Blundering the nation’s wealth. The figures released relating to the performance of the two organizations, the Pension Fund and Social Insurance are horrific. These two orgainsations were established to ensure a degree of certainty of a decent income for the citizens after retirement. The first covers employees in the private sector while the second covers employees in the public sector. The corruption in these two organizations had assumed alarming proportions leading to the bankruptcy of both. This bankruptcy leaves the nation bewildered and confused by a future plagued with financial difficulties and hard times. The bankruptcy of the two organisations has been caused by mismanagement of the assets and violations of established rules of investment. The two organizations lost tens of millions of Bahraini Dinars in various investment projects. More millions were given as loans to other institutions but later these organizations were given exemptions from repayment. Such violations and tremendous losses have taken place in a complete secrecy. Neither the government nor the institutions themselves uttered a word over the years. Many questions are yet to be answered for the people. Every worker and pensioner has the right to know the full story behind the disappearance of their money. How could a poorly performing management be kept in office for so many years violating the law and blundering the wealth of Bahraini workers? Who is behind these bad practices? what is the next step? How will the perpetrators of these crimes against the nation be punished? In an autocratic regime, major investment decisions are taken by instructions from the Prime Minister’s office. Corruption has been the normal practice under his leadership. This catastrophe is just another indicator of a regime that holds no respect for the people of Bahrain, nor does it honour its responsibility to safeguard the interests of the people. Under the Al Khalifa’s rule, there is every reason for this corruption to continue in the country. The so-called reforms programme has adopted new terminology, but the team has remained the same, and with it, the perpetuation of a corrupt system taking the country towards a total calamity. Bahrain Freedom Movement
28 December 2003
Bahrain: Blocking Access to Information by the Government 21st December 2003 Manama – Bahrain. Once again the Authorities in Bahrain, through Ministry of Information, confiscated the new issue of Al Mushahid Al Syasi – issue number 405: 20th – 26th December 2003 (magazine published by BBC London). The issue contains an article on Discrimination in Bahrain. The issue was confiscated at the Bahrain International Airport. Usually, 500 pieces of the magazine sent from London to Bahrain for distribution. This is the second time that the authorities in Bahrain confiscate Al Mushahid Al Syasi — On 19th October 2003, the authorities had confiscated the issue of Al Mushahid Al Syasi magazine (issue 19-25th October 2003) that covered the matter of Political Naturalization in Bahrain in six pages 10-15. The authorities in Bahrain, through Ministry of Information, had also confiscated a new book written on Bahrain entitled “Bahrain: Min Al Emarah Ela Almamlakah” (in Arabic) [Bahrain: From an Emirate to a Kingdom]. The book is written by Ahmed Manisi, and published by the Centre for Political & Strategic Studies (Al-Ahram) Egypt – 2003. The book was on shelf for sale for the first few days in a book fair ‘11th Al-Ayam Cultural Festival’ which was running during the month of Ramadhan at the International Exhibition Centre. The book had been confiscated by the Ministry of Information the moment it came to know about it. According to a publisher in the book fair, there were many other books that have been confiscated in the last few days; most of them are related to Shia ideology and believes. Names of these books are available if needed. The Ministry of Information also banned the local newspapers from covering the opposition’s press conference at House of Lords – London. The local newspaper, Gulf Daily News, on 20th December 2003, wrote some words on the order of banning or publishing any news about that conference. Furthermore, Ministry of Information ordered all foreign news agencies not to cover the issue of “Political Naturalization” which was raised by the opposition groups.
These confiscations and blocking access to information are clear violations of basic rights including freedom of expression and the access to information & publications. It’s also a censorship on freedom of expression and press in Bahrain. It simply violates both Bahrain Constitution and international conventions.
UK Parliament calls for reinstatement of 1973 Constitution BAHRAIN 16:12:03 Jeremy Corbyn Frank Cook Mr Harry Barnes Dr Rudi Vis Mr Martin Caton Dr Brian Iddon Lynne Jones Mr Kevin McNamara John McDonnell
That this House notes the positive developments on Bahrain over the past three years, including the release of political prisoners, the return of exiles and the repeal of the State Security Law; welcomes the ending of the state of emergency that had been in force since the suspension in 1975 of some articles of the 1973 constitution and the dissolution of the elected parliament; takes account of the promises given by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa prior to the public endorsement of the National Charter on 14th February 2001; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to assist the process of reform in Bahrain by providing models of good governance, which exclude gracious acts and decrees not sanctioned by law, permit the removal of governments by popular elections, promote equality of opportunity in employment and access to public services, grant citizenship only on the basis of the law and refrain from using public funds to promote the interests of one sector of society.
Dpa (German News Agency) 17th December 2003 Bahrain-Clashes/ Hundreds clash with police on Bahrain’s Martyrs’ Day Manama (dpa) – Hundreds of young Bahrainis clashed with police, broke sign boards and attacked restaurants and stores on the streets of Manama Tuesday at a rally marking the national Martyrs’ Day. Riot police intervened to stop the protests, but interior ministry officials claimed that no one was arrested. The rally, which began at a Shiite mosque, drew an estimated 2,000 Bahrainis including women dressed in black chadors. Protestors shouted slogans such as “With our soul, our blood, we remember our martyrs”, and “Murderers should be punished”. National Committee for Martyrs and Torture Victims head Sayed Jaffer Alawi told Deutsche Presse Agentur dpa: “We have over 50 martyrs in Bahrain. Their cases are remembered, and we are fighting for their rights.” The protesters called for the abolishment of royal decree 56 issued last year, which grants immunity from prosecution to torturers. Activists say it protects people like former Security Intelligence Service (SIS) official Adel Flaifil and Briton Ian Henderson from being taken to court on torture charges. Flaifil and Henderson are among former SIS officials being probed by a national committee of judiciary individuals, human rights activists and political societies. When the Bahrain’s king Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa took over after the death of his father, he introduced reforms into the tiny kingdom. The king abolished the national security headed by Flaifil, and also freed political detainees, invited exiles back and restored the parliament. dpa sb sc
171619 GMT Dez 03
RIGHTS-BAHRAIN-PROTEST (PICTURE):Scuffles break out at rights protest in Bahrain MANAMA, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Several thousand Bahrainis marched on Wednesday to denounce past human rights abuses in the pro-Western Gulf Arab state in an angry protest that led to scuffles between some demonstrators and security forces. The National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture in Bahrain organised the rally in the capital Manama a day after the country celebrated its National Day. Angry protesters, mainly from the Shi’ite Muslim majority, chanted slogans against some of the country’s Sunni Muslim rulers. They demanded the prosecution of officials they say are responsible for human rights abuses since the early 1970s. The protesters carried placards bearing the pictures of some of around 40 people they say were killed either under torture or in clashes with security forces in the mid-1990s. Bahrain saw Shi’ite-led unrest in the 1990s and some sectarian tensions still remain despite reforms by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa including the release of political prisoners. Wednesday’s rally turned ugly towards the end as some young protesters clashed with men they suspected of being members of the security forces who were photographing the march. They also broke some billboards and chairs outside a cafe and at least one protester scuffled with a uniformed policeman. Anti-riot police arrived a few minutes later but organisers persuaded them to keep their distance. It was not clear if anyone was arrested.
