September 2000

Bahrain: Ancient prime minister handpicks more of his associates for the powerless Shura Council

The ancient prime minister announced the list of his employees and associates who will be named as members of the unconstitutional Shura Council. The powerless and discredited council will contain several new business associates of the prime minister including one from the Jewish community (Dawood Nono) and another from the Indian-background community (Mohammed Dadabhai). Five women were also appointed by the prime minister comprising a Christian (Alice Simaan), two Sunni and two Shia. The handpicked members of the powerless council comprise 19 Sunni, 19 Shia, 1 Jew, 1 Indian and 1 Christian. Most of the members are business partners of the prime minister awarded with a Shura Council’s monthly salary of $4000 for their association in his unfair trading practices and for their obedience to him. Nono family owns a financial company as well as a cinema’s film distribution and all are known to be very close to the prime minister. The same goes for Mr. Dadabhai. Bahrain is a cosmopolitan society. The Jewish community in Bahrain comprises 20-30 families (total population of a 100) and these had refused to migrate to Palestine in 1948. The origins of Bahraini Jews are Yemen, Iraq and Iran. (Nono family is from Iraq; Parwin family is from Iran). The Christian community is originally from Iraq and Lebanon. Many Christian Lebanese were given Bahraini passports in the 1980s and 1990s (the private hairdresser of the Al-Khalifa family is Christian Lebanese). Alice Simaan is originally from Iraq. The well-off Indian community (some of whom are Bahraini citizens) are originally traders who settled in Bahrain before the discovery of oil. Many of them are highly respected. The BFM believes that all ethnic and religious communities in Bahrain are entitled to participate in public life, however, the Shura Council and all other unconstitutional practices of the Al-Khalifa family are unreservedly denounced. Bahrain Freedom Movement 28 September ‏2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

MANAMA, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Bahrain on Wednesday appointed four women and a Jewish man to its consultative Shura council for the first time, the Gulf News Agency reported. It said a decree issued by Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa named 19 newcomers to the council, including an Iraqi-born Jewish man, a Christian woman and an Indian-born man. A Bahraini official said all three were citizens of the predominantly Muslim Gulf Arab state. Three other women were also named to the previously all-male body which has 40 seats. The remaining members were re-appointed to the council, which will hold its first session on October 3, the agency said. The council has no legislative powers and has a four-year term. It mainly reviews laws drafted by the cabinet before they are sent to the emir for final approval. The government has said it plans to allow the council to be chosen by popular vote in about five years. Diplomats said it was not immediately clear if the body would then be given legislative powers. Bahrain authorities dissolved the island state’s first elected parliament in 1975, two years after it was set up. Restoration of the elected parliament was the main spur to political unrest by Bahrain’s majority Shi’ite Muslim community in December 1994. The disturbances abated in 1998.

Political parties are banned in Bahrain, the Gulf’s financial and banking hub.

Bahrain: Bahraini journalists are punished for expressing their views

The three ladies, Hanan Haider, Salwa Haider and Leeda Al-Oreibi, who had been in jail for the past six months were released on 25 September. Their ordeal was exacerbated by the ill-treatment they received at the hands of a person named Mozah Sultan. On 24 September, the journalist Hafidh Al-Sheikh was summoned for interrogation by an interrogation judge. The summoning is related to the criticism made by Mr. Al-Sheikh against the spokesman of the ruling family, Abdul Adhim Al-Baboli. Mr. Al-Sheikh criticized the way Al-Baboli is staining the image of Bahrain by his irresponsible statements, especially the ones he made after the Gulf Air crash on 23 August. The move to punish Mr. Al-Sheikh is seen as a further sign that the prime minister is intent on suppressing all signs of freedom of speech. Following the dismissal of the Editor-in-Chief of Akhbar Al-Khalij, the journalist Ali Saleh is facing intimidation and had been told that his contributions may be decreased. The government wants to discourage him from writing anything that relates to the constitutional rights of Bahrainis. On the pother hand the ruling family has stepped up its threats and intimidations to the residents of the northern region ahead of the rally being organized (by the ruling family) on Duraz Beach at the beginning of October. It has transpired that the ruling family will be transporting thousands of Bedouins who had been imported into Bahrain and registered as citizens to Duraz Beach. Also, the Dowsari tribesmen in Saudi Arabia who had been given a second citizenship (Bahraini passports) were asked to travel to Bahrain and to dance in front of the ruling family on Duraz Beach. The parents of all pupils in the northern regions were given papers to sign pledging that they will make sure that their sons will participate in the rally “to vow loyalty to the Amir and to declare support against Qatar”. Sheikh Hamid Habib Ashor, in detention for more than four years, has been denied his right to receive treatment for his eyes. He has been losing the ability to see following the ill-treatment and torturing he had undergone during his detention. The family of Mr. Ashor requested the authorities to allow their son to receive proper treatment, but it is understood that the interior ministry wants him to sign pre-prepared confession and pledges that he will not be participating in public life anymore before allowing him to receive a treatment. Bahrain Freedom Movement 26 September 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Citizens harassed and forced to thank the ruling family

