Bahrain: Banning a human rights NGO and suppressing pro-Palestinian activities

The tribal government banned the formation of a non-governmental organization for human rights in Bahrain. Leading personalities and lawyers had submitted an application for the formation of a non-governmental organization for human rights protection. The labour minister met on 28 October with the group that submitted the application and informed of the decision taken by the prime minister to ban the formation of such an organization. The labour minister said that the premier had appointed a committee for human rights as part of the unconstitutional Shura Council and that this committee is “enough for Bahrain”. The banning of the formation of the NGO is a damning evidence that the tribal dictatorship has no intention whatsoever to respect the basic rights of Bahrainis. The prisons constructed by the ruling family for torturing and jailing Bahrainis are full of innocent and leading citizens. Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain, Mr. Hassan Mushaimaa and scores others are being held without charges since January 1996. The ruling family treats the people of Bahrain as enemies and denies them respect, dignity and political rights. The tribal dictatorship knows that if an independent NGO is formed inside Bahrain it will be the focus for the forthcoming visit by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention next February. The NGO would also gain the trust of the population, something that the ruling family has failed to achieve since its invasion of Bahrain in the eighteenth century. On Friday 27 October, the foreign-staffed security forces attacked a pro-Palestinian demonstration that marched through the capital, Manama, after Friday prayers in Ras-Romman Grand Mosque. The security forces launched their attack against the peaceful citizens and an eyewitness stated that he saw two citizens, one of them bleeding, being led for detention and torture. The attacks on pro-Palestinian demonstrations stated on Friday 20 October, and then were repeated on Sunday 22 October and on 27 October. Al-Hayat newspaper reported on 27 October that a man was arrested in Bahrain in connection with involvement to plan a suicide operation against US interests. A government spokesman denied the claim. However, it is thougt that the government has been saying to Western circles that it is attacking the pro-Palestinian demonstrations because one of these demonstrations approached the compounds of the US Embassy on 20 October. The government’s rumours reached the outside in the form of exaggerated reports about suicidal attacks. The government is spreading these types of saying so that it wins the support of the US and the West for suppressing the citizens. On the other hand, the unconstitutional Shura Council was instructed to talk about a decree being prepared by the ruling family for charging Bahraini students attending secondary education. Political observers noted that the ruling family aims for either of two things from ordering the Shura Council to talk about the proposed decree. It wants to say that the Shura Council is able to talk about a decree being issued and that the government may listen to these talks. On the other hand, the ruling family has imported thousands of Bedouins from Syria and Arabia and all these have absorbed the cash available for citizens’ housing, education and health services. The ruling family transferred all the funds donated by Sheikh Zayed Al-Nahyan in 1996 to these imported people, whom the ruling family is using to change the demography of Bahrain. The ruling family now wants to take more cash from the citizens and transfer the funds to the imported population. Bahrain Freedom Movement 29 October 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Crackdown on pro-Palestinian demonstrators continues

On Sunday evening, 22 October, the foreign-staffed security forces attacked the citizens who gathered at a community center in Nuaim, Manama, in support of the Palestinian cause. The security forces deployed tear gas and rubber bullets against the peaceful demonstrators. This is the second attack against pro-Palestinian demonstrators in three days. On Friday, 20 October, the security forces attacked demonstrators in Manama and later on arrested scores of participators. The security forces also detained two religious scholars, Seyyed Mohammed Al-Ghoreifi, from Nuaim, and Seyyed Hussain Al-Hayki, from Samahij, on Friday. They were tortured severely and released after two days of detention. Scores of youths were also detained and tortured for their participation in pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Pro-Palestinian slogans spread on walls around the country, and the security forces were seen painting over the slogans in Hamad Town, Karzakkan and Karbabad. A UN Senior Human Rights Commissioner, Gianni Magazzeni, accompanied by Human Rights Officer, Karim Chezraoui, are visiting Bahrain at the head of a delegation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This visit was part of the concessions offered by the Bahraini government last year to avert the issuing of a resolution by UN human rights working groups. When the government was forced last year to invite the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, it requested an initial “technical” visit by UN officials to “indicate areas for improvement and training”. The government attempted several times to use this technical assessment visit to cancel the forthcoming visit by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention next February. Bahraini jails are filled with political prisoners and detainees and it is not yet clear what will the government do ahead of the UN team arrival next February. On the other hand, the authorities have been putting pressure on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to move to a new place. The idea is to combine the offices of UNDP plus the one dealing with information (which is presently inactive) together with UNICEF (which only issues greeting cards) into one structure to be called the “UN House” to be inaugurated during the visit of Kofi Anan in November. State-controlled papers are already talking about it as if it were a reality. The government has told UNDP to accept the offer at no charge to them. It is becoming clear that the government is attempting to win some favours from UN quarters in an attempt to cancel or influence the forthcoming visit by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention next February. Bahrain Freedom Movement 25 October 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Scores injured and arrested following pro-Palestinian demonstration