Bahrain is an important U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Statement by the National Committee for Martyrs & Victims of Torture in Bahrain on the National Martyrs Day (17th December 2003) In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful “… and whoever is slain unjustly, We have indeed given to his heir authority …” Holy Qur’an National Martyrs .. Alive & Here Forever Peace be upon those whom their bloods were shed with no sin or crime.. Peace be upon hero martyrs of Bahrain .. .. December 17th marks the National Martyrs Day (17th December) as chosen by the Bahraini people to redeem their pledge to the martyrs of Bahrain. We remember those who have generously given their bloods and souls for the tree of freedom and rights for this country. People of Bahrain have had more than 50 martyrs since its Independent in 1971. The 17th December marks the day that coincides with the killing of two martyrs, Hani Khamis & Hani Al-Wasta, who were shot dead with live ammunition by the security forces. With this in mind we renew our determination to continue demanding the rights of martyrs and victims of torture in Bahrain. We owe a great deal to those who have been assassinated or murdered while being held in detention cells as well as those who were killed in gunfire. With their valuable sacrifices, they have taught us determination and drawn out a path for justice and freedom. We must therefore, follow their path in demanding our human rights, whilst never forgetting the hands which took their lives, and in doing so committed such horrible crimes against them and against humanity as whole. In His Holy Book, Allah stated “… he who slayeth anyone, without (that being for) murder, or for mischief in the land, it shall be as though he hath slain mankind as whole…”. Those who think that the cases of martyrs are less relevant today must be mistaken; the blood of our honourable martyrs shall never be faded by the passing of time; in fact, their lives and stories have lingered in the minds and souls of every dignified human being and we shall not rest till bringing all the killers and torturers of these heinous crimes to justice. Some pro-regime pseudo journalists have tried to deceive the public and say that by talking about the rights of martyrs and victims of torture amount to reliving the past by arguing that these cases are now obsolete. However we clearly state that the blood of our martyrs shall not be forgotten until their injustices are recognised. Those who are asking us to be silent and forget the martyrs, are either naïve who don’t know the extent of the crimes committed and the subsequent effects on the country, families and friends’ of victims. They are possibly people with no conscious, or they are those who were directly or indirectly involved in such crimes themselves. Today, this demonstration is a peaceful one and has not been organized to ruin celebrations of the National Day in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The most important deed to be recognised on this occasion is that of commemorating and paying tribute to the national martyrs. In doing so, we will emphasise our belonging to this country and insure our sincere loyalty to those who have given their souls for the freedom and rights of the people. In addition, this day was chosen to express our condemnation of the crimes committed against Bahraini citizens; sadly two individuals were killed in a single day since Bahrain declared its independence. These individuals were killed by live ammunition, targeted at peaceful demonstrations, which were demanding freedom, justice and a right for parliament. Bahraini citizens have signed the biggest petition in the history of the Kingdom (more than 33,000 signatures) insisting on the rights for martyrs and victims of torture; they are the same demands that were submitted to His Highness the King, in May of 2003, they are: Nullification of the Royal Decree 56-2002, that grants impunity to torturers. Investigation into all cases of murder and torture by a national committee, consisting of judiciary individuals, and representatives of human rights organizations and political societies besides bringing all those who have committed murder or torture to justice in accordance with the international standards. Recognition of all those who have unlawfully killed as national martyrs. Compensation for all victims of torture including families of martyrs, as well as rehabilitation for those who are still suffering from torture. The National Committee for Martyrs & Victims of Torture expresses its regret that the government has chosen to ignore this petition. It is our belief that for the benefit of the country we need a dialogue to occur between ourselves and the government. Therefore, we ask that all national figures stand beside us and condemn this denial, and help us to acknowledge the rights of these victims of torture. The official policy of the denial of the above cases hurts the dignity of our people, increases their frustration of being subordinated, and reduces the confidence in this reform. While we emphasis that we shall continue this efforts to achieve our rights using peaceful and legal means, we solute the people and societies that have supported our march for the rights of martyrs and victims of torture. Glorification to martyrs of Bahrain … and punishment for their murderers … National Committee for Martyrs & Victims of Torture – Bahrain
17th December 2003
Bahrain News 17 December 2003 Demonstration in Bahrain Calling for Justice Manama, Bahrain. Around 10,000 people marched in downtown streets of Manama, the capital of the Kingdom of Bahrain, in a demonstration called by the National Committee for Martyrs & Victims of Torture. The Committee marked the day as the National Martyrs Day (17th December) as it coincides with the killing of two martyrs, Hani Khamis and Hani Al-Wasta, who were shot dead with live ammunition by the police forces several years back. Most of the crowd were victims of torture and families of martyrs. In their statement, the Committee demanded: Nullification of the Royal Decree 56-2002, that grants impunity to torturers. Investigation into all cases of murder and torture by a national committee, consisting of judiciary individuals, and representatives of human rights organizations and political societies besides bringing all those who have committed murder or torture to justice in accordance with the international standards. Recognition of all those who have unlawfully killed as national martyrs. Compensation for all victims of torture including families of martyrs, as well as rehabilitation for those who are still suffering from torture. The crowd called for bringing torturers to justice; among torturers names were Adel Flaifel and Khalid Al-Wazzan, ex-secret police officers, who were accused of torturing dissidents during the dark era in Bahrain. They also chanted, asking the Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman to resign since he was responsible for the government during those dark days. The demonstration did not end up in a peaceful manner as there was an indent of angry men attacking policemen; however, this case happened in isolation. The organizers of the demonstration tried to calm down the crowd and to avoid any fraction with security forces. The demonstration ended with no fire or teargas shot; and no casualties or arrests were reported. The following are some slogans and banners that were raised in this demonstration: 1. Falifel is a torturer & nasty; so no amnesty 2. Democracy & Peace are not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice 3. We demand abolishment of Royal Decree 56-2002 which leaves tortures with impunity 4. No torturer should leave with impunity 5. Bring all torturers to justice 6. Torturers are criminal; down with torturers 7. We demand locking-up all torturers behind bars 8. We demand compensation for all victims of State Security Law in Bahrain 9. We Shall not forgive or forget torturers and rapists of Bahrain 10. We ask for justice and human rights for all victims of torture in Bahrain 11. We, the victims, decide forgiveness or punishment for our torturers 12. We demand truth and reconciliation in Bahrain 13. Democracy means justice and not forgiveness for torturers
14. Democracy without justice is worst than dictatorship
Bahrain/Democracy By Geraldine Bedell German News Agency (dpa) Manama, Bahrain (dpa): 14th December 2003 As a young mother, Geraldine Bedell spent five years living in Bahrain. But bikini-clad tea with the emir and beach barbecues with bankers taught her little about the island. Twenty years later, she returns to discover how property prices, politics and resurgent Arab pride are making waves in the Gulf For sale: six-bed house with private beach, mooring and pool on Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island known as the eighth wonder of the world. Year-round sunshine guaranteed, tax- and virtually crime-free. Close to shops and offices of 300 of the Fortune 500 companies. $1.4m. Would suit footballer’s wife (David and Victoria already have one), rich Russian, or similar. Twenty years ago, fresh from university, I moved to the Arabian Gulf. In quaint, post-imperial fashion, the region was known as a hardship posting, meaning that employers paid you more to go there. The hardship was on account of the heat, the dust and a presumption of soullessness: oil-prospecting hick towns rising out of the desert rubble, inhabited by locals assumed not to have any culture and expats prepared to abandon theirs in pursuit of money. Today, the Gulf is a popular tourist destination, a place of beaches and boats, eagerly trying to sell holiday homes to foreigners. Half the England football team snapped up villas on their way to the World Cup. When I was in Dubai last month, you couldn’t move in the Palm Jumeirah marketing suite for Russians. But the Gulf has changed in other ways, too. To be a Muslim, let alone an Arab, is now to be suspect in the eyes of many. Gulf Arabs who once looked to America as the obvious place for a college education and a vacation with the kids no longer want to risk the indignities of US immigration or the suspicious looks when they order a latte. When I was back in the Gulf for the first time in 15 years a few weeks ago, a car bomb in Riyadh killed 18 foreigners. The US closed its embassy. The British issued an upgraded terror warning for Bahrain, my old home. A region full of people who had been patronised by the West for decades has a television station, Al-Jazeera, that regularly scoops CNN and the BBC. The Gulf has found a voice, partly through a new brand of militant Islam, partly through an affluent self-confidence that often leads to surprising liberalism. There are furious cross-currents of belief and politics swirling through the region. Bahrain, a police state when I lived there, has held elections and is being talked of as a possible democratic model for Saudi Arabia. I spent five years on this small (235 square-mile) island state off the north coast of Saudi, and then I left and more or less severed my connections with the place. There seemed no reason to stay in touch: the period seemed in retrospect like time out, an unreal existence in rented houses, furnished in a style I thought of as bankers’ beige (I was married to a banker), failing to make much headway with the language, the culture or the people. It felt as though it had been cultural hardship, relying on the British Council library and the one, dreary bookshop; searching hopelessly for anything in local culture that spoke to me. The hardship, though, was always of a particular kind. I lived in a big house, played tennis after work, swam in the darkness, learnt to waterski and had a maid (it was difficult, this, but you had to). There were barbecues at weekends and camping in the desert. I met people from all over the place. I played Eliza Doolittle at dinner theatre in one of the big hotels and was in revues. I could buy excellent wine, fish and meat. I had a job and my first child. When we came back to Britain she was four and she couldn’t believe the absence of swimming pools and sunshine. ‘Did you know it was going to be like this?’ she asked incredulously. Yet I never felt I fitted in – not with the Americans, who played softball, nor the posh Brits, with their dinner parties, nor the young single people. (My banker husband, like me, was probably a bit disorientated too – later, after we split up, he became an artist.) I didn’t get very far with the locals, either. I met women I liked and admired in the course of my job with the English-language newspaper, but there was a mutual assumption that the relationship wouldn’t work in a home – theirs or mine. I knew a couple of older, anglophile men; but one brought his Western girlfriend to drinks rather than 1⁄4 » his wife (she said she was a lawyer; if she was a call girl, she was impressive) while another would regularly try to open conversations with me about the relative merits of Claridge’s and the Savoy. Then there was the other set of tribes: the poorly paid workers from the Indian subcontinent who did all the physical work. ‘You have to call me Geraldine,’ I told my Sri Lankan maid. ‘Yes, madam,’ Dawn answered. She was still at it when I tracked her down this time. ‘Dawn, it’s Geraldine,’ I said over the phone. ‘You mean,’ she said, ‘my madam?’ I didn’t understand anything. I was obliged by law to pay for Dawn to go home once every two years. When I discovered she had two children in Sri Lanka I said she’d have to go back more often; I would pay the fare. A couple of days later she asked if she could have the money instead. Bahrain seemed a place in a mist, thick with humidity and hypocrisy. I worked for a newspaper in which it was never mentioned that the American Fifth Fleet was headquartered in Bahrain, nor that the reason you couldn’t drive down to the south of the island was because a pseudo-secret airbase was being constructed there (RAF planes used it in both Iraq wars). I never had a political discussion with a Bahraini, either on or off the record. We never wrote in the paper about the political prisoners, or about Ian Henderson, the Scot known at home as the Butcher of Bahrain, who ran the Special Intelligence Service. And still the editor was deported three times. A friend of mine had a house overlooking the sea. Sometimes I’d waterski off his steps at weekends, looking across to the island where the political prisoners were held. I am ashamed of myself now, whizzing about on the water. But people were in the habit of turning away their faces from things. Not long before I left, I asked the minister of information how he supposed the country could continue to cocoon itself from reality once satellite television arrived. He pretended not to understand the question and talked about something else. In this world of tribes and half-truths, rumours spread and exaggerated. I was told to cut Marks & Spencer labels from out of my underwear because of the Arab boycott, but no one ever took the slightest interest in my knickers in customs. And if that wasn’t true, what about members of the ruling family taking Gulf Air stewardesses out on their gin palaces? Or the planeloads of call girls who were flown out at weekends? Or the political prisoners pushed out of helicopters? The hypocrisy was summed up, for me, by the beach. The then-emir, Sheikh Isa, had a house surrounded by date palms and oleander, hibiscus and citrus trees, on what was, at that time, the only beach on the island. No Bahrainis and no brown expatriates were allowed through the gates, and you had to surrender any cameras to the armed guards, who festooned them round the palm trunks like electronic fruit. For the white people, the emir doled out free fizzy drinks. And, especially if you were a woman on your own, or with a girlfriend, you might be asked to tea on his verandah. Tea with the emir was a peculiar experience in which you sat in your bikini and he sat in his thobe (the long white costume called a dishdash in some other parts of the Gulf) and conversed politely to the accompaniment of the waves gently breaking and the chink of bone china. He always said the same thing, about London being too expensive for him. On the couple of occasions I was invited, I reflected that Sheikh Isa must have sat drinking tea like this with the Queen – except that she would not have been nearly naked. Today, Dubai is transformed from some o
ffice buildings on a creek into a glitzy, teemingly multicultural city, dedicated to unabashed getting, spending and pleasure. And Bahrain, though not on the same scale, is unrecognisable: the streets gleaming, the gardens overflowing with bougainvillea. The sheikh’s beach has closed. There are shopping malls and new hotels with lagoons, beaches, lakes and flamingos; a golf course and a university. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to a place when people don’t think they might be taken to an island and forgotten about. Sheikh Isa died in 1999, and his son, Hamad, opened talks about a move towards democracy. In 2001, 289 political prisoners were freed prior to a referendum on a new constitution. Ian Henderson retired. The electorate voted overwhelmingly for the proposed 40-strong parliament and a 40-member upper house, the shura, appointed by the emir, now called the king. The parliament was elected, with Islamist groups dominating. The shura includes five women, a Christian and a Jew. A year on, Bahrain’s experiment with democracy is being closely watched by its monster neighbour. To everyone except the maddest members of its royal family, it is clear the status quo in Saudi Arabia is unsustainable. A major terrorist attack on the Saudi oil system could cause the global economy to collapse (and in a recent article in Atlantic Monthly, Robert Baer, who was a CIA operative in the region for 21 years, explained just how easy that would be). Fifteen of the 19 terrorists on 11 September were Saudis, as is Osama bin Laden. The ruling family’s tactic of shovelling money at the fundamentalists has run out of steam. The year I left Bahrain, a causeway opened over the narrow stretch of water to Saudi Arabia. Saudis come across at the weekend now simply to sit in a cinema with other people, or to take their wives (or girlfriends) out to restaurants. The causeway has brought motorways (all of which seem to lead to Saudi Arabia), flyovers, speed traps and an awful lot of traffic, but also a sustaining affluence through the tough recessionary years of the Nineties. The dusty open spaces with beaten-up Toyotas parked on them and plastic bags drifting about in the rubble have gone. Property prices have risen 200 per cent in the past couple of years, and anyone who could has built – mostly palatial houses with luxuriant gardens. Yet the physical changes are nothing to the atmosphere. Before, you couldn’t get people to talk about politics; now you can’t stop them. (‘We’re Arabs,’ one Bahraini told me. ‘We always talked incessantly about politics, just not to you.’) Bahrainis of my generation now occupy senior positions. Many were educated in Britain and America. People talk freely about corruption, the way in which contracts are awarded is holding back the economy and the influence of the prime minister, whom they refer to as The Whale, on account of his tendency to gobble things up, or Mr Ten Per Cent (according to Human Rights Watch, ‘the prime minister and his immediate family are considered to have the most to lose’ in any inquiry into corruption). They speak frankly about a split in the ruling family between the prime minister, who is a force for conservatism, and the crown prince, who is on record as saying he is ‘a Western-style liberal’. Nobody turned up with a deportation order when I visited Ali Salman, leader of the Islamist opposition group, Al-Wefaq, who was arrested in 1994 for agitating for a return to the 1973 constitution and deported 40 days later because rioters were demanding his release in villages all over the island. Bahrain has become a place noisy with debate, dispute, disappointment and possibility. Whatever the shortcomings of the new political arrangements (and Al-Wefaq boycotted the national elections, despite sweeping victories in municipal elections, because they thought parliament wouldn’t have any power) their cultural effect has been enormous. When people talk about corruption, they often move on wistfully to compare Bahrain to Dubai, which has transmogrified into a go-getting entrepôt, a 21st-century city of tall shiny buildings and flagrant affluence, where everything is for sale. (When I asked one Bahrain businessman to account for Dubai’s success, he said, ‘It’s just one big whorehouse.’) Properties on the Palm Jumeirah have sold out, but the Palm Jebel Ali will be 40 per cent bigger and include houses on stilts above the water which, when seen from above, will spell out in Arabic script a poem written by Dubai’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed. The Palm Jumeirah is already (with the Great Wall of China) one of only two man-made objects visible from space and will be followed by a yet-more ambitious/preposterous project: an archipelago of 230 man-made islands which, when seen from above, will form a map of the world, green on a blue sea (big countries, like Australia, are composed of smaller islands grouped in an Australia-shape). Purchasers will have to sign up for a whole island; some will presumably become Maldives-like hotels. If that seems extravagant, there’s always a house on Dubai’s golf course or in one of 70 still-to-be-built tower blocks around the marina, starting at £45,000 for a studio. A local estate agent insisted she was getting people from Britain buying over the internet, sight unseen. It’s impossible not to think that the property bubble must sooner or later burst. But in Dubai, they remain resolutely optimistic. Fewer Gulf Arabs want to send their children to the United States to be educated; they can come to Dubai instead – the schools are very good. So can the Iranians. And if Iraq stabilises, that’s a whole new opportunity. Nothing happens in the world, it seems, that Dubai doesn’t seek to turn to its advantage. All this has been possible for two reasons: first, the character of Sheikh Mohammed, who is dynamic and capable not merely of conceiving or endorsing vastly ambitious plans, but also of driving them through; and secondly, the helpful demographics. Of the 1m-plus inhabitants, only around 8 per cent are native Dubaians. There’s no political problem, no class of people who have historically been kept out of the trough. Belatedly, Bahrain is now trying to catch up, allowing foreigners to buy property in designated areas. More than one of these projects will involve man-made islands with canals, private moorings, high-speed internet connections and the sort of fridges that tell you when you need more butter. Yvonne Trueman, a British widow, has bought a three-bedroom apartment with boat berth for £95,000 on the soon-to-be-built Amwaj Island: she anticipates that retirement in Bahrain will be cheaper than in Britain. Meanwhile, a Formula One race track will open next March; it is designed, one of its backers told me, ‘to put Bahrain on the international map’. But Bahrain is on the international map already, in ways that many Bahrainis would rather it weren’t. While I was there, the Foreign Office upgraded its warning, saying the possibility of terrorism on the island is high. When I first moved to the Gulf in 1981, the signs of how important Islam would become to politics were already apparent, if I’d had the wit to see them. Then, the political fault line was presented glibly as being between the majority Shi’a population, with historic links to Iran, and the ruling Sunni minority. But the real point about Iran was not that it had once had some territorial claim, but that its revolution had demonstrated the power of Islam in populist politics. By the early Eighties, pan-Arab nationalism had already failed. Communism, which remained a force in the Bahrain opposition in the Eighties, was in the process of collapsing. Arab nationalism and socialism were co-opted by a succession of military juntas, including Saddam’s in Iraq, and discredited. And into the ideological vacuum moved Islam, with its apparently logical explanations for the failures of secularism. When I met Ali Salman outside the headquarters of Al-Wefaq, he gave me the usual Bahraini smile (there is a tradition of hospitality in the culture which makes people very gracious) but refused to shake my hand. He apologised: he’d