The failure of the Al-Khalifa family to win the hearts of the people of Bahrain has been reflected by an increase in the number of arrests and dawns raids conducted by the security forces and other organs of the interior ministry against the peaceful citizens of Bahrain. The rally organized by the office of the prime minister on 18 September (in the name of Bahraini workers) failed miserably. The hall reserved for the function remained empty for the first part of the programme. Most of the elected representatives of the Bahraini workers committee did not participate. Those who attended in the name of the workers, Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Hussain and Saeed Al-Sammak, quarreled with each other loudly causing further upset to the meeting. On 18 September, dawn raiders conducted another attack against Karranah and arrested Abdul Amir Al-Basri, 28, and Hassan Ali Ahmed Aman, 32. The attackers ransacked the houses of both citizens. Also on 18 September, several detained teenagers were dragged out by the security forces and were forced to act as if they were burning tyres (with balaclavas put on for the act) while being filmed by an interior ministry crew. The government’s action against the citizens is meant to be a threat against the residents of the area ahead of the programme organized by the ruling family on 1 October, to be held at Duraz Beach. All schools in the northern and western regions were ordered to send their pupils for greeting the Amir on his way to Duraz Beach. The elders representing 124 community centers (Matams) and 20 charity funds were ordered to attend the function on 1 October and to thank the Amir. Many of these elders have their sons inside the jails for demanding political reforms. The function itself is held near Duraz Cemetery where several martyrs are buried. The forcing of residents of the northern and western regions (whose sons and daughters were killed and tortured to death by the security forces) has taken an ugly shape. The owners of shops along the Budaya Highway, leading to Duraz Beach, were ordered to pay between BD 300 – 3000 ($ 800-8000) to finance the hanging of greeting displays (the higher payment is for the crescent-shaped greeting display across the highway). Those who do not pay-up may have their names recorded for future revenge by the ruling family. Bahrain Freedom Movement 21 September 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: The opposition condemns the flagrant abuse of power by the ruling family