Scores of people injured and arrested following the besieging and firing of tear gas on thousands of Bahrainis who demonstrated in support of the Palestinian cause. After Friday prayers (20 October), demonstrators marched from Bilad al-Qadim, Zinj and Qafool towards the US Embassy in Bahrain. Riot police encircled the demonstrators and fired in the air to disperse the citizens. Riot police attacked the demonstrators and many people were injured and several of them were hospitalised, one of them is reported to be in critical condition. In Ras Romman and Muharraq, the citizens marched following the end of Friday prayers. The Imam of Hamad Kanoo Mosque in Muharraq, Sheikh Walid Al-Mahmood, spoke against the atrocities of the Isreali forces and urged all Muslims to unite and defend the people of Palestine. The well-known lawyer, Abdulla Hashim, spoke on behalf of the organisers of the demonstration and called for an end to the naturalisation process with the Israelis. In Isa and Hamad Towns, the citizens marched and chanted pr-Palestinian slogans. In Beirut, Amnesty International organised several activities as part of the anti-torture programme. A photo exhibition was held at the UNESCO headquarters in Beirut. Posters of tortured people in Bahrain represented a main part of the exhibition and many visitors expressed outrage at the extent of atrocities committed by the Bahraini government against the peaceful citizens who are calling for their basic rights. On 18 October, the pro-democracy personality, Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Nuamin, wrote an article in Al-Quds denouncing the extent of defeat suffered by the Arab regimes. He denounced the irresponsible behaviour of the Bahraini ruling family, which had mobilised its entire capabilities to force people to attend gatherings against an Arab neighbouring country. Moreover, the ruling family intends to construct a wall depicting the names of those who attended the gatherings against Qatar. According to Al-Nuaimi, this is but a stark example of the level shamelessness reached by a Arab regime. Bahrain Freedom Movement 21 October 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Opposition calls for respect of constitutional due process