like to, but he was a Shi’a cleric and not allowed. I wanted to slap him. In years of working in Bahrain, I’d often been stonewalled, but always with unfailing politeness. Once we got over this little hiccup, he told me it was iniquitous that there’s no way for the parliament to question the prime minister, and he considered it appalling that international companies prefer the less-corrupt arrangements in Dubai when considering investment. He seemed to me a pretty straightforward leftist rebel (he thinks Bahrain is ‘a good place for women to work’, doesn’t want to get rid of the Fifth Fleet and says he has regular contacts with all the Western embassies). It is difficult to tell to what degree religion is mainly a means to political ends. But that’s how it is in the Gulf at present. Robert Baer, the former CIA agent, believes that ‘If an election were held in Saudi Arabia today, if anyone who wanted to could run for the office of president, and if people could vote with their hearts without fear of having their heads cut off, Osama bin Laden would be elected in a landslide – not because the Saudi people want to wash their hands in the blood of the dead of 11 September, but simply because bin Laden has dared to do what even the mighty United States of America won’t do: stand up to the thieves who run the country.’ Compared to the House of Saud, Bahrain’s Sheikh Hamad is looking pretty smart. It remains to be seen to what extent his moves towards democracy are cosmetic, designed to mute opposition, and how far liberalisation will result in a more illiberal place. That it will do so in the short term seems beyond doubt. The parliament is dominated by Islamists, Sunni and Shi’a, whose most headline-grabbing debates so far have been over whether a slightly risque Lebanese singer should perform in Bahrain (they decided yes, but someone organised a riot anyway), and beards. They pushed through a new law preventing people in national dress from buying alcohol in off-licences, which simply means that locals send servants and Saudis change into tracksuits in their limousines. The instincts of this institution are to legislate on such vital matters to the future of the country as eating, facial hair and women’s headdresses. Rasheed Al-Maraj, the chairman of Al-Muntada (the Forum), a group of around 50 liberal intellectuals and businessmen, remains cautiously optimistic, even so, about the political future. He acknowledges that it’s hard to be a liberal in the Gulf at present, because people want to dismiss you as pro-American or anti-religion. And even though Bahrain has an entrep؟t history of tolerance and openness, liberalism is hardly a popular rallying point. But he holds to the possibility of a democratic society in Bahrain, including what he calls a Western understanding of human rights and rule of law. Democracy, he says, ‘isn’t a switch; it’s a process. It’s not just about the ballot box. You can have a constitution that is second to none, but if you don’t have the institutions of civil society, the rule of law and the human rights to underpin it, it won’t work. And getting there is an evolutionary process. Corruption is not just about money; it’s also about people thinking that they’re entitled to a government job. For a society where family and tribal connections have always counted for so much, there’s some way to go.’ So what was it like, going back after all this time? Some things hadn’t changed: there’s still an army of brown people moving silently through gardens and houses. For much of the year, only air conditioners make life bearable. In the gold souk they still sell everything by weight, regardless of design. And it’s still a great place for dressing up, because you can always be sure of being out-Versace’ed. The sunset through the haze is still a great orange globe, flaming the sky. The muezzin calling through the dusky heat as the day closes down remains one of the most romantic sounds in the world. The air still smells damp, and there are other familiar smells, too: looking for my house I caught something spicy, perhaps mixed with the scent of bread cooking, of sweat and musky local perfumes, that snatched at my stomach and knocked me backwards for a horrible debilitating moment into my memories. Plenty, though, has changed. The beauty salons have morphed into luxury spas; McDonald’s is everywhere; you can wear decent shoes and not get them wrecked. There are huge shopping malls. The saplings that I recall being planted outside the first and most modest of these are now handsome trees. The prison island has been transformed into yet another palace for the prime minister. Something about the people has changed, too. The Westerners I met seemed less transient, less on the make (admittedly, they were mainly people who’d been there for 20 years, or who’d been away and come back, so in some sense were rooted). There was less of a gold-rush feel; more affection and investment on the part of people who were making the place their home. The Bahrainis remained as hospitable, charming and polite as ever, but also more open – prepared to expose disputatiousness and political energy. I felt great warmth for them, and for the funny rocky outcrop and reclaimed land they have made into a city – not, admittedly, an unleashed city like Dubai, but a city that definitely expects to be part of the 21st century. And I felt angry about what has happened to them. Rasheed Al-Maraj was educated in the US and had hoped that his son would go to college there next year; it is a place he and his children know well. But he’s not sure whether it’s going to be possible. I met no Bahrainis who had visited America since 11 September. There are fears of harassment at immigration and stories of discrimination, even among students. Young people are no longer ambitious to go to American universities, which feels like a terrible own goal on the part of the US. Adel Fakhroo, a leading businessman and a member of Al-Muntada, told me sadly that ‘things have polarised here. I used not to consider Islam very important to my identity. Yes, I was a Muslim, but it wasn’t terribly significant. Now, I would not go to America. I have no desire to go.’ If very rich middle-aged men, who speak perfect English, display tremendous courtesy and believe in a Western version of human rights and the rule of law feel that in the US they can only be seen as Muslims, it’s scarcely surprising people feel angry. The reality is that even on tiny Bahrain (population 600,000, of whom half are foreigners anyway) belief, culture and politics are a complicated nexus of contradictory trends.
The Americans may be late converts to democracy in the region, but democracy is now supposed to have been a major reason for the invasion of Iraq. So Bahrain, with its tentative political reforms, finds itself pivotal. It would be nice to think that this little island could offer a blueprint for a peaceful transition in the Gulf, not least since the alternative is almost certainly terror, possibly revolution and, perhaps, global economic disaster. And it seems funny that I used to think that this stony outcrop with its palm trees and dhows, where I tried to become an adult, was a bit dull. Now it feels like one of the most interesting places in the world.
A Cry for Freedom from the Blood of the Martyrs We take the memorable anniversary of the Day of the Martyrs (17th December) to bring the grievances of the people of Bahrain to the attention of the world community. We commemorate the 9th anniversary of the decision of the Al Khalifa ruling family to shoot peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators that led to the fatal shooting of two young men on the first day of its implementation on 17th December 1994. The call for democracy in Bahrain has never been stronger. The struggle for the past three decades has led to deep-rooted resentments against the Al Khalifa ruling family who have proved themselves to be incapable of comprehending the real aspirations of the people of this Gulf island, and have blundered golden opportunities to come to terms with the natives. Instead of heading the calls for the re-instatement of the 1973 Constitution, the only contractual and binding document ever agreed between the two sides, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the present ruler, has adopted a programme of deception un-rivalled in the region. One of his worst blunders has been to renege on the promises and commitments he had given to the people prior to the endorsement of his charter in February 2001. Since then, he has undertaken very serious steps to ensure no real opposition to the rule of his family will ever take place. His programme is based on four principal policies that need to be resisted with every possible peaceful means: the abrogation of the 1973 Constitution, the political naturalisation with the aim of a fundamental change of the demographic balance of the country, the adoption of discrimination among the citizens and the implementation one of the most comprehensive programmes of deception ever undertaken by a ruler of the islands in its history. The events of the past year have proven that this programme could not succeed. The anti-Al Khalifa sentiments among the natives have risen to record levels, and the rejection of its institutionalised dictatorship has become a worrying factor that could destabilise the situation. Sheikh Hamad has attempted to protect his rule through different means; the reinstatement of members of the old regime as the strong men of his “new reformist” team of management, issuing decrees to protect torturers, assert censorship, change the demographic composition of the country and re-organise the security system in a more effective way and create new forms of defences to protect his family, employing at high costs, some natives to act as a buffer. When the people and the opposition take anti-Al KHalifa stands, these newly-formed bodies (such as the king’s bi-cameral council and other media bodies) will be mobilised to deplore them and white-wash the Al Khalifa sectarian and despotic policies. The opposition has now realised how futile it was to be drawn into Sheikh Hamad’s defective reform programme, and how deception is being employed as an effective tool to circumvent any potential opposition to the Al Khalifa dictatorship. The people of Bahrain have now realised the extent of this deception and decided to adopt a programme of civil disobedience. They also decided to take their case to the international community with two aims: to inform the world of the institutionalised dictatorship and constitutional follies uncover the extent of deception policies which costs millions to run especially as foreign elements are employed to promote the image of the Al Khalifa, and bring to uncover the seriousness of the political naturalisation programme that amounts to nothing less than cultural genocide of the native composition and culture. We urge the freedom-loving people to take interest in the affairs of Bahrain, oppose the institutionalised dictatorship of the Al Khalifa ruling family and call for a real democracy which gives the people real and effective roles in decision-making and the running of their own affair. Deception must not be allowed to cover the truth of what is happening behind the Al Khalifa dictatorship. Bahrain Freedom Movement