The office of the prime minister is going ahead with its planned rally to force people to declare loyalty to the ruling family in relation to the conflict with Qatar. The government-controlled press had been publishing daily adverts to ensure that as many employees as possible would attend the rally on the evening of 18 September. The government has instructed the General Committee of Bahraini Workers (GCBW) to join the rally in its name. Political observers are witnessing one of the worst abuses of State power by a ruling family in the modern age. Similarly, the son of the interior minister and the security officer Abdul Rahman bin Sager Al-Khalifa are going ahead with their plan for another rally to be held in Duraz Beach on 1 October. Mr. Al-Khalifa summoned the elders of Duraz and asked them whether they will declare loyalty to the Amir on that day and whether they will join a war against Qatar. The elders, whose sons were shot dead by the types of Abdul Rahman bin Sager Al-Khalifa, were left speechless in the face of arrogant abusers of powers. The Al-Khalifa family is using the case of Hawar for poplitical games with the people. All people in Bahrain know that the ruling family has no concern for people in all normal cases. Indeed, Bahrainis are banned from approaching most of Bahrain’s beautiful islands, such as Om-Na’asn, Om Subban, Jeddah and others. All these have been confiscated by senior members of the Al-Khalifa family for their private use. Bahrainis are never allowed to go south of Bahrain, which has also been confiscated for private use. Hawar is part of Bahrain, but the Al-Khalifa consider all Bahrain and all Bahrainis are nothing but private properties and subjects for themselves. Therefore, to use Hawar for rallies of loyalties is nothing but a cynical and irresponsible use of coercive State power. The opposition condemns the abuse of power and the manipulation of national issues for private gain. The fiasco created by Abdul Adhim Al-Baboli, the Egyptian mercenary who ruined the image of Bahrain following the Gulf Air crash last August. On citizens who attempted to lodge a complaint against him was summoned for interrogation before submitting the complaint. Al-Baboli’s main responsibility is to issue the official statements to internal and external media organisations, specifically with regards to attacking the opposition that is demanding a return to constitutional rule. Following all his failures, Al-Babolis is organising a training course for one month (starting 17 September) with the aim of developing 35 government officials for handling the media. Instructors from the UK, the USA, Jordan and Egypt will be training the media officials for this purpose. The return of the ancient prime minister from France will now settle the final stage of the dismissal of the Editor-in-Chief of Akhbar Al-Khalij. An extremely obedient person, Anwar Abdulrahmman has been declared as Acting Editor. The premier may go ahead and confirm him as the Editor-in-Chief to serve as a warning for any person who may dream one day of expressing his or her views. Bahrain Freedom Movement 18 September 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: New Zealand MPs and personalities express their support for the pro-democracy movement

More than 130 political and academic personalities from New Zealand submitted a petition to the Amir of Bahrain on 12 September in support of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain. The petition was signed by several MPs including the deputy to the Prime Minister, Mr. Jim Anderton. The petition stated: “On the 25th anniversary of the parliamentary process and the relevant constitutional articles, we urge the Government of Bahrain to: 1- Put into practice the whole body of Constitution including the articles that had been suspended by the Amiri decree of 26 August 1975. 2- Repeal all emergency laws especially the 1974 State Security Law and the State Security Court. 3- Release all political prisoners including Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussain, member of the Committee of Popular Petition (CPP). 4- Allow the unconditional return of all exiles. 5- Carry out an impartial investigation into cases in custody and all extra-judicial killings. We believe this is the way forward for Bahrain.” The New Zealand personalities delivered the petition to the Palace of the Amir via registered mail. In Bahrain, the dismissal of the Editor-in-Chief of Akhbar Al-Khalij was finally announced, one week after its disclosure by the opposition. The official Gulf News Agency stated that “Dar Al Khaleej Press and Publishing House decided to appoint its Managing Director Anwar Abdul-Rahman as Acting Editor-In-Chief of ‘Akhbar Al Khaleej’ newspaper.” Journalists in Bahrain are becoming aware of their worth as the government treats them less than human being. They are merely used and then dumped in the most discourteous way. One of the columnists, Aqil Sewar, revealed in his column that one of the journalists was interrogated by officials just as this journalist was about to submit a complaint against the advisor to the information ministry (Mr. Abdul Adhim Al-Baboli). Al-Baboli, who runs the information ministry, created havoc and stained the image of Bahrain by his irresponsible statements made to international media organizations following the Gulf Air crash last August. Al-Baboli is one the mercenaries recruited by the government as part of its repression campaign against the people of Bahraini. Bahrain Freedom Movement 14 September 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Government-sponsored rallies condemned

