University of Bahrain Students Condemn the Policy of the American War and Request the Withdrawal of its Military bases from Bahrain At the time when the administration of the American president is getting itself ready to launch a big attack on the Arabian Gulf region against the willing of its people and dominating their vital abilities and decisive decision, we find the Islamic and the Arabian world has not shown any strategic and political objection giving good news of a real and unattached willing. Muslim and Arab Youth hare been frustrated intensively as a result of the shamed dealing of the American domination, at the same time millions of the world’s free people in Europe and American went out on demonstrations condemning the policy of the American attack. These systems hare not shows a real practical refusal to such policy. The existence of the military bases in more then one Arab country proves that Arab systems are still subject to the control of the American Administration and cannot resist Bush destruction Policies aiming to invade Iraq and spread out the Zionist domination in the area through planning to eliminate what is left of the Arab honour and their noble resistance in Palestine and Lebanon. People of Bahrain have expressed in more then one occasion their refusal to the Arab humiliated attitudes towards the American attack on the dignity of peoples. People of Bahrain announced their refusal clearly to all forms on normalization of relation with the Zionists and American goods. At the same time they have emphasized the importance of withdrawing the military bases which represent a title to the American shame in Bahrain. The students of the University of Bahrain through this peaceful demonstration are emphasizing the position of the people of Bahrain which refuse the American tyranny in the world and request his majesty the king of Bahrain and the Bahrain wise government to take the right steps which suit the dignity of the people of Bahrain by emptying the American military bases and closing them for ever. The university of Bahrain students think that this strategic step is the only step which can force the Aramaic Administration to give up its colonized policy and stop continuing the political humiliation to the government and people of the region and failing its plans which aimed to keeping the Zionist skeleton in of Bahrain and through the consolidation of their students and the vital capacity will continue their refusal the Administration of the American War and will be there on each spot announcing the demolishing of this Administration and its departure from the oppressed people. By the Students of University of Bahrain
Is Bahrain’s security agency up to old tricks? On Eid al-Adha, Feb. 11, rumors spread in Bahrain that the National Security Agency had uncovered a dormant Al-Qaeda cell. Journalists were summoned to NSA headquarters where a small arms cache four AK-47s, two pistols and ammunition was displayed. Later that day, reporters were instructed to hold the story until the return of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa from a trip overseas. The dramatic news of the arrest of all five alleged members of a “terrorist cell” was made public three days later. They were detained at dawn by a Special Forces commando unit, which also confiscated laptops, CDs and diskettes. Relatives complained about the behavior of the troops, which was likened to something out of “Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.” An official statement accused the five Bahraini males, aged between 31 and 41, of plotting to commit acts of terrorism and “endanger the lives of innocent people.” All local media published their photographs, names and other details. During a visit to army headquarters on Feb. 17, King Hamad praised the security forces for their vigilance “in protecting national security and the safety and freedom of all citizens in the face of any threat.” He also tried to play down the affair. While voicing distress at the idea of Bahrainis being involved in terrorism, he said he hoped the suspects would turn out to be innocent, and described the case as “an isolated incident.” The official announcement of the “smashing of the terrorist ring” quickly set the Bahraini rumor mills buzzing. Some claimed the suspects belonged to a Salafi group and were planning attacks on American military personnel in Bahrain similar to those carried out by like-minded groups in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In addition to the headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet, there is an abundance of highly visible American “soft targets” in Bahrain, where a large part of the entertainment sector, including sex-bars, caters to US servicemen on leave from base stations in Saudi Arabia or US warships in the Gulf. Talk of a possible link to Al-Qaeda was meanwhile fueled by the release of information that some of the suspects had visited Afghanistan during the 1980s, and one may have joined Arab volunteers in the jihad, or holy war, against Soviet forces. The families of the accused were clearly shocked by their arrest and the heavy-handedness of the security forces, which was reminiscent of the treatment accorded to Shiite opponents of the regime during the decades before King Hamad began his political reforms two years ago. Human rights activists and the detainees’ lawyers urged the authorities not to revert to another old habit of extracting self-incriminating “confessions” by force and intimidation. But this is unlikely to happen. All five men hail from well-connected families, and are politically related to some fundamentalist members of Parliament. Moreover, local human rights groups are keeping a watchful