16 December 2003
QUESTIONS AND DISCUSSION – Bahrain: The short-lived hopes of transition to democracy House of Lords, London- United Kingdom, 16th December 2003 Saeed Shehabi: The Bahraini opposition aspires to create a unified society. A unified society must have several binding and strong foundations on which it can flourish: (1) A binding constitution which has the support of the people. (2) A harmonious society in which all the citizens are treated fairly and on equal terms. (3) A society which will depend on its people. The people will present a positive image to the outside world. There will be no need for public relations companies to deceive the people. (4) A society that is built on trust is a society without fear. New citizens are imported because the regime does not have the trust of its own people. A Society cannot be built on imported loyalty. Professor Fred Halliday: It is 32 years since I visited Bahrain but I have met with both ministers and opposition personalities. Lord Avebury spoke about corruption. In Bahrain visitors are given a carpet worth either more than or less then £2000. Bahrain has a long history of the expression of civil society. In 1953 there was a joint statement by the Sunnis and the Shias that there would be no Sunnis or Shias after this day. I met a Bahraini studying for his Phd in Paris – he did not study in Britain as that was the old imperialist power or in the USA – this was the new imperialist power. He studied in France because he admired what the French Revolution stood for. A link between the royal family and politics is always pernicious. There is a new word jumlukia, half jumahiriya and half mumlakiya. The whole question of democracy is nonsense – there is no democracy when there is no public access to finance. The most important question for any country is do they kill people, is there a rule of law, are human rights respected. Lord Avebury: The elites do not make concessions unless they are pushed to do so by the masses. I will ask Jeremy Cobyrn who has just joined us to say a few words. Jeremy Cobyrn, MP : We have drafted an early day motion in the house welcoming some of the changes and demanding a reinstatement of the constitution. Huge changes have come about but we have to look at the reality of the situation. Women have got the vote but there is still discrimination and we have a long way to go. The parliamentary Human Rights Group will send a delegation to Bahrain – Bahrain has a long way to go considering the totality of what could be achieved. Lord Avebury: Thank you very much Jeremy – we are very grateful to the support you have given to human rights and the reform program in Bahrain and we look forward to your support and that of your colleagues in the commons as you try to counteract some of the massive pr campaigns that the Al Khafila regime is conducting. We do not have their sort of money but we can work without money as I am sure you will agree. The truth will prevail in the end. Sajid Ali Khan: I am not familiar with Bahrain but one point I would to make is that oil money goes very directly to the UK. To which banks does the money of the Al Khalifa go? Abdulhadi Alkhawaja: Some of their money is in Switzerland and some of its goes to the Far East. In the last two months the Prime Minister bought two islands in the Far East. The portion of funds they are taking from the oil revenues in not a secret. This matter was raised by parliament in 1973 and it was one of the reasons the parliament was dissolved. Lord Avebury: We know there is an initiative promoted by our own Prime Minister known as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. He has tried it with various governments to see how much money they get from royalties, taxes, revenues and other forms of payments from the extractive industries in the oil and mining sectors and how that money is being spent so that the people can look at the accounts and judge for themselves whether the money is being properly applied for the benefit of all the people. There is also an initiative called Publish What You Pay. It is a private initiative but it has the support of our government. It asks the companies themselves to make it clear how much money they are paying to the host government and to individuals because some of the money does not go through proper channels. These two initiatives should be applied in the case of Bahrain . Our government hesitates to ever criticise anything the Bahrainis do. PR representative of the Bahrain government: Why does your website refer to the Bahrain Freedom Movement in the English Section and to the Bahrain Islamic Freedom Movement in the Arabic version? You are not campaigning for constitutional change – you are campaigning for the establishment of an Islamic state. You say you don’t want any constitutional changes but the constitution gives rights to women. Lord Avebury: We are not here to discuss the Bahrain Freedom Movement. We are discussing the situation in Bahrain. Saeed Shehabi: We do support the rights of women. The 1973 constitution gives women the right to vote and this constitution has been frozen. The constitution says that all citizens have the right to vote. The Al Khalifa’s are emphasising rights of women to convince people like you it is progressive. As to the opposition wanting to establish an Islamic state, this is another ploy of the regime. In the 1970s if anyone asked for reform he was considered a communist. Now if someone asks for reform they are labeled an Islamic extremist. Bahraini citizen: I would like to provide a personal testimony. I spent three years in prison and my children cannot study. Between 1975 and 2000 around 1500 children were from studying. Charity boxes have been set up in the villages and 148 families are receiving support from these boxes. Why do we depend on charities when Bahrain is a petrol country. Mauritius citizen: Britain has created chaos, murder and rape all over the world. Ian Henderson a British citizen has been working for the security service in Bahrain. Before that he had the same job in Kenya. Then he advised the Al Khalifa on how to murder. Abdul Malik Eagle: I would like to speak about a positive initiative. In Bahrain in September there was a conference to reconcile the various Islamic sects – it was hosted by the government of Bahrain – it was not a very high profile conference but it was not a secret meeting. It is very important from a Muslim point of view – there was a wide representation from the Arab countries and Iran. You could not hold such a conference in Saudi Arabia or in Yemen due to appalling security situation and fanaticism. Neither would it be possible in Jordan – It could have been held in Damascus. There was a similar meeting in Damascus. But it could not have been held in Cairo. Lord Avebury: I certainly think that Bahrain could be a model for the rest of the ummah in the way that it does bring together the different strands of Islam and prevents discrimination. If they could do this they would have the full-hearted support of millions of people throughout the world. I would like to see debates between intellectuals being translated into practise and implementation. Father Frank Gelli: The question of human rights has loomed very large in the debates here today. I would like to draw your attention to a document which has been published in Riyadh recently: The Declaration of Human Rights. It seems to combine the ideas of human rights in Islam with other immortal values. It also seeks to integrate human rights with duties. President Kennedy said the human rights of man do not come from human institutions but from the hand of God. Mohammed Umar, Zed Books: Can you talk about the dynamics of the relationship between the three movements in Bahrain. Are you united. Hassan Mushaima: I would like to add some points and then answer the question. The Al Khalifa family is now paying millions to polish its image and to show people outside that everything is going smoothly and there is a democracy in Bahrain. But if you come and visit Bahrain and meet the citizens you will see the other side. Bahrain is being
dealt with like a trade relationship. The Prime Minister talks about 50 – 50, he gets this from all the oil companies. He is dealing like a businessman – how much do I put in my pocket and not how much the nation gets. The third point is about citizenship – political neturalisation. The people of Bahrain are very polite and calm. But they are afraid of the foreigners who are being brought in. The local people have to wait for 15 years to get a house while the foreigners can get a house as soon as they come through the airport. This resulted in a quarrels in the Rafa area between the citizens and those who came from outside. The constitutional movement is working and thinking together – it does not matter who is Sunni, Shia, Muslim or non-Muslim. We put forward suggestions to the government but it does not listen. Lord Avebury: Is there an organisational structure for the whole opposition. In the past there was the Committee for the Popular Petition which was able to unite the people behind one set of demands. There does not seem to be an identifiable organisation now. Saeed Shehabi: We should not underestimate the influence of the programme adopted by the present ruler – he moved a lot of people by publicising his gracious act. In the past six months a new movement has been emerging. There is a movement which calls itself the constitutional movement. It calls for the repealing of the king’s constitution and the reinstatement of the peoples constitution. There is something similar to the CPP. Bahraini Citizen: The Al Khalifa has been engaged in a process of deception. What are we going to do about the present deadlock? We do not have a legitimate constitution. How can the people of Bahrain emerge from this deadlock, dissolve the present assembly and call for new elections. A constitution which has the approval of the people will be binding and legitimate. We cannot have a constitution imposed by the state. Abdulhadi Alkhawaji: The United States wants to say that its presence in Bahrain will end with democracy and the promotion of human rights. They are saying that Bahrain is an example but they have rushed things. Bahrain is not yet a good example. We need to do a lot more to make it a model in the region. Lord Avebury: The role the friends of Bahrain in the outside world is to look at what the people of Bahrain are demanding and support them morally and politically in any way that we can. I believe that is our task. We will look at the lead being given by the constitutional movement to see what support parliaments such as our own in the outside world can provide through international institutions. I very much welcome the formation of the constitutional movement. That is the way ahead.
Hassan Mushaima has asked for more pressure for reforms, not those which can be handed down from on high but a viable dialogue between the government and the people. With such a dialogue progress can be made. Our voices should be raised in support of that movement and in support of the constitutional movement which has the support of the majority of the people.
