranteed by the Constitution of 1973. On February of 2002, the ruler and his Prime Minister (his uncle also) announced their 2002 document claiming that the people of Bahrain had given them the right to change the constitution when they agreed on the national referendum, which is a clear lie. Then Mr. Husain Abdulla talked about the recent development in the country and the recent arrest of over 20 young men who were gathering signatures on a petition calling on the ruler to re-instate the country’s 1973 constitution. Mr. Abdulla ended his presentation with an appeal to sign a petition, which would be used to send to the US congress, White House, Department of State, and some other Organizations. Almost all the people signed the petition that was presented by Mr. Abdulla, which call for pressure to be exercised on the Bahraini regime to reinstate the Constitution of 1973. There were many questions from the attendance about social, Political and economical aspects of Bahrain, which were answered by Mr. Abdulla. Among the attendance were University students, good numbers of Professors, University press, local TV channel. The University press and the local TV station had an interview with Mr. Abdulla who said:
“These are the beginning of series of activities that will be held by the opposition in the United States to clear the image of the Al-Khalifa’s governmental propaganda and the myth of the Political reforms in Bahrain”, and finally he said that:“the people of Bahrain do not believe that there is real change or real reform in the country, but a well-entrenched program of deception to the public opinion outside the country and our job in the opposition is to clarify the myth.”
The Gulf Cultural Club 45 Chalton Street, London NW1 1HY, Tel: 020 7383 2058, Fax: 7387 6369 Modernising Gulf Monarchies: the Case of Oman By Dr John Peterson* 6.30 pm, Thursday 1st July 2004 Refreshments available from 6.00 pm, dinner 8.00 pm
* Dr. J.E. Peterson is a historian and political scientist specializing in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf. He has taught at various universities in the United States, has been a fellow at a number of research institutes in the US and the United Kingdom, and is affiliated with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona. Until 1999, he served in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Security and Defence in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. He has been most recently the Sir William Luce Fellow at the University of Durham. He is the author of a dozen books and more than 40 full-length articles on the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf. His current writing concentrates on Oman with the publication in 2004 of two articles in the Middle East Journal and another in Middle East Policy, and is completing two books on Oman.
University of South Alabama Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice Invite you to attend a presentation on: “The Constitutional Crisis in Bahrain” Speaker: Mr. Husain Abdulla US representative of Bahrain Freedom Movement Humanity Building, Room 212
June 17, 2004 at 8:30 am
Bahrain’s mounting debt headache Several indications suggest that the authorities in Bahrain have decided to increase the nation’s debt level without considering the possible consequences on the future generations. According to figures released by the Ministry of Finance & National Economy, the debt stock has increased by 32 percent in 2003. Specifically, the outstanding amount rose from 1,024 million Bahraini dinars to1,352 million dinars (or 3,586 million American dollars). The authorities issued some $500 million worth of bonds in the international markets to finance several projects including constructing a circuit to stage Formula One race. The trouble is that the government considers this as an acceptable level, especially when compared to Bahrain’s neighbours. For example, the debt level in Saudi Arabia stands at US$170 billion, representing about 90 percent of the kingdom’s gross national product (GDP). In the case of Qatar, debt makes up about 75 percent of the GDP. However, the comparison is unwarranted mainly because Saudi Arabia and Qatar are rich in terms of oil and gas, respectively. However, Bahrain largely depends on oil source, which is controlled by Saudi Aramco. Bahrain’s daily oil revenue is generated from two sources, Abu Saafa and Awali. Of the two, Abu Saafa is the largest with production amounting to 143,000 barrels per day. In fact, this amount should be divided between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. However, in 1996, Saudi Arabia agreed to allocate the entire output of Abu Saafa indefinitely to Bahrain to help the regime address its socio-economic problems. The other source of oil supply is the onshore Awali field, which produces about 38,000 bpd. The debt amount increased by some $870 million in 2003, in turn considered exceptionally high for a small economy like that of Bahrain. The increase alone amounted to more than 10 percent of Bahrain’s GDP. By all means, this is exceptionally high in a span of one year not least because Bahrain’s economy is uniquely dependent on oil. The petroleum sector (oil plus gas) is uniquely significant to Bahrain, as it contributes about 70 percent of the treasury income. Currently, outstanding debt amounts to more than 40 percent of the GDP. Certainly, the authorities had to pay some $131 million to service the debt. This amounted to 37 percent increase on the interest incurred in 2002. In short, the regime has embarked on a spending spree without looking into possible consequences on the economy’s future. Clearly, Bahrain’s economy is mismanaged. Bahrain Freedom Movement
9 June 2004
The Gulf Cultural Club 45 Chalton Street, London NW1 1HY, Tel: 020 7383 2058, Fax: 7387 6369 Post G8 Summit: The prospects of reforms in the Middle East By Abdul Bari Atwan* 6.30 pm, Thursday 17th June 2004 Refreshments available from 6.00 pm, dinner 8.00 pm
*Abdul Bari Atwan is the Editor of the Arabic daily “Al Quds Al Arabi” published in London. He is also a political analyst and commentator, appearing in many English and Arabic TV programmes. Mr Atwan is known for his opposition to the war in Iraq and his stands on sensitive issues in the region have made him a distinguished figure among politicians and journalists.