More violations of human rights were reported in the past week. Security officers raided several houses in Daih and arrested Hussein Fakher, 16, Mohammed Ya’aquob, 22, Mohammed Mushaima’a, 19 and Mahmood Al-Khair, 17. These had recently been released following an earlier detention and are now back in jail. Similarly, several arrests were made in Arad and the following citizens were taken away for torturing: Ayman Jasim Radhi Hussein, 17, Hasan Ali Al-Folath, Mohammed Abdul Hussain Mohammed Sadiq, Jasim Ahmed Abdulla Al-Daroghah, Abbas Ahmed Abdul Hussain, Abdul Monem Ahmed Al-Najjar, Ahmed Ali Hassan Abbas and Mohammed Ali Hassan Abbas. Families of political detainees and prisoners are facing hostile treatment from the prison authorities. For example, the family of Yousif Abdul Baqi (one of three people on a death row since 1997) are denied access to their son and every now and then are turned away after waiting for hours to meet their beloved son. Similarly, the family (from Sitra) of Jalal Ibrahim, 22, who had been in detention for more than 4 years has been prevented from visiting their son. The three ladies in detention at Isa Town Detention Centre (Leeda Ahmed Isa Al-Oreibi, 27-year old from Tobli, Hanan Salman Ahmed Haider, 21-year old from Manama, and Salwa Hassan Ahmed Haider, 35-year old from Daih) are being ill-treated by a torturer named Mozah Sultan and their families are harshly treated whenever they ask for a visit. The wife of Mohammed Redha Al-Sayyed Ali, 29, who was sentenced in December 1998 to 40 years imprisonment (the longest ever sentence passed by the unconstitutional State Security Court) receives a harsh treatment whenever she asks for an interview. While the people suffer, the son of the interior minister, Fawaz Al-Khalifa, issued further orders to all clubs in the northern region of Bahrain, Implicitly warning them, and ordering them to pay sums of money and to participate in a loyalty rally organized by the ruling family to force people to join state-sponsored functions. Fawaz Al-Khalifa was joined by the security officer, Abdul Rahman bin Sager Al-Khalifa, who both issued directives to citizens ordering them to join a rally for declaring loyalty to the Amir on 1 October (to be held at Duraz beach). Similarity, the director of the premier office (Dr. Abdul Latif Al-Rumeihi) and a member of the crown prince office (Dr. Hamad Al-Nuaimi) are both organizing a rally on 18 September in the name pf Bahraini workers to declare loyalty and support to the Al-Khalifa family in regard to the conflict with Qatar. The press reported an earlier rally and that consisted of 2000 Indian expatriates signing-up their loyalty to the Amir with regard to the conflict with Qatar. On 11 September, the Amir issued an order deputizing the Crown Prince and acting Prime Minister Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa to stand in during his absence while visiting the ailing premier in France. The Amir headed for Paris on Monday and is expected to meet with the French President Jacques Chirac. The Bahraini government has been focusing on relation with France for political maneuvering and as a means of deflecting EU criticism of human rights violations. The Bahraini government hosted Radio Monte Carlo six months ago to counter the BBC Arabic Service (which has a strengthening station in Qatar). Radio Monte Carlo, which is owned by Radio France International signed a pact with the Bahraini government in May 1999. Bahrain Freedom Movement 12 September 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Al-Shayji is the first causality of the government’s journalists’ society

The dismissal of Dr. Helal Al-Shayji few days ago from his position as Editor-in-Chief of the government-controlled newspaper, Akhbar Al-Khalij, is the first causality of the recently formed Bahraini Journalists Society. The society was created by the information minister, Mohammed Al-Mutawa, for controlling journalists. Al-Shayji was one of the people who did not hide his displeasure about he creation of the society. He constantly refused to publish anything about the preparations for its creation in defiance of the information minister. He also angered Al-Mutawa by allowing Ali Saleh, Hafedh Al-Sheikh and other columnists to cross the redlines imposed on the press. Al-Shayji went too far in believing what he heard from the Amir about “political openness”. He failed to realize that those statements were primarily addressed for the outside world as part of the government’s PR campaign. They carried no weight inside Bahrain and nothing but the continuation of repression has been realized. During the absence of Al-Shayji last month (in Egypt), Mohammed Al-Motawwa used two of his stooges, Anwar Abdul Rahman and Abdul Monem Ibrahim to kick-out Helal Al-Shayji. By the time he returned from Cairo, the two stooges had established themselves as the only government-trusted people in Akhbar Al-Khalij. Both have been in direct contact with Al-Motawa, and both were given provincial management responsibilities until the ancient prime minister (currently in France for an eye operation) decides on the person to replace Al-Shayji. In the meantime, the government has kept quit about the dismissal of Al-Shayji without announcement. The BFM uncovered the story of dismissal on 6 September. The security officer, Abdul Rahman bin Sager Al-Khalifa, who was appointed by his family as a governor of the northern region distributed the following letter on all owners of shops located alongside the Budaya Highway: ((State of Bahrain, Ministry of the Interior, Northern Province, Office of the Governor. To all concerned: We are please to inform you that His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the Amir, May God Protect him, will be visiting the Northern Province on 1 October 2000. And for this occasion, preparations are underway by officials and citizens to receive His Highness for a popular reception at the Abo-Sobh coastal garden. The motorcade of His Highness will pass through Budaya Highway. Hence we ask you to cooperate and to participate by construction crescent-shaped banners across the highway greeting the esteemed leadership. Your participation will be well received. Thank you.)) All the shops were told that if they fail to abide by the directive, they will only have themselves to blame. These inhuman practices recently adopted by the Al-Khalifa family will make the gap wider between itself and the people of Bahrain, who witness the emergence of a style adopted by rulers like Saddam Hussein of Iraq. It is worth noting that the Iraqi ruler is considered by the ancient prime minister and several senior Al-Khalifa members as an example to emulate. In the mean time, the foreign security forces continued their campaign of repression. They attacked Karranah on 5 September and arrested Mohammed Hassan Ali Al-Ajami, Fadhil Isa Nasser, Hussain Salman Saeed and Hussain Haji Kadhem Saleh. All are under 20 years old. Bahrain Freedom Movement 8 September 2000

Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: Editor-in-Chief dismissed; Citizens forced to pay large amounts for government’s rallies

In a drastic move, the Editor-in-Chief of the government-controlled newspaper, Akhbar Al-Khalij was dismissed by the ruling family. Dr. Helal Al-Shayji, was sacked from his position on 5 September. Al-Sahyji had been spending a one-month holiday in Egypt and he only learnt of his dismissal upon his return from Cairo. During his absence, Abdul Monem Ibrahim, took over and restricted columnists who had earlier been allowed to write partially open-minded columns. For example, during the last month, the column of the popular journalist, Ali Saleh, did not appear as in the past. Journalists were told that their time had ran out and that they exceeded the limits. Al-Sahyji was known for his obedience, but it seems that he believed some of the statements he heard from the Amir about political openness and now he is paying for his naivety. On the other hand, the Amir cancelled his planned trip to New York for attending the UN Millennium summit and instead dispatched the foreign minister. He also traveled for a short period to Egypt to meet with Hosni Mobarak. His change of programme may be related to the absence of his uncle, the prime minister, who is being treated in France. Moreover, the government postponed a rally that had initially been scheduled for 4 September. The rally will now take place on 18 September and will be addressed by the president of the General Committee for Bahraini Workers, the vice-president of the oil company and some officials. The organistion of the rally is led by Dr. Abdul Latif Al-Rumeihi, the head of the prime minister’s office, and Dr. Hamad Al-Nuaimi, a member of the crown prince’s office. The two organisers are imposing a fee of BD 2500 (about $7000) on all companies that have been selected to support the rally. The organisers told the companies and citizens that they must pledge loyalty to the Amir and support him against Qatar. They were also told that their names will be printed on a wall that will be constructed to surround one of the new palaces that will be built for the Amir. Similarly, the son of the interior minister, Fawaz Al-Khalifa, will be organizing another rally in the Northern Region between 20-24 October. He has started contacting clubs and companies to force them to pay substantial sums and to declare their loyalty to the Amir against Qatar and thence have their names printed on the “wall of signatures”, or else expect the wrath of the ruling family. These methods of intimidation have been condemned by the opposition that sees a similarity between what is being adopted by the Al-Khalifa family to force citizens to declare loyalty in such cheap rallies and what Saddam Hussain did when he assume power in Iraq two decades ago. These rallies will not benefit the Amir or his ruling family and will ensure that more hypocritical protocols are put in place of the channels that had been specified by the constitution, namely the elected National Assembly that was dissolved in 1975. It seems that the Al-Khalifa family has no intention to respect or restore the constitution. While the ruling family collects money from the citizens and forces them to attend rallies, their security forces continue repressing the nation. Last week, the security forces attacked several houses and arrested some citizens. In Bilad al-Qadim, they arrested Saeed Ali Hassan Khalaf, 22 and Hussain Ali Al-Arnoot, 19. From Daih, they arrested Seyed Alawi Sharaf Alawi, 19. From Barbar, they arrested Mohammed Saeed Al-Maqabi, 32. The latter was suspended upside-down and was left for a prolonged period until he went into coma. He was then transferred to hospital for one week and then released . Bahrain Freedom Movement 6 September 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