DISCRIMINATION IN BHARAIN: THE UNWRITTEN LAW Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, Director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights House of Lords, London- United Kingdom, 16th December 2003 The Bahraini constitution prohibits discrimination and guarantees equality and equal job opportunities. Nevertheless for decades, there has been a common and institutionalised practice of discrimination and favouritism based on sectarianism and family status. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights took the initiative to raise the problem of discrimination by organising two public seminars this year in Bahrain. Papers were presented by members of parliament, religious figures, political and human rights activists. The papers highlighted the different aspects of the issue: legal, historical, social, political and human rights and concluded with recommendations to tackle the problem. At the two seminars the Bahrain Center for Human Rights launched a report in Arabic that contained shocking facts and statistics highlighting three types of discrimination: • Discrimination against women in high ranking posts in the public sector • Discrimination against citizens belonging to the Shiite sect of Islam • Privileges enjoyed by members of the (Al Khalifa) Royal Family. Before the second seminar, the report was sent to all ministers and government establishments, published for the people and transmitted via the internet. Only three out of 30 ministries and government establishments sent a response. The King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa responded publicly to the seminars saying that he would not accept harming his family but he declared that no one is above the law and the issue of discrimination was open for discussion. Nevertheless, the authorities staged a campaign in the press accusing the people behind the seminars of being the enemies of society who were trying to harm the image of good families and provoking social instability. The report itself, or its findings were not published in the media. On the other hand the Ministry of Labour sent a letter threatening to close the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights if they published further reports. I would like to thank Lord Avebury for inviting me to this seminar and I would take this opportunity to launch the English version of the report Discrimination in Bahrain: The Unwritten Law. Discrimination against women in public sector jobs In 2001 a total of 32,800 women were working in Bahrain – 26 percent of the total labour force. The percentage of women in high-ranking posts stands around 7 percent only as women hold 42 our of a total of 572 jobs. In 14 out of 32 government establishments and bureaus there is no women occupying a leading post. Out of the total number of high-ranking jobs held by women, only 24% are from the Shiite sect, while women from the royal family occupy 17 percent including the posts of under-secretary, president of the university and ambassador. Discrimination against Shiite Muslims Followers of the Shiite sect comprise about 70 percent of the total number of citizens. Out of 572 high-ranking posts covered by the report, Shiite citizens hold only 101 jobs representing 18 percent of the total. When the research was conducted there were 47 individuals with the rank of minister and undersecretary. Of these, there were 10 Shiites comprising 21% of the total. These do not include the ministries of the Interior, Foreign, Defence, Security and Justice. Regarding the post ‘with rank of undersecretary’ in all ministries and government establishments, Shiites only occupy seven posts out of a total of 62, making up 11% of the total. Out of 32 establishments and bureaus covered by the report, there are seven ministries and government establishments where the Shiite citizens do not hold any key posts. Among these institutions are: the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Information and the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research. Discrimination against Shiites in the General Prosecution Office and the National Assembly Whilst previous sections of the report displayed high-ranking posts in government establishments, this section provides examples from the whole employment cadre underlining the percentage of Shiite citizens. These institutions are the General Prosecution Office, the Shura Council and the Council of Representatives. These three establishments have two significant distinctive characteristics: (1) Being judicial and legislative, these bodies should protect the rights, implement justice and guarantee equality and equal opportunities (2) These establishments are relatively new, as they were set up after the reformation and voting for the national Action Charter in 2001. The total number of jobs in the General Prosecution Office is 64: of these, the Shiites occupy only four jobs representing nearly 6% of the total number of employees. There are 64 administrative jobs in the Shura Council and none of the key eight posts are held by Shiites (director of directorate, secretary general and assistant secretary general). As for the other jobs totalling 56, the Shiites hold 13 comprising 20 percent of the total employees. There are 108 jobs in the Council of Representatives of which Shiite citizens hold only 39 representing around 37% – none of these are decision-making posts. They are drivers, office boys, administrative technicians, secretaries of a committee and committee technician. Sectarian discrimination: places of worship Mosques in Bahrain cannot be built or repaired without official permits. Although mosques fall under the umbrella of the Endowments Directorate the bodies assigned to grant permits are the ministries of Justice and Housing. In some areas such as Riffa, south of Manama, the authorities have basically banned the building of Shiite mosques. In other areas, only restoration permits are granted. Records of the past five years indicate there is clear discrimination against the Shiite. The Jaffariyat (Shiite) Endowments Directorates has not been granted new mosque permits. Out of 21 new mosques built during the period not one is a Shiite mosque. The report highlights the allocation of mosques in four districts and areas specified for government housing. These are Zayed Town, Hamad town and Isa Town, in addition to Al Dair and its surrounding areas. Zayed Town (south of Manama) is a new housing project in which two lands were allocated to build mosques but neither were for the Shiite sect. Isa Town (south of Manama) Out of a total of 24 mosques in this town there are four Shiite mosques representing 17% of the total. Hamad Town (southwest of Manama) Out of a total of 24 mosques, there were four Shiite mosques representing 17% of the total. In Arad and neighbouring areas (north of Manama) out of a total of 22 mosques there are six Shiite mosques. The Shiite mosques are only found in Arab village. Other facts regarding discrimination against Shiite citizens. According to recent statistics, unemployment in Bahrain is 15 percent of which an estimated 95 percent is among the Shiites. Shiite citizens are forbidden from holding high ranking posts in the army and police due to their sectarian origins. This has led to an increase in unemployment among Shiites. On the other hand, in order to change the demographic structure of the country, and without taking into consideration the social damages to be caused, the government secretly and by-passing normal laws, resorted to naturalising large numbers of tribal Arabs and their families, who were brought to the country to work in the army and the security force. The government has also allowed GCC citizens from tribes historically loyal to the ruling family to obtain Bahraini citizenship while maintaining their original citizenship and without having to fulfil the criteria for residence in Bahrain. Discrimination has also permeated the elections of both the Representative and Municipal Councils. The government divided the country into unbalanced sectarian constituencies. For example, in the southern governorate in which the mainly newly naturalised persons reside, a block of around 2000 voters hold a seat in parliament whilst in the central and northern g
overnorates that are majority Shiite areas, blocs of around 7800 voters hold one seat. As a clear practise of segregation, Shiites and Sunnis of Persian origins are prohibited from inhabiting one of Bahrain’s largest districts, Riffa, which makes up more than 40 percent of Bahraini land where most of the members of the royal family reside. Superiority and privileges enjoyed by members of the Al Khalifa royal family The Al Khalifa warrior tribe arrived in Bahrain in 1983 and conquered the country by force. They have ruled by force ever since. The maintain a large portion of public income and a huge area of land. In 1971, Bahrain gained its independence from Britain and witnessed a short period of the democratic experience between 1973 and 1975. Bahrain became a constitutional monarchy in February 2002. According to the new constitution the king appoints the prime minister and cabinet, members of the Supreme Council for Judiciary, members of the constitutional court and members of the Shura Council who make up half the members of the National Assembly. The king also shares legislative power with the National Assembly. The Al Khalifa family is made up of several thousand members, around 2% of the citizens. They belong to a Sunni tribe while the majority of the citizens are of urban origin (non-tribal) either Sunni or Shiite and some are of Persian descent. High-ranking public sector jobs held by members of the Al Khalifa Royal Family Out of 572 leading public posts, 100 jobs are held by members of the royal family representing 17% of the total. The figures would have been higher if the following five institutions provided full information: the National Guard, the National Security, the Financial Monitoring Court, the Royal Court, The Crown Prince Court. Likewise the statistics increase in significance by acknowledging that members of the Al Khalifa hold more than half of the posts of ministers and with the rank of ministers, including Prime Minister and Ministers of Justice, the Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defense. They occupy other important posts such as governors of districts, heads of courts, president of the university and the Supreme Council for Women. The representation of members of the Royal Family occupying high-ranking public jobs varies from 3% at the University of Bahrain to 60%, the Survey and Estate Registration. Al Khalifa members comprise a quarter of top positions at the Ministry of Defense and half of the leading jobs at the ministries of the Interior and Justice. Members of the royal family serve as board chairmen of 10 sport federations and hold the post of vice chairman in ten of these federations. These members hold such posts by appointment or internal elections, reflecting the influence they enjoy. Recommendations: (1) Abolish the system that distinguishes and favours members of specific families and those loyal to them over the rest of the people. Family or sectarian preferences and discriminatory thinking must be considered socially wrong and should be condemned. (2) There should be a law to forbid, incriminate and punish all forms of discrimination. Officials must be held accountable for practices of discrimination that are taking place in their institutions. Victims of discrimination must be granted justice and compensated. (3) Jobs in public establishments must be made available to all citizens of different sects and origins, such as in the national guard and the police. (4) The principles of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination which has been signed by the Government of Bahrain should be adhered to as well as the principles of the Bahraini constitution which includes justice and equal rights. (5) National committees, governmental and NGOs should be created and empowered to investigate the implementation of justice, equal opportunities, opposing discrimination in state bureaus and institutions. Mechanisms for monitoring the increase in all forms of discrimination should be set up. (6) All forms of discrimination should cease in employment, freedom of movement, housing, education, private and public scholarships, government tenders and services rendered by public bodies. (7) Political and random naturalization based on tribal and sectarian considerations should be stopped, naturalisation of some segments should be reviewed in the light of consistency with domestic and international law.