During the past few weeks several editorials in the government-controlled press started speaking about the intention of the Amir to change the country،¯s constitutions. The speculations started following the announcement of the Amir in the beginning of October that he has new plans, to be further highlighted during his enthronement day on 16 December, for a new constitutional and administrative framework. Since then, one of the mouthpieces of the regime wrote to say that the Amir intends to create an appointed upper chamber over and above an elected one. Bahrain has been run unconstitutionally since the dissolution of the National Assembly in 1975. According to Bahrain،¯s constitution, the legislative power is shared between the Amir and an elected parliament. The latter has monitoring powers over the executive branch of the government. Moreover the constitution specifies the existence of an independent ،°Supreme Judicial Council،±. Few months ago the government created a ،°Supreme Judicial Council،±. However, this council contravenes the constitution because it lacks powers and has no independence. It is merely a consultative body whose function is to advise the justice minister. The latter has the upper hand in all cases. The creation of the judicial council was described by one of the journalists as ،°27 years late in creation, and is yet unconstitutional،±. The speculations being orchestrated by the government،¯s mouthpiece is that an ،°elected parliament،± may at last be forced on the government. But such a parliament will be a lower house under the supervision of an ،°appointed house of senates،±. The powers of the elected house may also be redefined to strip them from those specified in the constitution. The government،¯s mouthpiece repeatedly mentioned the model of the British House of Lords as an example of an appointed upper chamber. The comparison is not accurate, as all know that the British House of Commons (which is the elected lower house) is the main power in the land. Opposition figures inside and outside Bahrain have published papers in local and outside press explaining their views, which are: 1. The country،¯s constitution contains provisions for amendments to articles. Recognized changes must be passed through the constitutional due process. This means the constitutional National Assembly must be restored so that changes can be voted on and agreed by the representatives of the nation. 2. The Shura Council is not a legislative body and is not constitutional. Regardless of its composition, and regardless of inclusion or exclusion of various elements from Bahrain،¯s society, the entire concept can never be considered as a democratic development. The Shura Council has been, and continues to be, a backward step and an ugly abuse of power by an executive power that is running away from accountability. 3. The opposition is not against developing the legislative power into two chambers. But for these development to take place the constitution must be respected and the National Assembly must be restored as specified by the country،¯s constitution. 4. The nation has been prevented from proper consultation and the government has created a class of cronies and selfish individuals. This class of misguided people did not and cannot represent the nation. They represent the prime minister who appointed them in the first place, and who also can dismiss them any time he wishes to do so. The basics of politics are very clear in this regard. 5. Elections by themselves do not mean much. Hence, the election proposed by the premier for a Shura Council in 2004 is not acceptable unless they comply with the constitution. The Shura Council is totally rejected, be it appointed or elected. This is because it is nothing more than a chatting house that has no power to legislate or to monitor the government. The Shura Council does not even have a power to set an agenda for its meetings. The agenda is set out by the executive power and is then handed down to the bureau of the council for discussion. Any outcome of such discussion is not mandatory in any case. Hence, since the creation of the powerless Shura Council in 1993, it disagreed with the government only once. This was when the council disagreed with the government،¯s ban on satellite dishes. The government disregarded that objection and went ahead with its ban. 6. The talk about changes to the administrative structure is baffling. The cabinet has been changing the administrative structure since 1996. All the structural changes were directed towards the concentration of power in the hands of few individuals who must also be members of the ruling Al-Khalifa family. A process of ،°Khalfanization،± has been going on at full speed. 7. It is clear that the government is testing the waters by releasing half-stories through its mouthpieces. Civilized nations would have gone through a rational process with conventions involving the entire nation, instead of a top-down unconstitutional and dictatorial change process that eventually fails to salvage a country from its political crisis. Bahrain Freedom Movement 20 October 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Human rights advocates call for an end to police state in Bahrain

Twenty nine Arab personalities signed a petition in Rabat (Morocco) calling on the Amir of Bahrain to stop the violations of human rights, to release all political prisoners and detainees, to allow all exiles to return home without preconditions and to restore the constitutional parliament that has been disbanded since 1975. The personalities were participating in the conference held for the protection of human rights advocates in the Arab World. Bahraini human rights activists participated in the conference and presented a paper on the police state in Bahrain and how the advocates of human rights and democracy are ill-treated. In Bahrain, the Labour Minster was quizzed about the recent application by highly respected Bahraini personalities to form a non-governmental human rights committee in Bahrain. He replied that he has 48 applications for all types of societies and he will study the application for a human rights committee after comparing it with the one created by the prime minister as part of the powerless Shura Council. The minister did not understand the difference between governmental and non-governmental societies. According to him, the government must control all societies in any case. On 14 October, the pro-democracy personality, Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Nuami published an article in Al-Quds Al-Arabi of London explaining the views of the opposition towards the recent announcement by the Amir that he intends to change the constitutions. He re-affirmed the views of the opposition that any change outside the due process outlined by the country،¯s constitution will not be acceptable. Similar views were presented by the pro-democracy personality Mohammed Jaber Sabah who wrote in the local Akhbar Al-Khalij saying that the only body that is able to change the constitution is the elected parliament in accordance with Article 104 of the constitution. Another pro-democracy personality, Mr. Ali Rabea, published an article in the UAE newspaper, Al-Khalij, confirming the views of the Bahraini opposition. In a debate broadcast by Bahrain TV on 17 October, the journalists Ali Saleh, Aqil Swar, Hafedh Al-Sheikh and Ali Sayyar presented their views towards the recent formation of the Journalists Society. Nabil Al-Hamer and Abdul Monem Ibrahim represented the government،¯s view while the others explained how the information ministry intervenes in the activities of journalists and prevents them from expressing their views and that this Journalists Society will be used by the ministry for the sole purpose of controlling journalism. Bahrain Freedom Movement 19 October 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Ruling family to construct an ،°enslavement،± monument

