By Abbas Salman
MANAMA, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Gulf Arab states agreed on Tuesday to pursue a joint strategy against extremism and so-called terrorism under an international anti-terror campaign following the September 11 plane attacks on U.S. cities.
The interior ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman — also pledged to fight money laundering under a global crackdown on the funding of terrorism.
“The ministers agreed a joint strategy for the Council countries to fight extremism associated with terrorism,” said the ministers in a communique issued after a two-day meeting in Bahrain.
“This strategy emphasises the importance of cooperation, exchange of information and coordination in the fight against terrorism and extremism,” the statement said.
It said the ministers have also ratified a proposal from Bahrain, the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, on ways of combating terrorism. There were no details provided on the proposal.
“The ministers reiterated the principle position of the GCC states towards condemning all kinds of criminal and terrorism acts whatever their reasons which contradict all religions and human values,” the statement said.
The GCC political, economic and military alliance has condemned the suicide plane attacks on U.S. landmarks, which killed at least 4,800 people. They also pledged to contribute to international efforts to combat terrorism.
Pro-Western GCC states, including the group’s heavyweight Saudi Arabia, have themselves been hit by political violence.
The statement said the ministers also voiced their condemnation of media attacks against Saudi Arabia “despite its condemnation of terrorism and the terrorist attacks on the United States.”
Oil power Saudi Arabia, one of Washington’s key Arab allies, has come under fire from influential U.S. senators who accuse the kingdom of being soft on terrorism at home and abroad. Riyadh has rejected the accusations.
“We think that if there were joint global efforts, terrorism would certainly not find a place to thrive,” Saudi Interior Minister Prince told reporters.
“GCC states refuse to be a base for terrorism,” he added.
Prince Nayef said there should be a distinction between legitimate resistance against occupation, such as the Palestinian, uprising against Israel and terrorism.
“Their (Palestinian) struggle has no link whatsoever with terrorism… Israel is the aggressor,” he added.
29 October 2001
By SALLY BUZBEE: Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Bush administration officials said Monday that even at the risk of inflaming Muslim anger, the United States must press on with its bombing campaign in Afghanistan against the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center.
Officials in Saudi Arabia, a key if reluctant member of the U.S.-organized anti-terror coalition, rejected accusations by Americans including Sen. John McCain that they doing too little to help the United States in its campaign.
The U.S.-Saudi relationship “is at its best, and the United States has shown great understanding for the Saudi position,” the Saudis’ interior minister, Prince Nayef, told reporters Monday at a meeting of Gulf officials in neighboring Bahrain.
The issue has come up repeatedly since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington by terrorists whom the United States connects to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. Saudi Arabia has condemned the attacks and said it would cooperate in fighting terror worldwide. It has not frozen assets of people the United States says have terror links and has denied any hijackers had Saudi connections; the FBI says more than half were Saudis.
The country also has refused to allow the United States to use bases to launch attacks on Afghanistan, where bin Laden and his al-Qaida network are based. Saudi newspapers, which usually reflect government feeling, increasingly have condemned the bombing attacks.
Asked Monday if that criticism would alter the Pentagon’s war plans, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said: “Clearly, anyone listens to friends and important nations. They have a set of problems that are distinctive to their circumstance and their neighborhood, and we do of course listen to them. The problem is that the United States faces very serious threats from terrorists.”
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration realizes “there’s going to be a certain amount of discussion about the campaign” but has been getting excellent cooperation from many allies.
President Bush telephoned Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah last week to thank him for the kingdom’s efforts in fighting terrorism, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said after the call. Bush told Abdullah that news articles citing differences between the United States and Saudi Arabia were “simply incorrect,” Fleischer said.
But in private, U.S. officials have criticized the Saudi royal family. And Sunday on CNN’s “Late Edition,” McCain, R-Ariz., said Saudi authorities were not doing “what the president asked all countries to do, and that is to take sides.”
Nayef said Monday, as he has before, that his country has made no arrests linked to the attacks in the United States because the Americans have produced no proof of involvement by Saudis.
“Under international law, including the law in the United States, everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” Nayef said. “And until now we haven’t received any evidence from the U.S. government that any one of those named is guilty.”
Asked whether an Israel-linked lobby were behind the criticism of Saudi Arabia, Nayef said: “It’s a possibility.”
Saudi officials must balance their long-standing alliance with Washington against their own fear of Islamic militancy from citizens angry at the United States.
At a meeting with prominent citizens last week in the capital of Riyadh, Abdullah, who effectively runs the country for the incapacitated King Fahd, said Saudi Arabia “will not undertake any actions that do not serve Islam and Muslims.”
“The fierce criticism that the kingdom is enduring from the Western press is the result of an embedded hatred against the Islamic method,” Abdullah said.
Ordinary Saudis, like many other Arabs, distrust the United States because of a perceived bias toward Israel in the Israeli-Arab conflict
Al Wasat, a New Daily to be Published in Bahrain
Bahrain. 28/10/2001. Bahraini opposition leader, Mansour al-Jamry said that he has started preparations to launch a third daily Arabic newspaper in Bahrain. He said that he has already secured finance for the paper, which will be called Al Wasat. The paper is expected to be in circulation by mid-summernext year. Al-Jamry said that his newspaper would represent the mainstream moderate politicians who call for respect of the constitution, human rights, rule of law and transparency in the political system. These aims of Bahraini moderate politicians are at one with
promises made by the ruler of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamed Bin Issa.