Bahrain: A new GONGO formed; postponement of workers elections

The Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Information, Mohammed Al-Mutawa, announced on 30 August the creation of a new “professional” association, “The Bahrain Society of Journalists”. He said that he had registered the new association under the cultural and art societies and clubs supervised by his ministry. The society, according to Al-Mutawa will aim at upgrading the journalists’ vocational and cultural standards. Mohammed Al-Mutawa, who personally threatened the organisers of seminars on democracy last month, said that the new society has other objectives that include “protecting the rights of journalists, defending their interests and guaranteeing the freedom needed to perform their duties.” The minister had angrily responded to one of the journalists who wrote an article in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 10 May describing the limitations and objections raised about the society. Hafedh Al-Sheikh explained last May that the draft constitution of the society was dictated by the minister’s office and that all journalists were ordered to shape themselves up within a regime that aimed at providing the minister with the means to divide and control the journalists and ensures their ineffectiveness. He pointed out that the new society will also have foreign journalists as members and these journalists are only permitted to function in Bahrain within an official permit that could be withdrawn whenever the minister wished. Hence, their presence means nothing other than an extension of the minister inside the society. He also pointed out that all Bahraini journalists who are officially employed by the ministry are bound by the official policies of the ministry and hence they can not function as independent members. He further pointed out that the control of the ministry meant that the new association will be a place for conflicts based on clash of personalities, tribalism and partisan politics rather than functioning as an independent professional association. The creation of the new association is part of the government programme to create GONGOs (government-organised non-governmental organisations). These GONGOs are used in the PR campaign conducted by the government in its attempt to fool the outside that things are moving in the positive direction, which clearly they are not. On the hand, and confirming what the BFM had stated in earlier press releases, the government’s newspapers announced that the General Committee of Bahrain Workers (GCBW) is adjourning arrangements for the next joint labour committee elections which will now be held in January 2001, and not in November this year, as was initially planned by the GCBW. The Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) are among the core bodies representing companies within the GCBW which was established in 1981 as part of the government’s attempt to avoid recognising trade unions. The GCBW has now some 20,000 members. The JLC elections will be held in four days at different times covering the 18 companies presently affiliated with the GCBW. The government’s papers did not reveal that the prime minister ordered the adjournment and did not divulge that he refused all the demands of the GCBW for transforming themselves into a trade union, and their refusal to accept candidates list prepared by the interior ministry. Nineteen companies have a JLC composed of 10 members, five workers and five representatives from company management. This year however, 18 JLCs are officially on the list following the Bapco-Banoco merger, which subsequently will merge its respective JLCs. Other companies which have JLCs are Alba, Asry, Bahrain Danish Dairy, Bahrain Flour, Bahrain Airport Services, Banagas, Bahrain Aviation Fuelling, Balexco, Bahrain Duty Free, Batelco, Delmon Poultry, GARMCO, Gulf Hotel, Gulf Industrial Investment, GPIC, Gulf Air, Midal Cables. Bahrain Freedom Movement 3 September 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089