The people of Bahrain continued to air their anger at the atrocities of the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinians. Demonstrations in the main areas of Manama, Muharraq and Sanabis were followed up by more activities in the schools. In the meantime, the ruling family was concerned with other matters. The new port being built at Hidd will be named after the prime minister, whose polices for the past quarter of a century have made Bahrain one of the worst countries in the region in the violation of human rights. Moreover, the government-controlled press announced that ،°a panel of experts appointed to judge the entries for the Millennium Commemoration Monument Design Competition،± which is aimed at ،°designing a giant living monument, which will be built،± to carry the names of those who attended the gatherings organized by the ruling family in different part of the country. The report said that a member of the Al-Khalifa family ،°Rashid bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa،± will chair the selection process for setting up the monument on a 75,000 square metre site, near Sakhir Palace. The project manager, Nick Pankovas, promised to make a ،°tourist attraction،± out of the monument. The opposition believes that such a project has no purpose other than symbolizing the enslavement of people. Three individuals received $94,000 each for accepting to act as a front for the rallies. On the other hand, the prime minister announced that he allocated a ،°2.6-hectare piece of land for the new Philippine School following the signing of the lease agreement between the officials from the school and the Ministry of Finance and National Economy،±. The people of Bahrain welcome such moves as a sign of respect for the friendly communities living and working in Bahrain and hope that the prime minister will also provide the same opportunities for the natives whose schools and societies are shut down. However, the recent focusing of news on items relating to the respect awarded by the ruling Al-Khalifa family to Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, Ismailis, Phillipinos, etc, is part of the new PR strategy. In the past years, the regime،¯s strategy was to say to regional and international powers that it was under threat from the Shia community and it needed their support to suppress them. That racist policy has failed miserably and many people were fed-up hearing the claims of the regime that it had uncovered Shia and Iranian-backed plots to overturn the government. The new strategy is therefore aimed to present the ruling Al-Khalifa family as the most friendly rulers to all types of religious and ethnic minorities, in the hope of gaining support for the feudal dictatorship. The elections for the joint labour-management committees in 18 Bahrain companies that were due before the end of the year had been stopped by the prime minister to avoid an inevitable encounter with labour activists who vowed to reject all candidates،¯ lists provided by the interior ministry. The prime minister decided to delay the election after the end of the year (hence January 13 to 17) to avoid the present critical period when the GCC summit is due to be held and when the case of Hawar is due to be concluded at the Hague. Bahrain Freedom Movement 18 October 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Citizens prevented from marching in support of Palestine

The people of Bahrain continued their pro-Palestinian activities across the country. Friday prayer on 13 October was marked by massive marches in the two major cities of Bahrain, Manama and Muharraq. The people gathered in Muharraq after Friday prayer and marched through the streets denouncing the Israeli aggression and atrocities committed against the Palestinian people. In Manama, the people started the march from Ras-Romman Grand Mosque and passed through Manama with slogans confirming the unity of Bahraini people in their support for the people of Palestine. Two days earlier, students around the country marched in favour of the Palestinian cause. The students of the Bahrain Training Institute organized a second demonstration to confirm their independence from government’s maneouvers. On Thursday many areas witnessed similar activities. However, the interior ministry intervened to prevent a march on Thursday night that was planned to emerge from Matam-Salloom. As a result of the ban, people went to the Matam (community centre) in Nuaim and declared their support for the Palestinian cause. Press reports in the UK revealed that on 19 May, Lord Janner and Lord Ahmed of the UK House of Lords visited Bahrain to facilitate the opening of a commercial office for Israel in Bahrain. In fact the Bahraini government has been emulating the Israelis in the way the latter treat the Palestinians. The ruling family imports people from the outside and denies the indigenous population their cultural, economic and political rights. The ruling family in Bahrain goes further by forcibly exiling the citizens and at the same time it awards free citizenship to all types of people imported from the outside. The local press speak about the amount of respect awarded to Jews, Bahais, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians of all denominations, Ismaili and all types of faiths. At the same time, the religious institutions belonging to the indigenous people are closed down and their religious affairs are being put under the direct control of the interior and justice ministries. Furthermore, the Al-Khalifa family was hoping that the recent appointment of individuals from the Jewish, Christian and Isamili faiths would help in gaining international support for its dictatorship. The events in Palestine has turned the situation upside down for the time being. The opposition expressed its views that it support the right of all Bahraini citizens, regardless of their backgrounds, to participate in public life as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Bahrain’s Constitution. However, the political process in Bahrain is unconstitutional and there is no serious indication yet that the ruling family is heeding the call to stop abusing human rights and to respect the country’s constitution. Bahrain Freedom Movement 14 October 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Citizens demonstrate for Palestine; PM abuses Waqf funds