US State Department on Bahrain… International Religious Freedom Report Bahrain International Religious Freedom Report Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor October 2001 The Constitution states that Islam is the official religion and also provides for freedom of religion; however, there were some limits on this right. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report. In the past, the Government did not tolerate political dissent, including from religious groups or leaders; however, by February 14, 2001, the Amir had pardoned and released all remaining political prisoners and religious leaders. The Government continues to subject both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims to governmental control and monitoring, and there is some government discrimination against Shi’a Muslims. Members of other religions who practice their faith privately do so without interference from the Government. Relations among religions in society are generally amicable; however, Shi’a Muslims, who constitute the majority of the population, sometimes resent minority Sunni Muslim rule. The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. Section I. Religious Demography The country has a total area of 231 square miles, and its population is approximately 700,000. The citizen population is 98 percent Muslim; Jews and Christians constitute the remaining 2 percent. Muslim citizens belong to the Shi’a and Sunni branches of Islam, with Shi’a constituting as much as two-thirds of the indigenous population. Foreigners, mostly from South Asia and other Arab countries, constitute approximately 38 percent of the total population. Roughly half of resident foreigners are non-Muslim, including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Baha’is, Buddhists, and Sikhs. There is no information available regarding the numbers of atheists in the country. The American Mission Hospital, which is affiliated with the National Evangelical Church, has operated in the country for over a century. The church adjacent to the hospital holds weekly services and also serves as a meeting place for other Protestant denominations. Section II: Status of Religious Freedom Legal/Policy Framework The Constitution states that Islam is the official religion and also provides for freedom of religion; however, there were some limits on this right. In the past, the Government did not tolerate political dissent, including from religious groups or leaders; however, by February 14, 2001, the Amir had pardoned and released all political prisoners and detainees, including Shi’a clerics. The Government continues to subject both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims to governmental control and monitoring, and there is some government discrimination against Shi’a Muslims. Members of other religions who practice their faith privately do so without interference from the Government, and are permitted to maintain their own places of worship and display the symbols of their religion. Every religious group must obtain a permit from the Ministry of Justice and Islamic affairs in order to operate. Holding a religious meeting without a permit is illegal. There were no reports of religious groups being denied a permit. The High Council for Islamic Affairs is charged with the review and approval of all clerical appointments within both the Sunni and Shi’a communities, and maintains program oversight for all citizens studying religion abroad. The civil and criminal legal systems consist of a complex mix of courts, based on diverse legal sources, including Sunni and Shi’a Shari’a (Islamic law), tribal law, and other civil codes and regulations. The Government has declared the Shi’a religious celebration of Ashura to be a 2-day national holiday and allows Shi’a to stage public demonstrations during the holiday. As a gesture of continued conciliation toward the Shi’a community, the Amir donated rice and lamb to approximately 500 Shi’a community centers for the 2001 Ashura. Notable dignitaries from virtually every religion and denomination visit the country and frequently meet with the Government and civic leaders. In 1999 Amir Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa publicly called for religious tolerance, and in November of the same year, he met with Pope John Paul II and established diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Restrictions on Religious Freedom The Government funds, monitors, and closely controls all official religious institutions. These include Shi’a and Sunni mosques, Shi’a Ma’tams (community centers), Shi’a and Sunni Waqfs (charitable foundations), and the religious courts, which represent both the Ja’afari (Shi’a) and Maliki (Sunni) schools of Islamic jurisprudence. While the Government rarely interferes with what it considers legitimate religious observations, it has, in the past, actively suppressed any activity deemed overtly political in nature. The Government permits public religious events, most notably the large annual commemorative marches by Shi’a, but such events are monitored closely by the police. In the past, the Government occasionally closed mosques and Ma’tams for allowing political demonstrations to take place on or near their premises or to prevent religious leaders from delivering political speeches during Friday prayer and sermons; however, there were no reported closures of Ma’tams or mosques during the period covered by this report. In past years, the Government detained religious leaders for delivering political sermons or for allowing such sermons to be delivered in their mosques. The Government also has appropriated or withheld funding in order to reward or punish particular individuals or places of worship. However, there were no reports of such detentions or funding restrictions during the period covered by this report. There are no restrictions on the number of citizens permitted to make pilgrimages to Shi’a shrines and holy sites in Iran, Iraq, and Syria, although stateless residents who do not possess Bahraini passports often have difficulties arranging travel to religious sites abroad. However, the Government began to address the problem during the period covered by this report by granting citizenship to over 4,000 previously stateless residents. The Government monitors travel to Iran and scrutinizes carefully those who choose to pursue religious study there. Although there are notable exceptions, the Sunni Muslim minority enjoys a favored status. Sunnis predominate because the Sunni ruling family is supported by the armed forces, the security service, and powerful Sunni and Shi’a merchant families. Sunnis receive preference for employment in sensitive government positions and in the managerial ranks of the civil service. Shi’a citizens are not allowed to hold significant posts in the defense and internal security forces. However, since April 1999, Shi’a have been allowed to be employed in the enlisted ranks of the Bahrain Defense Force and with the Ministry of the Interior, two bodies in which Shi’a had been denied employment during previous years. The political dynamic of Sunni predominance in the past has led to incidents of unrest between the Shi’a community and the Government. There were no reports of significant political or religious unrest during the period covered by this report. The Government discourages proselytizing by non-Muslims and prohibits anti-Islamic writings. However, Bibles and other Christian publications are displayed and sold openly in local bookstores that also sell Islamic and other religious literature. Religious tracts of all branches of Islam, cassettes of sermons delivered by Muslim preachers from other countries, and publications of other religions are readily available. However, a government-controlled proxy server prohibits user access to internet sites considered to be antigovernment or anti-Islamic. The software used is unreliable and often inhibits access to uncontroversial sites as well. Shari’a governs the legal rights of women. Specific rights vary according to Shi’a or
Sunni interpretations of Islamic law, as determined by the individual’s faith, or by the courts in which various contracts, including marriage, have been made. While both Shi’a and Sunni women have the right to initiate a divorce, religious courts may refuse the request. Although local religious courts may grant a divorce to Shi’a women in routine cases, occasionally Shi’a women seeking divorce under unusual circumstances must travel abroad to seek a higher ranking opinion than that available in the country. Women of either branch may own and inherit property and may represent themselves in all public and legal matters. In the absence of a direct male heir, a Shi’a woman may inherit all property. In contrast, a Sunni woman–in the absence of a direct male heir–inherits only a portion as governed by Shari’a; the balance is divided among brothers, uncles, and male cousins of the deceased. In divorce cases, the courts routinely grant Shi’a and Sunni women custody of daughters under the age of 9 and sons under age 7, although custody usually reverts to the father once the children reach those ages. In all circumstances except mental incapacitation, the father, regardless of custody decisions, retains the right to make certain legal decisions for his children, such as guardianship of any property belonging to the child, until the child reaches legal age. A noncitizen woman automatically loses custody of her children if she divorces their citizen father. Some women complain that admission polices at the National University are aimed at increasing the number of male students at the expense of qualified female applicants, especially Shi’a women. Nevertheless, women make up the majority of students at the country’s universities. Abuses of Religious Freedom Until February 14, 2001, the Government had held in detention hundreds of Shi’a, including religious leaders, for offenses involving “national security.” In June 1999, the Government gradually began releasing incarcerated individuals as part of an Amiri decree calling for the release or pardon of more than 350 Shi’a political prisoners, detainees, and exiles. In December 1999 and during 2000, the Amir pardoned at least another 350 prisoners. On February 6, 2001, the Amir pardoned an additional 298 political prisoners and detainees, and pardoned 108 exiles who had requested to return to the country. By February 14, 2001, the Amir had pardoned and released all political prisoners and detainees, including Hassan Sultan and Haji Hassan Jasrallah, two Shi’a clerics associated with prominent cleric Abdul Amir Al-Jamri, as well as Shi’a religious leader Shaikh Abdul Wahab Hussein, who had been in detention for more than 5 years. On March 8, 2001, Bahraini cleric Shaikh Issa Qassim, the former head of the Shi’a Religious Party, returned to the country after an 8-year exile. The Government permitted large crowds of celebrating Shi’a to greet Qassim upon his return. In July 1999, the Amir pardoned Al-Jamri, who had been in prison since 1996. After his release, the Government has monitored Al-Jamri’s movements. It also denied him the right to issue marital status certificates, a lucrative source of income for many clerics. However, since January 2001, the Government has ceased conducting surveillance of Al-Jamri’s residence and permitted him to lead Friday noon prayers. There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners during the period covered by this report whose imprisonment could be attributed solely to the practice of their religion. Forced Religious Conversion There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government’s refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States. Section III. Societal Attitudes Although there are notable exceptions, the Sunni Muslim minority enjoys a favored status. In the private sector, Shi’a tend to be employed in lower paid, less skilled jobs. Educational, social, and municipal services in most Shi’a neighborhoods, particularly in rural villages, are inferior to those found in Sunni urban communities. In an effort to remedy social discrimination, the Government has built numerous subsidized housing complexes, which are open to all citizens on the basis of financial need. In order to ease both the housing shortage and strains on the national budget, in 1997 the Government revised its policy to permit lending institutions to finance mortgages on apartment units. Converts from Islam to other religions are not well tolerated by society, but some small groups worship in their homes. After demonstrations in support of Palestinians on October 13, 2000, several youths and men reportedly boarded a bus carrying Catholic parishioners, took Bibles from the parishioners, and threw some of the Bibles out of the bus window. Section IV. U.S. Government Policy An official written dialog takes place between U.S. Embassy officials and government contacts on matters of religion. One such example is the memorandum received by the Embassy each year from the Government in response to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Bahrain.