(8) NGOs, religious leaders and civil societies should discuss this phenomenon away from religious sensitivity and in an open and transparent manner, considering the fact that it threatens social harmony.
Absence of Democracy and True Reforms Mr Hassan Mushaima Political Activist and Vice President of Al-wefaq National Islamic Society Kingdom of Bahrain House of Lords London- United Kingdom 16th December 2003 Good day ladies and gentlemen.. It is my honour and pleasure to stand in your presence to spell out few words about the democracy needs and reforms in Bahrain. Aftermath the late Amir, there were many calls to embark a new stage of dialogue, transparency and democracy. These titles were introduced by the document of the National Action Charter (NAC), which we supported fully to raise the participation to 98.4%. It was our believe and cooperation with the regime to open and new chapter where the above concept will prevail, as promised by the figures of the ruling family. The NAC came up with two stipulations: 1- The status of the state to change from emirate to kingdom. 2- The national council to be bi-camel i.e., two-chambers system. The first exclusively handles legislative and monitoring issues while the appointed one provides consultation only where necessary. These two stipulations assumes introducing changes in the popular 1973 state constitution. Changes in this constitution is restricted and laid-out by its article (104). In 14th February 2002 and after a year of voting for the NAC and without the consent of the people of Bahrain, a document is introduced overthrowing the popular 1973 constitution altering many articles and further introduced others beyond what is agreed upon in the NAC and the related promises made by the figures of the regime. This has created a constitutional crisis in addition to other issues related to citizenship and human rights which has not ceased, irrespective of the slogans of democracy and reforms. Perception of Reforms Our understanding of reforms necessitates the admission of the existence of wrong-doing and corruption to initiate transformation and introduce changes wherever needed. Having such perception in mind, it was expected that the project of reforms would set a schedule to suppress areas of violation and corruption. In contrast, and during the past two years, certain areas of corruption have shown escalation while others remained defying the calls for true reforms. These include: 1) Sectarian discrimination 2) Political Naturalization 3) Administrative and Financial Corruption 4) Violation in human rights and censorship to the freedom of expression Above all, a true participation of the people of Bahrain has been deeply undermined by the 2002 document which is a “Gifted Constitution”. This document has focused the powers in the hand of the King, overlapped the three powers-legislative-executive and judicial, diluted the legislative chamber from its legislative and monitoring power and offered the appointed chamber to share these privileges. The 2002 document not only hand-tied the elected members, who are realizing the slimness margin of change in such document, the mechanism of producing it is not popular and not secured as its initiative, future and possible termination are linked with the wish and the well of one person; the King. Our objections to 2002 document could be summarized by the following: 1- The mechanism by which it has been emerged. It has been tailored to suit the ruling body without considering a role for the people of Bahrain. 2- The depth of and types of alterations and legislations introduced. These has concentrated the powers in the hand of the King and left the upper decision to the government, even in legislative issues. It has also undermined the role of people by making their representatives in the elected chamber helpless, and even more, shared their privileges of legislation and monitoring, by the king appointed members. All these actions have emptied democracy from its meaning and reforms from its essence. We feel that the cup is half full and not empty as claimed by the regime. Democracy in Bahrain, marked by 1973-75 experience, has reached a stage where new era should start from it, rather neglecting its gains and starting from the start. The people and the intellectuals of Bahrain are exposed to many democratic experiences and have made tremendous sacrifices for the sake of dignified and true democratic life. This will be achieved by legislative body, exercising its full and exclusive privileges of legislation and monitoring as well being secured by a popular constitution, separating all the powers, the sovereignty of which, is left to the people of Bahrain. We are in appreciation to the support of the Bahrain friends who would share with us the desire for true democratic and popular regime in Bahrain.
Thank you very much for your attention
Bahrain: Justice for Female Victims of Torture Good day ladies and gentlemen … I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today about women struggle for human rights in Bahrain. I would like to thank you for understanding and your support during past era and would seek the same to confront the daily violations to human and woman rights in Bahrain. I am talking to you today from my own experience as a wife of ex-prisoner and a prisoner who is continuing to suffer during the past period as well as in the new political order. As you appreciate, democracy and tranquility cannot be provided by the absence of tension, but also the presence of justice. I would like to emphasize on the word justice in this speech. We may have been disposed of tension, but we have not been provided with justice to the people of Bahrain. During the dark era in Bahrain, women went through difficult times as grandmothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. Thousands of direct relatives of political prisoners had to suffer for long and wait for long just to meet their beloved ones. Some had to wait for as long as 5 years in order to enjoy visit to their children or husbands who were imprisoned for their views. Women were arrested and were systematically tortured by authorities in Bahrain. Some were sexually harassed and some were physically raped. Imagine living in the neighborhood of your rapist… imagine living in the vicinity of your torturer with daily observance and possible contact. Just imagine. Yes, all political prisoners were released, but left with no rehabilitation or compensation. On the other hand, all those who have committed crime of torture, are free, enjoying their life and status. Some have been promoted to their contribution in the past period while others are granted privileges and distinguished facilities to conduct business. In Bahrain, basically all torturers and human rights violators are protected and gained impunity under the Royal Decree 56-2002. This Decree violates basic human rights and against all social norms, religious laws, and international conventions. In fact, this Decree is against old commands such as ‘… eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth …’. It is against Constitution of Bahrain – Article 19-D and against the National Action Charter – Article 3 in Chapter One which states “Law ensures punishment of those who commit an offense of torture, a physically or psychologically harmful act.” It is against the “Convention Against Torture ..” that was ratified by the Kingdom of Bahrain and became part of its national legislation which articulates in article 4: “each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitute complicity or participation in torture” and Article 13: “Each State Party shall ensure that any individual who alleges he has been subjected to torture in any territory under its jurisdiction has the right to complain to and to have his case promptly and impartially examined its competent authorities”. It is also against the ‘Vienna Declaration’ that was adopted in World Conference on Human Rights – 1993 which recommends states of the world to ‘… abrogate legislation leading to impunity for those responsible for grave violations of human rights such as torture and prosecute such violations, thereby providing firm basis for the rule of law”. It is also against people’s demand and wish which was expressed in different ways, including in the Petition signed by more than 33,000 Bahraini and submitted to the King calling for abolishment of the Royal Decree 56-2002. All these violations show that 2002 Constitution is just a facade and a cosmetic tool to enhance authorities’ face in abroad and to attract foreign investment. What we need is a generous democracy that can ensure justice for all ensuring sustainable human rights. Today, we have no law that can protect victims and retain justice. All cases filed against torturers were rejected by the court under the above Decree. In fact, everybody is still threatened by the Penal Code; I can be arrested back home for speaking here (overseas) about my rights. This Code is still valid and effective. In general, the following are our demands: 1. Nullification of the Royal Decree 56-2002. 2. Investigation in all murder and torture cases by an independent national committee consisting of individuals from judiciary and representatives from human rights and political societies. 3. Bring all those who have committed murder or torture to justice in accordance to the international standards. 4. Compensation for all victims of torture; and rehabilitation for those who are still suffering form torture. We are not asking for utopia or for an ideal society. We are just asking for justice; Justice that no democracy can survive without. Thank you for your kind attention,,,, Layla Dashti – Committee Member National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture – Bahrain 16th December 2003
(Presented at Moses Room, the House of Lords, London – United Kingdom)
Lord Avebury – Bahrain Seminar December 2003-12-06 It is a pleasure once again to be welcoming you here today to mark Bahrain’s National Day, and to make a few remarks about the developments which have taken place in Bahrain over the last 12 months. As you know, I was in Bahrain for the first time ever in January. Some of my colleagues have also been there, including Baroness Uddin who accompanied the Prime Minister’s wife on her second visit this year. And in October a group of MPs went there at the invitation of the Bahrain Government on an all-expenses paid visit, with their spouses or partners. They obviously saw a different Bahrain to the one I visited in January. They didn’t get out into the villages and speak to the people in the streets and in the Matams, and they had no dealings with human rights activists, members of the four boycott organisations – which are in effect political parties in a country where parties are banned – lawyers, victims of torture, or people with evidence of corruption, discrimination and manipulation of access to citizenship. What they saw was a sanitised picture of the country, assiduously promoted by the Gulf Centre for Strategic Studies and the hardworking government mouthpiece Lord Guildford, who we’re always delighted to see at our meetings. He brings us living evidence of the money being spent on the al-Khalifas’ image-making, though he hasn’t yet told us what are the fees paid to his organisation, or how much his masters spend on wining and dining their foreign guests. Presumably they consider it a good investment, because after the full treatment, even though it no longer includes the £1,000 watch that was customarily given to the visiting bigwigs in the old days, the results are still the same: the guests return singing the praises of the al-Khalifas’ rule, and insulting anybody who has the temerity to disagree with them. I was particularly