Students at the Bahrain Training Institute (BTI) and several schools demonstrated in support of the Palestinian cause on 11 October. They condemned the atrocities of the Israeli forces and called on the international community to show its support for the legitimate rights of Palestinians. The BTI students raised slogans affirming the unity of the Bahraini people and condemned all attempts to divide the society into sects. These remarks were directed at the government of Bahrain that adopts a policy of discrimination amongst citizens on the basis of religious and ethnic backgrounds. Following the milk price war between local and Saudi dairies, the Bahrain-Danish Dairy Company started dismissing its employees. Eleven were sacked on 11 October and 55 are expected to be sacked anytime. Price wars with Saudi producers usually end up with local companies vanishing. It would be appropriate that more facilities are provided to enable the Bahraini business community to compete on a level field with other businesses in the Gulf. On the other hand, it is expected that the prime minister will change the administration of the Shia Waqf Department (which is attached to the justice ministry) to enable him to get more funds from the Waqf for financing his private business empire. The Waqf is considered to be one of the cash-rich institutions in Bahrain as a result of its history. In the past, the Al-Khalifa ruling family used to confiscate lands on a large scale from the indigenous community. Many people from the indigenous community used to transfer their private properties for religious endowment (Waqf). Once transferred to religious endowment it became difficult for the Al-Khalifa family to confiscate the land or the fund. The Waqf was later transferred to a government department after the introduction of administrative reforms in 1926. The first committees that managed the Waqf were elected freely by locals. Then the government cancelled those elections and appointed individuals close to the ruling family. Nowadays, the Waqf funds and properties are mismanaged and abused by the prime minister and his cronies without accountability. Bahrain Freedom Movement 12 October 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Students demonstrate for Palestine, Other mosques besieged by the authorities

Students at the University of Bahrain staged a demonstration on 7 October in support of the Palestinian cause. The march was permitted by the government, which feared that it would be singled out of all other Arab countries if it were to ban the march. The university campuses had been transferred into military barrack since the appointment of a military officer to head it in 1995. Some 3,000 students marched at Sakhair campus. The citizens confirmed their unity in supporting the Palestinian cause and called for an end to the brutality of Israeli forces in the occupied territories. In the mean time, the security forces intensified its presence around the country to prevent the citizens for airing their views. In Duraz, the security forces besieged the grand mosque and prevented the citizens from marching. This is to be expected from a government that had the least of concern for the views of the nation. The magazine “International Union Rights” in its Volume 7, Issue 3, 2000,exposed the nature of the tribal dictatorship that has consistently denied Bahrainis their rights. The magazine stated “The General Committee for Bahrain Workers has officially requested that the authorities reconsider the status of trade unions in Bahrain. The GCBW has expressed the need for the country to accept international labour standards and lift the ban, which currently outlaws independent trade unions and permits only the establishment of workers committees. The workers committees have attempted to form trade unions in the past but have been met with government repression. On this occasion the GCBW submitted an official letter to the government requesting permission to form a trade union in accordance with the principles of the ILO and of the Arab Labour Organisation. The leaders of the committee were then summoned to the labour ministry and informed that their requests were “totally rejected” and there would be “grave consequences” if they continued with such demands. ICTUR has written to the Amir of Bahrain’s Offices and to the Labour Ministry requesting that due consideration be given to the demands of these workers”. It is worth noting that the prime minister had intervened and suspended the elections that were due to take place before end of the year. The delaying of election until next February was aimed at clearing this critical period from the expected encounter with labour activists who vowed to resist the intervention of the interior ministry in the elections. The government does not want troubles at a time when it is preparing to host the next GCC summit and when the International Court at The Hague is expected to issue its verdict about the dispute with Qatar on Hawar islands. The dispute with Qatar has been directed for ill-intentioned purposes. The ruling family organised several rallies to force people to declare their unconditional loyalty. Three persons who accepted to act as a front for the ruling family were awarded $94,000 each. Moreover, the ruling family announced that it appointed one of its number, Rashid bin Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, to oversee the construction of a “monument that represents a document of support and loyalty and includes the names of all citizens and civil, cultural, social, youth, labour and women’s organisations and establishments that have taken patriotic stands”. The names will be marked on this monument at the entrance of the “Al-Sakhir Palace” in Zallaq. The majority of citizens who are against being used as publicity stunts were angered by these cheap practices. A group of daring citizens managed on 2 October to get their message clearly by painting slogans of protests on a wall belonging to Al-Safreyah Palace. Since then, an armoured vehicle has been stationed by the wall for surveillance purposes. Bahrain Freedom Movement 9 October 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Mass demonstrations in support of the Palestinian cause