27 October 2001: Gulf Air plans to lay off 450 worker
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Gulf Air will retrench up to 450 staff because of the “colossal setback” suffered by airlines after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the airline said in a statement Saturday. The Bahrain-based airline, which has nearly 5,000 staff, said the cuts would be implemented before the end of the year. The airline said it would also reduce its fleet and routes, as it had announced earlier. Gulf Air has 32 planes and flies to about 50 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and north Africa. Gulf Air recorded losses of dlrs 98 million last year. Its owners — Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates — injected 60 million dinars (dlrs 159 million) in May to help the airline pay its debts from 2000 and meet its operating costs for 2001.
An already poor outlook for world airlines deteriorated sharply after Sept. 11 when hijackers seized four U.S. planes and crashed them into buildings in New York and Washington and a field in Pennsylvania.
26 October 2001: Anti-US sentiments run high at Friday prayers
By WARD PINCUS Associated Press Writer DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Anti-U.S. sentiments ran high as Gulf Arabs performed their weekly prayers Friday, with some Saudi worshippers expressing support for Osama bin Laden. Osama, a 19-year-old student, said he was proud to bear the first name of bin Laden, the Saudi dissident who is the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. For more than two weeks, the United States and Britain have been firing missiles and dropping bombs on bin Laden’s network in Afghanistan and the military forces of the Taliban authorities who shelter him. “I’ve been praying for him and his safety and, God willing, the infidels will never be able to get him or hurt him,” said Osama outside a mosque in the eastern city of Khobar. He declined to give his surname. “Bin Laden is our hero,” said Saad Jassin Khalil, 50, a Saudi businessman. Speaking as he left a Khobar mosque, he said the strikes on Afghanistan made him angry with the United States. “The infidels can try as much as they want, but they will never succeed. Their end is near,” Khalil said. In Riyadh, the government-controlled newspaper Al-Jazirah said the West had been infected by “a germ of sick hatred” against Saudi Arabia because of its independent foreign policy and support of Muslim nations. The paper appeared to be taking its cue from Crown Prince Abdullah, who was quoted in Saudi newspapers Thursday as saying the kingdom was the subject of a “vicious world attack” because of its adherence to Islam. American newspapers have published several stories on the lack of Saudi cooperation in the U.S.-led crackdown on terrorism. The reports have said that Saudi Arabia has not arrested any terrorism suspects since Sept. 11 despite the fact that about half of the hijackers involved in the attacks on New York and Washington were allegedly Saudi citizens. The Saudis have also not announced the freezing of any bank accounts that may have been used by terrorists. In its editorial Al-Jazirah said: “The inability of those filled with bitterness to infiltrate the fences surrounding Saudi Arabia’s independent political decision-making or the social peace and security it enjoys gives the resentment in their hearts additional fuel.” Worshippers leaving Friday prayers at the Al-Kabir Mosque in Khobar snapped up copies of an Urdu-language magazine from Pakistan that called for holy war. Its cover showed the ruins of the World Trade Center and a picture of a bloody Israeli hand supported by an American hand. The capiton to the cover illustration said: “Don’t withdraw support for the Afghan people. Afghanistan will become another American graveyard, God willing.” Elsewhere in the Gulf, prayer leaders expressed concern for the Afghan civilians that have been killed and wounded in the airstrikes. “They have become easy targets of the coalition forces of death and destruction, and the bombardment continues day and night in an unparalleled battle of the strongest power on earth against the weakest people,” said Sheik Nizam Yaquby, the preacher at the Adliya Mosque in Manama, Bahrain. “Islamic countries must wake up from their sleep and intervene to halt this masked crime and to clarify to their masters that this bombardment is futile,” Yaquby said in an indirect reference to the United States. In Iran, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani used the Friday prayers sermon in Tehran to criticize Muslim governments for their “indifference” to the bombardment of Afghanistan, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. In Yemen, clerics called for an end to strikes on Afghanistan and said they were an attack on Islam.
In Syria, state Mufti Ahmad Kiftaro turned his sermon to the Palestinian cause, condemning the “world’s silence” about the killing of Palestinians by Israeli troops since the Afghanistan strikes began on Oct. 7.
WASHINGTON, Oct 25 (Reuters) – U.S. President George W. Bush rewarded Bahrain for its support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism on Thursday by expressing his intention to designate the Gulf state as a major non-NATO ally.
The designation, under the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, allows Bahrain to participate more fully in U.S. military training and gives Bahrain greater flexibility in procurement of U.S. defense articles.
Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and is proving to be a close ally of the United States as it retaliates against Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan for the Sept. 11 attacks.
Other major non-NATO allies include Australia, Argentina, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, South Korea and New Zealand.
“The military relationship between the United States and Bahrain goes back more than 50 years and Bahrain has shown itself to be a valuable and steadfast ally of the U.S.,” said Sean McCormack, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
During a 15-minute meeting, Bush informed Bahrain Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa of the designation.
Salman emerged from the Oval Office meeting in lockstep agreement with the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan, saying the “attacks will continue until the mission is complete.”
Salman said the war on Afghanistan was not aimed at the Muslim religion as bin Laden has claimed.
“We need to understand that Islam is not a religion of terrorism and underscore that this is not a war against Islam,” Salman said.
He said Bahrain was concerned about civilian casualties in Afghanistan but that “the United States was attacked” and had a right to demand justice.
As for Muslim concerns about bombing during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins next month, Salman said it might be better to get a broad-based government in Afghanistan to replace the Taliban by the time Ramadan starts.
“There are issues about Ramadan. We of course would like to see the conflict resolved as quickly as possible, and that is from a humanitarian concern,” he said.
As for the possibility of Iraqi involvement in the anthrax scare sweeping parts of the United States, Salman said if it was proved that Iraq was involved, “I don’t think the response would be any different to what we are seeing today.”
“We need facts, not rumors,” he said.