eye on the case. The Bahrain Human Rights Society has already been given private access to each of the five a move applauded by rights activists, though they criticized the authorities for publishing the names and photos of the accused before even presenting them to an examining judge. Yet in many quarters, the revelation that the NSA had uncovered a sleeper cell generated a familiar sense of skepticism. It sounded suspiciously similar to a number of previous announcements made by Bahrain’s various security agencies over the course of the past three decades. Many of the comparable “feats” they proclaimed in the past were baseless, while others were exaggerated to justify the imposition of emergency rule in the island state. Skeptics were quick to draw comparisons with the government’s portrayal of the street brawls that broke out in Bahrain on New Year’s Eve as politically motivated riots orchestrated by the opposition. Only nine youngsters, aged 16 to 19, were convicted for taking part in the disturbances. They received jail terms ranging from one to two years. Many thought these sentences too harsh, and saw them as a sop to senior officials who played up the seriousness of the incident and opted for an “iron fist” approach to teach the unruly youths a lesson. They include Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who while reluctantly going along with the king’s reforms, has seen to it that in spite of minor changes, key features of the old regime remain firmly in place. It is highly likely that the “terrorist cell” may prove to be just another one of the over-exaggerated “security” cases. Indeed, most of the five men may be released, as they are friends and acquaintances of one of the detainees, who allegedly confessed that he bought the AK-47 from a known arms dealer in Saudi Arabia. If that happens, experienced observes expect the NSA to continue searching for good cases to justify its existence and the burden it puts on the state purse. They believe the head of the NSA, Sheikh Abdulaziz Atiyatullah al-Khalifa, also needs grounds to justify persistent calls for a new security law to replace the one abrogated by King Hamad when he launched his political reforms process. Until now, the monarch seems either unconvinced, or undecided.
Abdulhadi Khalaf is a Bahraini academic who teaches at the University of Lund, Sweden. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star
Bahrain: Government unwilling to tackle unemployment Justice and security in any country have their manifestation, and so does their absence. The citizens of Bahrain expect a comprehensive approach to the realisation of their rights. Economic rights represent a crucial factor of stability and justice. Economic rights relate to the housing needs, employment, minimum pay and others. It is unfortunate that these elements have been, and still are the major cause of suffering and misery. The absence of a deep rooted strategy to resolve such issues further exacerbate the problem. The actions by the government are short-sighted and incomprehensive. So far, little has been done in regards to the unemployed chemical engineers who have graduated locally and from other international universities. Despite the vacancies in major institutions in the country, these graduate engineers remain on an indefinite waiting list, with little known of what the future holds for them. The persistence of the other unemployed citizens to demonstrate daily in front of the Ministry of Labour is motivated by the apparent reluctance of the government to seriously look into their problems. The present magnitude of the problem of poverty, as caused by high unemployment, low basic pay, sectarian policies in recruitment and promotions and unbalanced expenditure of public money has characterised certain areas of the country with acute poverty and underdevelopment. While these are the remains of the old system, the same polices are being practiced by this government, which give no hope for the removal of the agony. Combating poverty and unemployment requires long term planning and serious policies that consider the citizens the centre of concern. For now, poverty remains a daily companion to many citizens and many areas of Bahrain continue to be deprived of basic services. The government can only prove the contrary to this if it introduces a positive change in its policies of recruitment, expenditure of public money and a fair response to the thousands of unemployed demonstrating daily for their rights. Bahrain Freedom Movement
6 February 2003
The Gulf Cultural Club 45 Chalton Street, London NW1 1HY, Tel/Fax:0207 608 2564 24th anniversary of Islamic Revolution in Iran: Domestic politics and regional role by Dr Saideh Lotfian* and Roger Hardy** 6. 30 pm, Thursday 6 February 2003 Refreshments served from 6.00 pm, dinner at 8.00 pm *Saideh Lotfian is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the University of Tehran. She is currently the Visiting Iranian Fellow at the Middle East Centre, St Antony’s College, Oxford. She is Deputy Director of the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies, and was a former Director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic Research in Tehran. She received her Ph.D. from Michigan State University in political science, and taught at the University of Iowa and Boston University. She is a member of the Pugwash Council for the 2002-2007 Quinquennium. She has written on non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament in ME, security of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, foreign and defense policies of Iran.
** Roger Hardy is Middle East analyst at the BBC. He has undertaken several programmes on Islam and the Middle East.