The people of Bahrain responded to the various calls for participation in a mass demonstration after Friday prayer on 6 October. The depth of feelings has left the feudal dictatorship with no option but to allow the people to express their views about the massacre of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli security forces. The participation of the people must have shocked the government and for that purpose the government-controlled media attempted to report the names of the officials who showed-up in the demonstration. The demonstrators chanted “There is no difference between Shia and Sunni, we are all united against Zionists”. Another demonstration is taking place at the University of Bahrain for the first time since 1995. The university campuses were transformed into military barracks to prevent the citizens from airing their views. However, the massacre of Palestinians has forced the authorities to loosen-up for this occasion and to allow the students to demonstrate. On 2 October, the security forces attacked Karzakkan and arrested Ibrahim Ahmed Shehab Al-Fardan, 19, Hussain Isa Abdulla Al-Fardan, 23, Nasr-Din Isa Abdulla Al-Fardan, 18, Fadhil Abbas Al-Ashori, 17 and Hamid Hassan Abdul Rasool, 30. The latter had been released but the other youths are still languishing in detection cells. In the same period, Mohammed Abdul Hassain Saleh Al-Shehabi, was returning from Saudi Arabia across the causeway linking the two countries. Mr. Al-Shehabi was detained and transferred to Budaya Police Stations. On 3 October, he was seen at the police station in exhausted conditions with obvious marks of ill treatment and torture. It has transpired that the Amir had awarded Abdul Rahman Jamshir, Hussain Sultan Ghanim and Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Hussain a large sum of money, 35,000 dinars (about $ 94,000) each, for accepting to act as a front for organising rallies of loyalty to the ruling family. Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Hussain invested the amount of money in the opening of a shop for the selling of perfumes in Adelya, Manama. The three individuals were given exact amounts of money so that they do not quarrel with each other in public, as happened in one of the rallies. Bahrain Freedom Movement 7 October 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Plans for unconstitutional set-ups announced

Police and intelligence officers mounted scores of dawn raids around the country in continuation of the crackdown policy against all forms of peaceful dissent. Some of those known to have been detained after dawn raids on 1 October include were: ?eyyed Jaffer Mossa Nasser, 22, from Markh; Hussain Sdaif, 22, from Sitra; Bader Al-Sabbagh, 23, from Sanabis; Yousif Al-Romi, 25, from Manama. The dawn raids conducted in Daih on 26 September resulted in the arrest of several people including Mohammed Salman Hussain, Saleh Al-Sheikh, and Ali Yousif Scores of other people were summoned ahead of the rally organised by the ruling family at Duraz Abo-Subh Beach on 2 October. The citizens were threatened of grave consequences if any protest emerges during the visit of the Amir to the Area. The entire government was mobilised for this event and the newspapers stated that 80,000 would attend. In fact less than 8,000 attended (less than 10% of the target number) and most of these were security personnel and schools?pupils who had been forced to attend. On 3 October, the Amir addressed the appointed Shura Council and said that he intends to announce on 16 December “a new administrative and constitutional concept of our State ? This statement was followed up by reports in the local press that this meant that the constitution will be changed without recourse to the legitimate due process prescribed by the constitution. The Amir went on to say that “the beginning of a new phase .. will include administrative development and a new constitution for our country,? According to the country’s constitution Article 104 “for an amendment to be made to any provision of this Constitution, it is stipulated that it shall be passed by a majority vote of two-thirds of the members constituting the National Assembly and ratified by the Amir? This article clearly specifies the due process that must be followed if the constitution is to be changed. Any other set-up will not be a politically legitimate one so long as the elected National Assembly has not been functioning as specified by the legal contract between the nation and the ruling family. Bahrain Freedom Movement 5 October 2000 Tel/Fax: 9+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Ruling family to go ahead with a rally for revenge purposes