The Wall Street Journal October 25, 2001 Bahrain Moves to Appease Its Radicals By Holding Elections, Freeing Prisoners By YAROSLAV TROFIMOV Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL BANI JAMRA, Bahrain — The parched alleys of this village are still pockmarked from machine-gun fire, a reminder of the 1990s, when the national government squashed an Islamist-led rebellion. On the walls, there is leftover graffiti calling for the blood of “infidel” rulers. But much more prominent are the photos of smiling men that appear on nearly every street corner. These are posters welcoming the neighborhood’s dissidents, who are back home after more than a decade of forced exile. More than 1,000 political prisoners released earlier this year are also celebrating their freedom. In an experiment closely watched by Saudi Arabia, a 15-minute drive away, and the rest of the Arab world, the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain is using a novel approach to the radical Islamist movement that has produced terrorist groups like Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network. Its recipe: democracy and respect for human rights. “We’re an example that tells the rest of the Gulf and the Arab world, ‘Don’t be afraid of your people,’ ” says Majeed Alalawi, a self-described “liberal Islamist” who returned last November from exile in London. Dressed like many Bahrainis, in sandals and a flowing white robe, the 46-year-old now spends his days in a government think tank near the capital, Manama, drafting new policies to stamp out corruption, cut unemployment and improve the judicial system. In the past two weeks, U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan have sparked often-violent protests across the Islamic world. But the streets have remained largely quiet in Bahrain, which is home to the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and serves as the main logistics center for the two aircraft-carrier groups that launch most of the bombing sorties from the northern Arabian Sea. Last week, a demonstration in Manama after Friday prayers attracted a few hundred people. A protester held up a poster of Osama bin Laden, and a U.S. flag was torn up, but the group dispersed quietly. The Bahrain government has said it supports the U.S. airstrikes and might even send ground troops to Afghanistan if asked by the Bush administration, though it has called upon the U.S. military to spare Afghan civilians. As recently as five years ago, revolution seemed at the doorstep of this Singapore-sized island nation. Street clashes periodically paralyzed the country, and five-star hotels, banks and international offices were firebombed. Many Western firms relocated their Gulf headquarters to peaceful Dubai. More than 40 people were killed during the decade-long uprising, which was led by members of Bahrain’s Shiite Muslim majority. To stamp out unrest, then-Emir Sheikh Issa al Khalifa, a member of the ruling Sunni minority, unleashed a security force commanded by a former British policeman and largely made up of foreign mercenaries. Arab and Western governments alike blamed the violence on nearby Iran, a Shiite power that historically sought to claim Bahrain. Then, in 1999, the old emir died. A year later, his son, Emir Sheikh Hamad al Khalifa, took everyone by surprise. He emptied jails of political dissidents. He abolished Draconian security laws that allowed police to hold prisoners without charge, often incommunicado, for up to three years. And he promised to hold free municipal elections in 2002 and elections to a new Parliament in 2003, giving every Bahraini — male or female — the right to vote. To be sure, the ideology of the Bahraini Islamists isn’t nearly as radical or as violent as that espoused by Mr. bin Laden or by Islamic militants in such countries as Egypt and Algeria. Bahrain has just 640,000 people who are among the best-educated and wealthiest in the Arab world. And it is not yet clear how much power the new legislature will have. Still, Bahrain so far seems to be a rare success story in a region that has struggled to cope with an upsurge of radical Islamist feeling and has largely resisted the democratic changes that have transformed much of the rest of the world. A ‘People’s Kingdom’ As the new emir spoke under fluttering flags at this month’s open-air meeting of the Consultative Council, the body preparing the ground for elections, he pledged to transform Bahrain into a “people’s kingdom.” Drawing applause, the 51-year-old Sheik Hamad said Bahrainis “deserve dignified free life and the advanced democratic constitutional practice.” One of those set free this year was Sheikh Abdul-Ameer Al Jamri, the 65-year-old religious leader of the uprising, who was imprisoned between 1996 and 1999 and kept under house arrest until this past February. During the previous emir’s rule, Sheikh Jamri says, “the value of the human life was zero.” Now, sitting barefoot in his spacious home next to Bani Jamra’s main mosque, the cleric says he meets the new emir once every six weeks to help shape national policy. “We suddenly got what we never had before in this country,” says Sheikh Jamri’s son, Mansoor Al Jamri, 38, who returned in July from London, where he campaigned for the Bahraini resistance. “The natives sleep with tranquility, knowing that the state security won’t show up with a dawn raid to pick up their sons.” What’s happening in this tiny nation has deep significance beyond its borders. Next door, in Saudi Arabia, many members of the royal family are worried about democratic contagion from a country whose bars, discos and cinemas are flooded by throngs of Saudi citizens every weekend. A quarter century ago, when Bahrain tried its first parliamentary experiment, Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd successfully pressured to disband it. But other Saudis put a priority on Bahrain’s stability, even if that means tolerating its relative openness. These Saudis — who include the de-facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, according to some Bahraini officials — fear that unrest here could spread to Saudi Arabia’s own Shiite community, which is concentrated in the strategic oil-producing region just across a causeway from Bahrain. “Nothing in what we are doing bothers Saudi Arabia,” says Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, the Bahraini foreign minister. However, Sheikh Mohammed is careful to avoid suggesting that Bahrain is trying to export its politics. “If some countries see us as an example, this is great,” he says. “But we are not saying, ‘We’re an example, follow us.’ ” Makeup and Miniskirts Indeed, Manama seems worlds away from Saudi Arabia and Iran — especially on Wednesday nights, the start of the Muslim weekend. The streets are jammed with partygoers in air-conditioned cars, many of them bearing Saudi license plates. The city’s bars are filled with alcohol of all kinds — often served by eastern European “hostesses” in bright makeup and miniskirts. At a poolside Lebanese restaurant by the city’s main square, men in traditional Arab clothes pay more than $100 for a chance to attach a red carnation to a belly-dancer’s waist. Sheikh Jamri says he’s opposed to all that — but doesn’t insist on banning alcohol or forcing women to wear Islamic dress. “We seek to Islamize, but through persuasion,” he says. Even though Islam is Bahrain’s official religion, some local Christians openly wear crucifix necklaces — a taboo in Saudi Arabia, where Bibles are confiscated at customs checkpoints. Among the 40 members of Bahrain’s Consultative Council, there is one Bahraini Christian and even one representative of the island’s tiny Jewish community. Bahrain’s two main newspapers mostly toe the government’s line but have started offering space to opposition campaigners. And Bahrain allows its citizens unfettered access to the Web — unlike Saudi Arabia or even the relatively liberal United Arab Emirates, whose Internet-service providers block out politically controversial sites, as well as those based in Israel or containing sexually explicit images. Some analysts say there is a lesson to be learned here for Western policymakers. Washington’s role in propping up repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt has fueled anti-Americ
an sentiment there, and these observers suggest that America should pressure the governments to open up. “Bahrain is a fantastic example of how one moderates Islamic groups by making them part of the system,” says Nadim Shehadi, a fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. Lending credence to this claim: Bahrain’s relatively relaxed reaction to the U.S. military base here, even at a time when the U.S. is attacking Afghanistan, another Muslim country. In the past, “the opposition would have called for mass protests against U.S. presence here, there would have been a crackdown, and U.S. soldiers would have been afraid to step outside the bases,” says Mr. Alalawi, the think-tank worker. “Today, if we disagree, we can protest, write editorials, campaign. But in Saudi, what can they do? Only use bombs.” Moderate Views Even the views of the cleric Sheikh Jamri, who was once portrayed by official propaganda as a dangerous extremist who would turn Bahrain into an Iran-like pariah state, have become remarkably moderate by regional standards. In a neighborhood where most women are cloaked with black head-to-toe abayas that don’t have openings for eyes, he says he supports women’s right to vote. U.S. troops, he says, can stay in Bahrain as long as they respect Bahraini sovereignty. And — though the wall next to his house bears graffiti from the Lebanese Hezbollah calling for the destruction of Israel — Sheikh Jamri says it wouldn’t be against Islam to recognize the Jewish state if it withdraws from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. In fact, as Bahrain moves towards democracy, anger about the plight of the Palestinians — often a proxy for discontent with the Arab states’ own internal policies — seems to be fading. After the Sept. 11 attack, Bahrain’s opposition groups, anxious to avoid street violence targeting Americans here, quietly scrapped a planned large demonstration to mark the first anniversary of the Palestinian intifada. “People worried that, if there are actions against Americans, the reform process here will be set back,” explains Abdulrahman al-Nuaimi, a former Marxist guerrilla who returned to Bahrain this February, after 33 years of exile that took him to Oman, Yemen, Iraq and Syria. Mr. al-Nuaimi, 