impressed with their transformation of John Austin MP, whose behaviour reminded me of the film the Body-Snatchers, where the human beings were taken over by aliens but still looked the same. John has the reputation of being a radical, and a vigorous upholder of human rights and democracy. He emerged from the invisible surgery of Bahrain as the ally of autocracy, rubbishing his old friends and declaring that Bahrain upheld the principles of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of good governance, democracy and greater participation of women in the political agenda. People might think he should know about these things, as chairman if the UK branch of the IPU. Lets take good governance. The essence of a Parliamentary democracy is that the people can remove the Government. There is no mechanism for the voters to have any effect on the Government in Bahrain, and it is still controlled by the al-Khalifa family. The King appoints and dismisses all Ministers in his absolute discretion, and most of the important ones are members of the royal family. The Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa is his uncle; the Minister of Islamic Affairs is Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Khalifa; the Foreign Minister is Sheikh Muhammad bin Mubarak al-Khalifa; the General Commander of the Defence Force is the Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa; the Elections Executive Director is Shekh Ahmad bin Atiyatalla al-Khalifa, and so it goes on. Where is the democratic legitimacy of a government whose members never have to go before the electorate, and are not appointed by an elected body or person? The King is the head of the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. He chairs the Higher Judicial Council (Article 33). He amends the Constitution (Article 35). He has power to proclaim a state of national safety or martial law (Article 36). He appoints civil servants, miltary personnel and ambasssadors, many of whom in the important Embassies are also members of the royal family (Article 40) and he has power to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies. In short, Charles I of England, Louis XVI of France and King Ferdinand Bomba of Naples would have given their eye teeth for the powers held by King Hamad. The National Charter, which was approved by an overwhelming majority of Bahraini voters, said nothing about a new constitution, and the abrogation of the previous constitution was an arbitrary act of state, hardly an auspicious beginning for a self-proclaimed democracy. That Charter provided (in Chapter V) that Bahrain would have a bicameral system, one chamber ‘that is constituted through free, direct elections whose mandate will be to enact laws, and a second one that would have people of experience and expertise who would give advice as necessary’. The constitution, by contrast, gives the Consultative Council a veto over legislation passed by the Chamber of Deputies. In the event of a disagreement between the two Houses, they meet together as a single entity, the ‘National Assembly’, having 40 elected members, and the 40 appointed to the upper house by the King. It has been argues that the King doesn’t automatically get his way, because it is possible that not all appointees would follow the royal line on any particular measure. But equally, not all the elected members will oppose the King, and if in spite of stacking the odds so heavily, the National assembly fails to agree on a Bill within 15 days, the King can enact it by decree (Article 87). These are not minor flaws which can be corrected with the passage of time. I think the King agreed with me when I said during our meeting in January that democracy had to be a dynamic process, but there is no discussion of further changes, and it would be pointless to talk about reform, since only the King has the right to amend the constitution. Mr Austin thinks it shameful that I should say these things, but of course many people think them in Bahrain without having the right to speak out. When there was an attempt to stage a play criticising the current political set-up at the end of last month, the government first intimidated the Society of Engineers into withdrawing permission to use their hall, and when the organisers wanted to hold it in the open air, the government said they had no permit. A society in which citizens have to obtain permission for what they say, in a play, a speech, an article, a pamphlet, or on the internet, is not free and is not democratic. Freedom of expression is not an absolute right; it may be restricted by law, but the restrictions can only be those necessary for the protection of the rights or reputations of others, and for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals. Challenges to the methods or style of the government are certainly not within these criteria, and in a free society, citizens have to assume responsibility for what they say or write, unless there is an order of the court, which has to be justified on objective criteria. Nobody has the power to stop the citizen from saying or writing something, merely because it is severely critical of the government or of individual Ministers. I acknowledge, as I have always done, that some worth while reforms have been made under King Hamad. Political prisoners were released; the state security court was abolished; exiles were allowed to return, and torture was ended, though the torturers were granted immunity for their crimes. It was most unfortunate that Decree Law 56 has so far allowed Henderson and Flaifel to escape retribution for the suffering they inflicted on hundreds of people. That Decree was unlawful, and a breach of the state’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture. Sooner or later, Bahrain is going to be called to account in the Committee against Torture, and if Henderson or Flaifel set foot in the UK, they may find that Decree 56 doesn’t allow Bahraini torturers to escape justice here. The advances mentioned were all gifts of the monarch, not the result of progressive action by the people and debate in the legislature. There have been no further steps towards freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and the elected members have not b
een demanding rights on behalf of the people because they too are in the main the willing accomplices in the domination of masses by the hereditary élite. They wouldn’t care to overturn the gravy train which has smoothly taken them to a hollow prestige and fat salaries, so they make no radical proposals, and turn a blind eye to the corruption and nepotism in which they all wallow. The Parliament has even turned a blind eye to the flagrant violations of the law on citizenship, evidence of which was given to us on video in the summer. An unknown number of people from Saudi Arabia were given Bahraini citizenship, when they had no qualifications other than being Sunni. If this was done by royal prerogative, it was a gross abuse of power that a genuinely democratic Parliament would have been certain to condemn. I was one of those who believed that if elections were held in Bahrain, even if the elected bodies had no real authority, it would be a stepping stone towards genuine democracy, and would also lead to an independent judiciary, freedom of expression and equality of opportunity. Now, I am not so sure; it appears that the royal family have consolidated their power behind the façade of a mickey mouse parliament with no inclination to call the government to account, or to design the mechanisms that might enable them to do so. The real friends of Bahrain should expose the fraud; toadying to the al-Khalifas is not the way to encourage true reform. Eric Avebury 26 Flodden Road London SE5 9LH tel 020-7274 4617 fax 020-7738 7864 email firstname.lastname@example.org House of Lords
London SW1A 0AA
Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group Cordially invites you to a Press Conference On Bahrain: The short-lived hopes of transition to democracy 11.00 am Tuesday 16th December 2003 Moses Room , The House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW Speakers: Several informed speakers will give a brief of the situation dealing with issues of the constitutional and legal crisis, human rights, women rights and other relevant issues.
For further information please contact Lord Avebury on 020 7274 4617 or Mr Hesabi on 07739988983
Bahrain’s ministry of information assaults freedom of expressions and assembly During the closing days of November 2003, the al-Khalifa regime controlling Bahrain encircled itself in a controversy regarding the notion of freedom of expression. The troublemaker was Nabil al-Hamer, Bahrain’s miniser of information, who decided to undermine the freedom of expression and assembly. The story relates to a decision by al-Wefaq National Islamic Society to stage a play concerning outstanding political issues in the country. These matters included political naturalisation, sectarian discrimination, unemployment and administrative and financial corruption. On the eve of the first of four consecutive shows of the play of the at the Bahrain Society of Engineers (BSE), the ministry of interior carried an ugly intelligence operation. Intelligence officials interrogated BSE officials, threatening them with unspecified consequences if they failed to cooperate with the authorities. The intelligence operation reminded Bahrainis of the bad old days when the infamous state security law was functioning during the period of 1974 to 2001. Eventually, the BSE had no choice but to apologise to al-Wefaq for its inability to host the show. Accordingly, al-Wefaq opted for staging the play in an open land in the Sanabis area of Manama. But the municipalities ministry ordered a halt in the construction effort. Not looking for troubles, al-Wefaq heeded the call and decided to hastily erect a wooden stage on a private land in the Bilad al-Qadeem area of the capital. Much to regime’s disappointment, some 4,000 people turned up to witness the satire, ten times more than the number of people who had originally purchased tickets. During the 120-minute play, the crowd frequently broke into laughter as the amateurs made poking of unnamed officials. The satire received international recognition. Reuters and dpa, the German news agency, to name a few, covered the story. Dismayed at the popularity of the play, the information ministry announced plans to file several suits against al-Wefaq on charges relating to staging the play without permission. In fact, al-Wefaq did pass a text copy of the play to the ministry but insisted that it was not seeking permission to engage in a practice guaranteed under international declarations. Fearing the consequences for the country for trying al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, ordered his officials to drop the legal proceedings against al-Wefaq. The regime feared that al-Wefaq supporters would stage rallies during the trial and raise outstanding issues including discrimination. Consequently, only Mr. al-Hamer was ridiculed. If there was one such benefit from this episode it must be that of doing away with the body that caused this uproar. The regime must dissolve the ministry of information because it is outdated and needless. Other countries in the region, notably Qatar, and more recently Jordan did away with such a ministry. Instead, the government should establish a corporation dealing for television and cultural foundations. In this age of proliferation of information, no Bahraini needs the service of the ministry to be told what is happening in the world. In fact, no party can control the spread of information thanks to advances in media sources notably the Internet and satellite television networks. Bahrain Freedom Movement
5 December 2003