September 2000

Public grief following the Gulf Air disaster

A mourning nation awaits better times Bahrain was shocked by the tragic event of the Gulf Air crash that killed all the 143 passengers on board the aircraft on 23 August. The doomed aircraft had been approaching the airport when the tragedy occurred. The heroic attempts by local fishermen and residents of Samahij and Dair to recover the bodies of the victims surprised everyone. Within moments of the disaster, scores of them were on the scene recovering bodies and attempting to save the life of at least one child. Once again, Bahrain jumped to the forefront of the international news bulletins, but this time, it was unfortunately due to tragic news. The country has been on and off the international news media over the past few years, mainly for its volatile internal situation. When the latest tragedy struck, it coincided with the 25th anniversary of the dissolution of the country’s partially-elected parliament and the suspension of its Constitution. To many of its citizens, the anniversary was a moment of despair, having witnessed the hollow promises given by the rulers of the country. Many had hoped that the new Amir would take the opportunity to announce the resumption of the parliamentary life in the country and ending the emergency measures adopted by the Al Khalifa ruling family. None of this kind was forthcoming. Instead, more repressive measures have been taking place in recent months. Arrests of juveniles have continued unabated despite the numerous calls by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and other human rights bodies. Boys as have been in jail for several months without charge or trial. Bahraini women are behind bars, while torture is rampant in police cells. More repressive measures have been adopted recently. A seminar to discuss the constitutional rights of citizens scheduled for 8th August was cancelled on the orders of the prime minister. A list of demands presented to him by the General Committee of Bahraini Workers was rejected outright and an order was issued by him to delay workers’ committees’ election from November to February. The delay is aimed at avoiding the critical month ahead of the ruling on Hawar at the Hague and the holding of the GCC summit. The premier knows the determination of the labour movement to reject all candidates forced on them by the interior ministry and hence to delay the confrontation until after the critical month. These actions have confirmed the suspicions of many Bahrainis who saw no real change in policies in the country despite the ascendance to power by the Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, following the demise of his father last year. It is rumoured that the priorities of the two men, i.e. the Amir and the prime minister, are not the same. The Amir’s occasional hints of reform were often rebuked by the prime minister. But questions are also raised as to the seriousness of the Amir in his declarations: Is he a reformer or is he playing for time? Is the prime minister as strong as he appears to be? Is the ruling family behind the Amir or the prime minister? Is it the family’s tradition not to show discord among its members, or is it forced into total submission to the prime minister? Some observers suggest that the Amir’s remarks in favour of reforms are only a means of challenging the authority of his uncle, and he is not that enthusiastic about change. He is more of a showman who likes to travel leaving the day-to-day affairs to his uncle, the prime minister. He had earlier managed to appoint his son, the Crown Prince, in the cabinet who is now attending its sessions. When the prime minister leaves the country, the Crown Prince becomes an acting prime minister. It is a complicated picture of events, but it does suggest a lack of enthusiasm for real change in the way the country is run. The new ruler has embarked on a public relations campaign to enhance the reputation of the ruling family, and has managed to secure some support from foreign powers. This is crucial to him especially if the stand-off with his uncle continued. The jet crash has helped the government present a different preoccupation to the people who were clearly shocked and saddened by the event. The political situation is by no means less depressing to many. The stagnation that has befallen the country both politically and economically, has become endemic, and the longer it remains the more likely it will reawaken the passions of the people. The expression of sorrow at the tragedy was a genuine one. But the desire to see a serious political change in the country is also strong. The rigorous use of the emergency laws is a grim reminder of the problems facing the country. Despite the promises to reform, these laws have remained firmly in force for more than 25 years. They have claimed thousands of victims over the years, and is being used extensively to combat the rising popular movement. The regime has been eager to gain some sympathy from the people in the border dispute with Qatar, and has adopted a different approach to the relations with the citizens. It has, however, failed to make good its promises to reform. The formation of a human rights committee in the Shura Council did nothing to satisfy the victims of arbitrary arrests and torture. Since its inception a year ago, it has done nothing to alleviate the suffering of the innocent and has taken part in pro-government propaganda programmes. This has led other citizens to take seriously the issue of human rights and have submitted an official request to form a human rights group as a non-governmental organisation. It is not yet clear how the government will respond to their request. It is difficult to foresee a serious change in the political environment in the country, but it is also difficult to see an end to the crisis without these reforms. The pro-democracy campaigners have made it clear they will not back down in their struggle. They maintain that their demands are moderate. They have not called for the overthrow of the regime, neither have they opted to use violence in their struggle. The reaction of the freedom-loving people of the world has been reassuring with several petitions being singed by senior politicians, academics and professionals in several countries supporting the people of Bahrain. The Bahraini opposition, which has achieved a good reputation on the international arena, is determined to pursue its agenda for political reforms. It is the government that can decide to resolve the crisis by acceding to these demands and upholding the rule of law. Without that, the present crisis will continue.

Baharin Freedom Movement
September 2000


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