57, was elected this month as head of the center-left Workers’ Democratic National Association, one of the several proto-parties — ranging from secular to religious — springing up ahead of the elections. “I criticized the government on Bahraini TV, and they showed it,” he says. “I said we want more democracy, and they showed it. This is very encouraging.” Bahrain has a long way to go toward true democracy. The new emir, Sheikh Hamad, who graduated from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., still lays down the law of the land. His portraits adorn Bahrain’s ultramodern highways and the lobbies of international hotels. Pending actual elections, the emir appoints members of the Consultative Council. And there are holdovers from the government’s repression drive, such as Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, Sheikh Hamad’s uncle, who was in charge of squelching the rebels. The pardon of Sheikh Jamri, the Shiite religious leader, came only after the cleric read a statement of allegiance to the emir on national TV. More than anything else, opposition leaders complain about a failure to reverse decades of discrimination against the Shiites, who were until recently viewed as security risks by the Sunnis. Many campaigners call for affirmative action to promote Shiite candidates into senior government jobs and for an expulsion of foreign mercenaries from the security forces, which have traditionally been off-limits to most Shiites. Sensitive to such demands, the emir has repeatedly pledged to work for equality of all citizens. And, soon after taking power, he removed Ian Henderson, the British longtime chief of secret police, who was accused by human-rights groups of torture that resulted in the death of some detainees. Yet the top brass of the security services is still largely made up of British and Jordanian officers, and many lower-ranking policemen are recruited from Pakistan. “When we come to Bahrain, we are more shy than the foreigners,” complains Mahmood al-Shehabi, a Bahraini Shiite who is the owner of a recycling business. “At the airport control, we see a Bahraini policeman in a Bahraini uniform with a Bahraini flag who actually comes from Pakistan and doesn’t even speak our language,” Mr. al-Shehabi says. There’s a reason for the lingering anxiety: For decades, Bahrain was one of the few countries that routinely deported its own citizens as punishment for political dissent. Radhi al-Mosawi, a former journalist who now works for a shipping company, was barred entry into Bahrain in 1990. Security police detained him in the airport and kept him under interrogation for a month, urging him to confess to being an anti-government activist. After Mr. al-Mosawi refused, he was told he would be deported. “Why don’t you just put me in a Bahraini jail?” he recalls asking a British security officer. “Because it will cost us money,” he says the officer told him, before shipping him off to Dubai. He was finally allowed back in late 1992. Under the old emir’s rule, says Mr. al-Mosawi as he sips tea in the lobby of the Meridien hotel in Manama, “just talking about this would have gotten me in jail again.” Mr. al-Mosawi’s ordeal unfolded on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War. Just as they did earlier this month, U.S. officials were touring the Gulf to seek regional allies for a major war effort. As part of that campaign, America also promised to work for democracy in the region. But things didn’t develop that way. A decade later, only Kuwait has a parliament, elected by a restricted number of male citizens. Saudi Arabia is still ruled by a powerful monarchy that stifles dissent. Whatever changes emerged in recent months, such as the reform in Bahrain and moves toward more freedom in nearby Qatar, owe more to internal struggles than American influence. Some liberal Bahrainis say America should have done more to push for democracy in the Gulf. “We feel betrayed by America and by its false promises,” says Abdulkarim Mohsan, a foreign-exchange consultant in Bahrain and a member of al-Oroba, a luxurious private club whose premises house new democratic and human-rights associations. “America always boasts about democracy, but apparently it only applies to its own area.” Yet as Bahrain gets accustomed to greater civil liberties, even some of the most virulent critics of the U.S. now openly speak about their desire to emulate the underpinnings of its society. Says Mr. al-Nuaimi, the former Marxist guerrilla, who was jailed by Syria in 1990 because of his opposition to U.S. involvement in the Gulf War: “Lots of people criticize America, but no one really can criticize American democracy, because it is the best.” Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at email@example.com
By SUSAN SEVAREID, Associated Press Writer
24 October 2001
MUHARRAQ, Bahrain (AP) — Visiting U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf, the commander of U.S. forces in the Afghanistan campaign said Wednesday that nations participating in the coalition remained “very committed.”
Gen. Tommy Franks was conducting his weeklong tour at a time when Muslim nations have raised concerns over possible civilian casualties in the U.S.-led airstrikes on Afghanistan.
In his first comments to reporters since the U.S.-led campaign began Oct. 7, the Army general underlined that the United States was trying to avoid hitting civilians in its campaign in Afghanistan, which harbors Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on America.
“What we have tried to do is be absolutely honest with the people in this region and the people in our own country in describing where we have had mistakes, where we have had civilian casualties,” Franks said in Bahrain. “I can tell you that there always is concern, as there should be, for civilian casualties.”
He accused the Taliban of reporting “untruths about the casualty situation.” He said the issue of civilian casualties has “not been raised or dwelled on” during his talks in the region.
The Taliban say numerous civilians have been killed. The Pentagon has acknowledged that some bombs missed their targets but says Taliban casualty figures are inflated.
There is unease in the Middle East with the U.S. bombing campaign against Afghanistan, a fellow Muslim nation. Criticism on the streets and in the mosques has increased in recent weeks, and civilian casualties could put pressure on governments to distance themselves from U.S. actions.
Franks declined to comment on whether the United States would continue the campaign during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-November. U.S. warplanes flying over Afghanistan from aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea have refrained from dropping bombs on Fridays, the weekly sabbath for Muslims.
The four-star general, who is based in Tampa, Fla., spoke after holding talks with the Bahraini emir, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. His weeklong tour has also taken him to the United Arab Emirates and to troops on U.S. Navy ships.
“My sense is that the nations who have joined in this effort remain very, very committed,” Franks said. “This campaign against terrorism is a global effort.”
Upcoming stops on Franks’ tour have not been revealed for security reasons. He was accompanied by Adm. Craig Quigley, the military’s top uniformed spokesman.
Bahrain: Bio-terror scares; Amir pledges more openness in the political process The evacuation of American Express building in Bahrain on 21 October following anthrax alert is one of a series of terrorist alerts hitting the US company. It had been evacuated in the week before following a hoax phone call. The Bahraini Health Ministry confirmed that “some loose powder spilled on the ground of the coffee room,” and resulted in the anthrax scare. Similar bio-terror scares were reported on 22 October and two buildings, one belonging to the National Bank of Bahrain and the other to Bahrain Telecommunication Company had to be evacuated for some time. On Friday, 20 October, some 300 people picketed in Adleya, Manama, after Friday Prayers. Demonstrators called for an end to attacks on Afghanistan and denounced the US policies in the Middle East. One of the organisers, Mr. Mohammed Abdulla Fakhro, stated that a person from outside the demonstrators raised the picture of Osama bin Laden while others tore-up the US flag. Mr. Fakhro confirmed that these two acts were not part of the actions planned by the original demonstrators. He was also quoted by Reuters saying “It was a public gathering aimed at condemning U.S. policies against our Islamic and Arab causes, especially the Palestinian and the Afghan problems,” “We are against terrorism, but we are also against treating terror with terrorism,”. The political environment is becoming more active following the remarks made by the Amir in mid-October that he is prepared to allow the functioning of political parties if the parliament to be elected before 2004 were to allow it. However, there was a concern regarding the lack of clarity in some of the statements attributed to the Amir. While one statement made it clear that any changes to the 1973 Constitution would only be processed through the mechanism prescribed by Article 104 (which requires the elected parliamentarians to debate the changes), another statement indicated that the first changes to be introduced into the Constitution will be proceed through an Amiri decree. This process will be beyond Article 104 and hence my not gain the needed constitutional legitimacy. On the other hand the unemployment problem continues to cause concern with many citizens pressing for speedier remedies. Last week, a group of citizens gathered in front of the Labour Ministry for the second time in 2 weeks and some skirmishes with the police were reported. However, opposition figures mediated in both events and it was decided to form a committee to be elected by the unemployed and this representative body will join the General Committee for Bahraini Workers in negotiations with all authorities in an attempt to lay the ground for a reasonable longer term solution. Bahrain has more than 200,000 foreign expatriates while some 17,000 citizens are out of work. Bahrain Freedom Movement 23 October 2001 Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
WASHINGTON, Oct 23 (Reuters) – The Gulf state of Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, on Tuesday endorsed the way the United States has conducted the bombing of the Taliban and al Qaeda organization in Afghanistan.