The 40th commemorative day of the Gulf Air crash coincides with 2 October, the day the ruling family is holding its rally at Duraz Abo-Sobh Beach. The residents of the northern region have called for the boycotting of the rally. However, the ruling family is intending to practice its ancient belief of revenge. It was five years ago that 80,000 people gathered in Bani Jamra to declare their support for Sheikh Al-Jamri and his colleagues who were calling for the restoration of constitutional life in Bahrain. The government’s press has said that the rally organisers (i.e. the ruling family) intends to gather eighty thousands people to sing and dance for the Amir when he visits Duraz on 2 October. Moreover, the government’s press confirmed what the opposition had already said, “buses will be made available” to transport people from Muharraq, Rifaa, Zallaq and other places to the rally area in Duraz. The Al-Khalifa family has been importing thousands of Bedouins from mainland Arabia and from Jordan and Syria and all these have been granted Bahraini passports to serve as mercenaries for the political system. The government is shamelessly distributing summons to elders of the area and has announced that schools’ children will be made to stand along the highway where the Amir’s motorcade will pass. The government has decorated the area stretching from Qadam to Duraz with police and security personnel providing 24-hours manning by the side of each banner and display to prevent the citizens from removing them. Moreover, the compounds of the Islamic Enlightenment Society (located at the entrance of Duraz) that was closed down by the interior ministry in 1984 and was burnt down by the ministry earlier this year, was painted to cover-up its image that reminds all people of the racist-based polices of the ruling family. This is the same family that claims to be tolerant towards Jews, Bahai, Christians of all denominations, Hindus, etc, but at the same time denies the indigenous population of their rights to have their religious societies. The new employees appointed by the prime minister for the Shura Council met on 1 October. These employees were given a slip of paper containing an oath to be “loyal to the country, the Amir and to respect the law”. There was no mention whatsoever to the country’s constitution, as they all know that the government’s practices are unconstitutional. The prime minister dropped one of his appointees to the Shura Council at the last minute. Originally, he had decided to appoint five women, but at the end Mr. Jasim Al-Wafi replaced Dr. Nada Hafadh. The premier’s appointment of a Jewish member to represent a Jewish population of 35 people (4 families in total) was aimed at winning outside support for his dictatorship. The premier also appointed a Christian lady and another citizen who originally comes from the Indian community and who follows the Ismaili faith. Thus, the appointments of the Shura Council consist of four ladies and the religious orientations are 19 Sunni, 18 Shia, one Ismaili, one Jew, and one Christian. The appointees include the brother of the information minister, and the dismissed Editor-in-Chief of Akhbar Al-Khalij. Ethnically, the distribution is: 7 Tribal Sunni, 8 Howallah (Sunni), 2 Sunni-Iranians, 2 Sunni-Arabs, 14 Baharnah (Shia-Arabs), 2 Shia-Iranians (Ajam), 2 other Shia-Arabs, 1 Indian-Ismaili, 1 Arab-Christian, 1 Iraqi-Jew. Sixteen members come from the business community who are associated with the business empire, Unitag Group of Companies, which is owned and run by the prime minister. Bahrain Freedom Movement 1 October 2000 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089

October 2000

Al Khalifa’s rallies:

Cheap practices for a politically-bankrupt system

It would be naive to suggest that inter-Gulf relations could be enhanced to the level of enabling whoever is concerned to declare unity between any two states. There are many impediments to such suggestion that render such a proposal a hollow one. When some members of the Al Khalifa ruling family of Bahrain proposed a unified entity with Qatar, it was treated more as a joke than a serious business. How could a unity between two states be achieved when one of them adopts a policy of mobilizing the masses against the other?