“I think the bombing in short has been targeted, measured and in self-defense,” Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa told reporters after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“The bombing of Afghanistan is responding to attacks on the United States which were perpetrated by terrorists who live in Afghanistan and haven’t been handed over as yet to the international community,” he added.
The United States began the bombing on Oct. 7 after the ruling Taliban refused to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, whom Washington has named as the chief suspect in the suicide hijacking attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11.
Asked if he thought the U.S. campaign against terrorism should be extended to other groups and to countries such as Iraq, the prince said: “In response to terrorist groups, the answer is ‘Yes of course.’ In response to Iraq, that’s a hypothetical question. We are not at that stage yet.”
“If of course Iraq is linked to terrorists, then the decision will have to be made at that time, based on the facts,” he added.
The day after the U.S. bombing campaign began, Bahrain warned against killing innocent Afghans.
Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Sulman al-Khalifa said at the time: “Bahrain reiterates its support to the international community’s move to fight terrorist elements based on its firm stand against all forms of terrorism.”
“At the same time, Bahrain is keen … that the peaceful and brotherly Afghan people should not be punished for acts outside their free will,” he added.
Last Friday hundreds of Bahraini demonstrators tore up U.S. flags in a rare anti-American demonstration over the strikes on Afghanistan, organizers said.
But Sheikh Salman said the Gulf states were stable. “The people all condemn the attacks of September 11 and realize that something must be done to combat the threats of international terrorism, especially as it affects all of us, not only the United States,” he added.
UPDATE 1-Bahrain anthrax scare was only coffee whitener
(Updates with official saying tests negative, paragraph 4, changes number diagnosed with anthrax, paragraph 7)
MANAMA, Oct 21 (Reuters) – A building housing financial companies in Bahrain’s capital Manama was evacuated briefly in an anthrax alert on Sunday, but authorities said the suspicious white powder was no more than spilt coffee whitener.
“The Health Ministry today received a call from American Express saying that they found some loose powder spilled on the ground of the coffee room,” Information Minister Nabeel al-Hamer told Reuters.
He said he believed the powder was probably harmless but authorities were testing it and were not taking any chances.
The official Bahrain News Agency later quoted an official source as saying the tests were negative and that the substance turned out to be coffee whitener.
American Express evacuated its staff last week after a hoax bomb threat.
Anthrax scares around the world have become associated with a white powder contaminated with the bacteria and inserted into mail, raising fears of bioterrorism.
At least nine people have been diagnosed with anthrax in the United States, one of whom has died, and others have been exposed to the bacteria.
Security in Bahrain, the Gulf’s banking hub, and other oil-rich Arab states in the region has been tightened since the September 11 suicide plane attacks on the United States and Washington’s military strikes on Afghanistan.
Associated Press: In Manama, Bahrain, part of a building was sealed off after white powder was discovered in an American Express office. Worried company employees had called the fire department, said a fire crew commander. Authorities were testing the substance.
20 October 2001: MANAMA (Reuters) – Bahraini demonstrators tore up U.S. flags in a rare anti-American demonstration in the Gulf Arab state over strikes on Afghanistan, organizers said on Saturday. They said hundreds of Bahrainis gathered at a main mosque in the capital Manama after Friday prayers, chanting anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli slogans. It was the first demonstration by Bahrainis since the United States and Britain launched military strikes on Afghanistan on October 7. Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has voiced support for international efforts to fight terrorism but said any action must avoid killing innocent Afghans. Witnesses said one of the demonstrators carried a picture of Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man and Washington’s prime suspect in last month’s suicide attacks on New York and Washington. “It was a public gathering aimed at condemning U.S. policies against our Islamic and Arab causes, especially the Palestinian and the Afghan problems,” said Mohammed Abdullah Fakhro, one of the organizers of the protest. “We are against terrorism, but we are also against treating terror with terrorism,” Fakhro, a businessman, told Reuters. He said more protests would be held in the near future. In Yemen, thousands of demonstrators denounced the United States at a protest in a northern province on Saturday, witnesses said. “Stop the unjust war against innocents in Afghanistan!” some of the demonstrators chanted.
MANAMA, Oct 17 (Reuters) – Bahrain, the Gulf’s financial and banking hub, said on Wednesday it has imposed regulations to fight money laundering in a process that has been given impetus by the United States’ war on international terrorism. “The regulation is effective and binding immediately on all agency licensees,” the Bahrain Monetary Agency (BMA), the Gulf Arab state’s central bank said in a letter to banks, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters. The move follows requests by the BMA to banks to check for any accounts held by a U.S. list of individuals or groups suspected of terrorism following the September 11 plane attacks on the United States. Authorities worldwide have clamped down on money laundering in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington. The U.S. Treasury has asked central banks around the world to freeze any assets that may be linked to terrorism. Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa in January issued a decree making money laundering a crime punishable by up to seven years in jail and a fine of up to one million dinars ($2.65 million). The BMA said its new regulations took into account recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international agency created in 1989 to fight money laundering. “The purpose of this regulation is to ensure that relevant licensees have effective anti-money laundering controls and procedures to reduce the risk of being used in money laundering transactions,” said the BMA regulation. “It also requires relevant licensees to establish an adequate system and procedures for customer identification, record keeping, compliance monitoring and internal and external reporting of suspicious or unusual transactions,” it said. The BMA said the regulation applies to all holders of banking licences, money changers, mutual funds registered in Bahrain and investment advisers licensed by the central bank. There are more than 100 banks and financial institutions operating from the Gulf Arab state, including 47 offshore banking units, 20 commercial banks and 18 Islamic banks and financial houses with total assets of more than $100 billion.
The BMA also warned banks of the rapid growth in postal, telephone and Internet banking which it said made it harder to verify the identity of customers.
MANAMA, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said in remarks published on Monday he would not object to the unprecedented creation of political parties provided they did not divide society. The emir, hereditary ruler of the small Gulf state, said the issue might arise following the planned revival in the next few years of an elected parliament, which he said might amend the constitution to allow for establishing political parties. “Should the next parliament allow the creation of political parties in Bahrain, we will not object,” Sheikh Hamad told members of the Bahrain Journalists Association late on Sunday. “But at the same time we will not encourage anything that will lead to divisions within the country,” the emir added. His comments were published in the Bahraini press on Monday. Political parties are banned in Bahrain, which dissolved its first elected parliament in 1975, two years after it was set up. Even at that time there were no parties. Since he came to power in 1999, Sheikh Hamad has launched landmark political reforms calling for the establishment of an elected parliament by 2004. Bahrain already has a Shura or consultative council, whose 40 members are appointed by the emir to advise him. Officials have said the planned elected parliament will have legislative powers, unlike the Shura council which often just rubber-stamps draft laws which must be sent to the emir for final approval. Sheikh Hamad, who took power in 1999 after the death of his father, said the government dissolved the parliament in 1975 basically because of the mistrust between the legislative and executive powers, but gave no details.
15 October 2001 By CHRIS TOMLINSON Associated Press Writer MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The emir of Bahrain said his country could adopt multiparty democracy if that’s what lawmakers want, but that he feared it could be divisive, the Bahrain News Agency said Monday. Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said there were no limits on how lawmakers could amend the Gulf nation’s new National Action Charter, or constitution, the government-run agency reported. He said if parliament chooses to allow political parties, “We shall speak no negative words, but at the same time, I do not encourage such a matter that may lead to a rift, or any matter that doesn’t serve the interest of Bahrain.” An overwhelming 98.4 percent of voters approved the charter in a Feb. 14-15 referendum. The charter provides for a new parliament, calls for allowing women to vote and run for office — a novelty among the Gulf Arab states — and promises an independent judiciary and a body to investigate complaints from the public. Lawmakers would be allowed to amend the charter after they take office in the new parliament. In a meeting with journalists Sunday, Sheik Hamad reported progress in implementing the charter, including work toward forming a government auditing office and a constitutional court. Bahrain experienced a wave of political dissent led by the Shiite Muslim community campaigning for political and social reforms in the mid-1990s. The ruling family is Sunni Muslim while Shiite Muslims form a slight majority of the island’s 400,000 citizens. Unrest has subsided since Sheik Hamad came to power, succeeding his late father in 1999. Sheik Hamad commissioned the drafting of the charter and pardoned more than 1,000 political prisoners and detainees.
The emir also repeated his condemnation of terrorism and insisted the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States had no relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also said new media organizations were welcome in Bahrain and said he respected the freedom and importance of the media.
DUBAI, Oct 15, 2001 (Itar-Tass via COMTEX) — Bahraini Defence Minister Major-General sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said he is hopeful that the international community will find ways to fight terrorism and may eradicate this evil. The minister described the situation in the Persian Gulf and in the whole world as complex due to the September terrorist acts in the United States and measures takes to prevent new crimes. Opening a ministerial meeting in Manama on Monday, Al Khalifa said that it is necessary to strengthen cooperation between the member-countries of the Cooperation Council for Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG). The CCASG includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. On Tuesday, the CCASG chiefs of General Staffs discussed the U.S. anti-terrorist campaign and the situation in the world. The meeting participants presented their recommendations on collective security.
By Viktor Lebedev
MANAMA, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Regional carrier Gulf Air is reviewing its operations to cut costs amid the global economic slowdown following the September 11 attacks on the United States, an airline official said on Monday. The airline lost $98 million net in 2000. It was expected to halve its losses in 2001 after a $159.2 million cash injection by its owners — the governments of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Abu Dhabi emirate in the United Arab Emirates. “Due to the crisis, all of our operation is being evaluated and, based on that, we can decide on the next step,” the official from the Bahrain-based airline told Reuters. “We are studying all areas whereby we can make cuts, but we don’t have anything concrete right now,” the official said. Gulf Air said earlier this month it was suspending flights to two Gulf destinations as part of an overall reduction of operations by around 15 percent. It stopped flights to the northern Pakistani town of Peshawar in September. The airline, which operates around 30 planes, also received guarantees from its four owner states to cover $2 billion in new war risk insurance after insurance companies hiked airlines’ third-party war and terrorism insurance following the suicide hijacked-plane attacks on New York and Washington. “We have all been striving hard…to return Gulf Air to a profitable situation and with a service level that will be the envy of our competitors,” Gulf Air President and Chief Executive Ibrahim al-Hamer said in a airline bulletin received on Monday. He said the carrier had appointed an aviation consultant to conduct a comprehensive review and develop an action plan to improve the company’s performance and boost profitability. Gulf Air has also reactivated an incentive retirement scheme for employees, which was first introduced in 1996 to help cut costs, a company official said. Around 110 staff have accepted the early retirement scheme so far this year, he added.
Oct 15, 2001 GENEVA (UN Information Service) — The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its three-week autumn session by issuing it final conclusions and recommendations on reports submitted to it by Mauritania, Kenya, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Gambia, Paraguay, Cameroon and Cape Verde on how these countries implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The 10 countries, in keeping with their obligations as States parties to the Convention, presented the Committee with written reports on their efforts to promote and protect children’s rights. They also sent government delegations to discuss the documents and answer questions from the Committee’s 10 independent experts….
The Committee encouraged the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a special workshop for all relevant treaty bodies and special procedures, involving United Nations bodies and agencies, regional human rights mechanisms and relevant non-governmental organizations, to examine, among other things, the possible need for either an optional protocol to the Convention to establish a procedure for individual complaints, or the establishment of a new “special procedure” of the Commission on Human Rights. The Committee’s next session, its twenty-ninth, will be held from 14 January to 1 February 2002. It will consider reports from Lebanon, Greece, Gabon, United Arab Emirates, Mozambique, Chile, Malawi, Bahrain and Andorra.
Bahrain: War on Afghanistan and US statements infuriates Bahrainis Bahrainis are expressing their concern and condemnation of the war and statements made by US officials following the start of war against Afghanistan. While Bahrainis do not support terrorist groups anywhere in the world, they would not want to be part of a war led by the USA. The US President and his Defense Secretary have said that their war and bombing will not be limited to Afghanistan. Such statements are rejected by Arab and Muslim nations who are suffering from terrorism, particularly the state-sponsored and US-backed Israeli terrorism. The Bahrain Freedom Movement believes that the Taliban regime is one of the most reactionary and backward among the governments of the Muslim world. The terrorist acts in New York and Washington were condemned by the vast majority of Muslims who affirmed that Islam does not allow the killing of innocent people or the adoption of ter rorist methods. The elements who are accused by the US to have carried out terrorist acts were initially fostered by the Americans and the Pakistani secret service. These groups then became anti-American after the second Gulf war. Muslims oppose the war against Afghanistan. This is because the main losers are the innocent civilians. Iraq is one of the clearest examples, when Saddam Hussain was spared, while the Iraqi people have suffered and are still suffering from the sanctions. When the Iraqis took to arms against Saddam Hussain in 1991, the US allowed the Iraqi army to fly helicopter gun-ships to slaughter them. The US has infuriated the Arab and Muslim worlds with its pro-Israelipolicies. In an American poll published few days ago, 56 percent of the Americans believe the terrorist attacks were the result of the US support of Israel. The present military campaign is being carried out by the US and has mainly been supported by Britain only. The UN has been by passed. Terrorism has its causes, and military means cannot eradicate these causes. The US policies need to be overhauled especially those relating to Palestine and support to repressive regimes. Bahrain Freedom Movement 11 October 2001
Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