The only interpretation of such proposal is the desire to promote a certain political image at a time of increased internal tension and a tainted international image. But when the political game is reduced to point-scoring the whole political engagement becomes meaningless.

The Bahraini-Qatari relations may not be a representative case, but the relations between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia or those between Kuwait and Qatar or the collective attitudes among the GCC states are not too cordial. It is therefore unrealistic to suggest any form of unity in the Gulf as long as the present structure of political leadership is in power.

Unity is a result of people’s will, and as such, it cannot be imposed from above. It cannot be realized by a sudden official announcement to this effect. Neither can it come about with a royal decree, however strong it may be. Feelings of fraternity and togetherness have to be identified first.

For this to happen, people must be in a position to decide for themselves. This entails a degree of democratic process through which the people can exercise their political power and participate in running their own affairs. Democracy to many of the ruling establishment in the Gulf is an alien culture that must be resisted by all means. Those calling for it are often libelled saboteurs, plotters and even terrorists. The status quo to them is the best that can be hoped for. It is often the internal political isolation that leads a government to seek an outside engagement of one kind or another.

For the Government of Bahrain to adopt two irreconcilable strategies indicate the degree of alienation it feels at home. On the one hand, the Amir has called for the unity with Qatar, even after freezing the Joint High Committee comprising the Crown Princes from the two countries. On the other hand, the government has, for the past two months, been engaged in mobilizing the people against Qatar. Rallies have been organized by the government to obtain “allegiance” from the people for the ruling family through intimidation and threats. Government employees have been asked to sign pledges of “allegiance” and support for the ruling family against Qatar. Anyone who refuses to do so risks harsh reprisals.

It is ironic to hear, in these circumstances, talks of unity and togetherness. At a time when the people are denied their basic rights to freedom and democracy, it is unrealistic to expect serious processes of rapproachment. This is especially the case in the Gulf where the ruling families have developed a taste of everlasting power. Any form of unity presupposes readiness to relinquish some of these powers and accept to be ruled by others. This is simply not on the table in a region where each ruling family has deep-rooted feelings that it owns the both the land and the people. None of the rulers is ready to give up any part of his empire regardless of the consequences. If a dispute on a small uninhabited island could cause two neighbouring countries to get ready for every possible eventuality, how could the governments of these countries be expected to agree to a power-sharing formula?

The talking about unity in such atmosphere seems far-fetched and highly unrealistic. The Gulf Cooperation Council has remained largely ineffective due to the reluctance of each country to give an inch for the sake of the common good. It will remain ineffective as long as the mentalities of these governments remains opposed to the concepts of power-sharing, democracy and political participation.

The GCC has retained a symbolic presence which is often threatened by feuds and factional politics. Even Bahrain has threatened to withdraw from the alliance if the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules against it in the case of Huwar islands. Previously, Oman and the UAE threatened the same due to their disputes with Saudi Arabia. In these circumstances, unity seems to be unrealistic and unlikely even to be contemplated seriously even by its proponents. Countries which had achieved closer relationships are usually governed by democratic systems, and the people are encouraged to take part in debates relating to their welfare. In the case of the European Union (EU) the member countries have democratic governments and the people are consulted in deciding on the alliance. Referenda are often carried out to determine the tendency of the people, and the wishes determine the course of action to be taken by the government of the day.

The whole GCC countries put together cannot form a strong political entity. They depend on US-led forces to secure their stability. They largely depend on foreign workforce to run the economy. They have one single source of income that produces up to 90 per cent of the revenue. The population of all GCC countries put together does not exceed 20 millions. All these factors render the Gulf countries ineffective especially if they remain fragmented.

It would be great to see unity realised in the Gulf. But no one believes the government of Bahrain when it talks about unity with Qatar. It is a cynical call aimed at creating a political atmosphere for deflecting the aspiration if the people of Bahrain. Already the Al Khalifa family has staged rallies of “loyalties” and preparedness to fight against Qatar. Even the Indian community in Bahrain was not spared. Some 2000 signatures from the Indian community in Bahrain were collected “pledging” loyalty to the Al Khalifa. These cheap practices are to be expected from a politically-bankrupt system that has nothing to share with the people of Bahrain.

Baharin Freedom Movement
October 2000


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