Bahrain: : The unemployed to elect their representatives; Women to launch their union In a regrettable development on 2 October, a peaceful gathering of some 40 unemployed inside the Ministry of Labour developed into clashes with the security personnel that were called-up to contain a volatile situation. Five unemployed were detained by police but were later released on orders from the Amir. Following on from that incident, more than a hundred unemployed met in a grand mosque in Bani Jamrah village on 2 October, and they were joined by representatives from the General Committee of Bahraini Workers (GCBW) and the Bahrain Human Rights Society. The meeting of the unemployed decided to call for another bigger and more representative meeting within two weeks to elect a committee that will represent the unemployed for six months and will negotiate with governmental departments. The meeting also decided that there would be no more pickets inside the Labour Ministry so long as the unemployed will be able to organize themselves in association with the General Committee of Bahraini Workers. The meeting to be held in two weeks will be made up of representatives (who must be unemployed) nominated by the Charity Funds around the country. These Charity Funds are elected and hence those who are nominated will have a popular legitimacy. One of the problems is that there had been a committee made-up of several unemployed persons which was negotiating with the Ministry of Labour. However, most of the members of the said committee were given jobs by the Ministry and hence became employees rather than representatives of the unem ployed. It is to be noted that the GCBW is expected to be dissolved in the near future and a Labour Union will be allowed to function in Bahrain for the first time. The Labour Union is expected to list the problem of the unemployed as one of its top priorities. There are many causes for having some 20,000 citizens unemployed while there are more than 200,000 foreign work-force. One of the causes relates to the corrupt practices of some influential people who import the so-called “free-visa” foreign workers and dump them in the job market. A corrupt free-visa importers of say 1000 foreign workers would illegally extract BD 20 (around US $54) per person per month. This means that a corrupt trader would get some BD 20,000 (US $54,000) every month for dumping a thousand free-visa foreign workers in local market. This and other types of corruption must be uprooted before unemplo yment could properly be resolved. On the other hand, Bahraini women are expected to launch their union in the coming months following the completion of all preparatory work. Next Monday, there will be a meeting of the preparatory committee responsible for launching the General Union of Bahraini Women. It is expected that the women union will be made up of three different types of membership. The main category will be women societies that will be represented by ten persons for each society. The second category will be for professional/social societies that have women’s committees and these will be given three representatives each. The third category will be for individual members who will directly join the women union and these will be represented by three persons to be elected by all individual direct members. Bahrain Freedom Movement 5 October 2001
Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Lord Avebury’s visit cofirmed The Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group will strat his one-week visit to Bahrain on 7 October. During his visit , he is expected to deliver a talk on human rights in Al-Oroba Club and is expected to meet with NGOs and dignatories around the country. Lord Avebury is one of the main supporters of the call raised by the Bahraini people for democratisation and had played a significant role in defending the cause of human rights in Bahrain. Lord Avebury said “It is a great privilege and an honour for me to have been invited to Bahrain. Both Bahrain and the UK are linked together by strong ties of friendship, business and a common interest in the peace and prosperity of the Gulf. We have followed with close interest the remarkable transformation on which Bahrain has embarked, attracting the admiration and respect of the rest of the world, and I have been looking forward to learning more about how the changes are to be managed.” Bahrain is undergoing a transitional period and all political forces are preparing themselves for participating in the constitutional political process. There are many hurdles on the way, but the determination for reforms has not been weakened by delays and setbacks, some of which are excpected to persist in the years ahead. One of the problems is the bureaucarcy that has grown over-weight, with corrupt practices penetrating to the core. There are many hopes that the work undertaken by the Committee for Implementing the National Charter will pave the way for reforming the adminstartion by establishing councils for ac countability, complaints, management of public-sector’s contrcats and enstablishing the rule of law. Bahrain Freedom Movement 1 October 2001
Tel/Fax: +44 207 278 9089
Voice of Bahrain Commentray: October 2001 “War Against Terrorism”: Underlying causes must also be tackled “War against terrorism” is not a conventional combat between regular armies. The Americans coined the phrase termed “war against terrorism”, and gave a new dimension to a deep-rooted international crisis with its roots in the Middle Eastern crises. It is highly assumed that the coalition being sought by the United States of America and the United Kingdom will focus its war strategy to “uproot” terrorism from the world. A more cautious note was given by Collin Powell, the US Secretary of State who admitted that it would not be possible to uproot terrorism but “to bring it under control.” The success of the operation is open to question, as the term is highly controversial. A person who is a terrorist to someone may be a freedom fighter to another. The spiral of events took a sharp turn after the worst terrorist act in the American history. The bombing of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and Pentagon on 11 September caused a human, psychological and political devastation to a nation that had always though itself the superpower of the world that could not be humiliated. It now recognises the limits of any political or military power n the face of new types of threats. Terrorism has become sophisticated in its aims and means. Although there have been numerous threats against the US over the past few years, few had expected such a large-scale attack especially at a time of supposedly high alert. It also demonstrated that terrorism has become a nightmare to the world and that if it is allowed to operate, the consequences to world peace will be colossal. These facts are agreeable among the countries of the world. No civilised government would condone such terrorist and indiscriminate attacks. What is a matter of disagreement is the way to tackle the problem. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on 11 S e ptember 2001, the first reaction of the US administration was to carry an all-out war against Afghanistan. The initial reaction was that the Government of Taliban must be bombed out of existence. Carpet bombing, nuclear bombs and all other forms of conventional warfare would be utilised to achieve this aim. The tension within the administration forced a rethink of the reactive policies and the US started to think of an alliance of forces against terrorism. Britain gave an almost a blank cheque to the US, but the European Union countries gave a qualified support. Although they invoked article 5 of the NATO Charter which makes an attack on a member country equivalent to an attack on all them, voices were raised against a fast reaction that could only cause more motives for further violence and terrorism. There was clear reluctance from many important countries in the world in joining what President George W. Bush called “crusade.” There was unease with the use of such provocative term. After many consul tations, the scene has now been set for a sustained war against terrorism involving the use of military, economic, intelligence and political warfare. The success of this operation will highly depend on the way the US deals with the crisis and its willingness to act within a collective spirit. Most of the Arab and Muslim countries are of two minds. Those who support military action against terrorism do so under fear from antagonising the US. The others are reluctant to present a solid viewpoint in case it is taken as an indication to their possible involvement in terrorism. Many diplomats have expressed their anger and dismay at what they perceive as another form of political terrorism. The whole “crusade” is now presented as against the Saudi-born Osama bin Laden and his Al Qa’eda organisation. The Taliban regime of Afghanistan is in deep trouble and is being targeted because of its failure to hand in Ben Laden. Islam is against causing harm to people. It is also fair to say that such acts ar e condemned and are unlikely to lead to peace and security in the region. But it is also important not to side-step the need to identify the causes of terrorism as a complimentary step in the war against terrorism. There is no smoke without fire, and the US and its allies are unlikely to eradicate terrorism if the underpinning causes remain. With regards to the Middle Eastern politics, the unlimited support of the US to the occupational forces in Palestine is one of the most fundamental causes of instability in the Middle East and has led to violence and counter-violence. The US will be well-advised to revise its strategy in the Middle East, stop their unqualified support to Israel, stop the Zionist lobby from its active role in formulating the US foreign policy to support Israel at all levels, at all costs and in all times. The US has sheltered the Israelis in the world political arena over the years. It has vetoed UN Security Council resolutions against Israel and supplied it with the most sophisticated hardware to attack the Palestinians. The US has also targeted Iraq, causing colossal damage to the people but sparing the regime. These factors have contributed to the high emotional antipathy towards the US government. It will be a step forward to address these issues at the same time as the “War Against Terrorism” is being conducted. The United Nations must be involved in the crisis. The tragic events of 11 September will remain in the memory of the people for a long time to come. The war being planned by the US and its allies will determine the success or failure of these powers in tackling the sophisticated politics surrounding the issue of terrorism in the world. The world will be a better place terrorism is eradicated by all the means including the removal of its causes. Bahrain Freedom Movement October 2001
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