PAGE 2 FEBRUARY I992 VOICE OF BAHRAIN A Tale of Two Men A Chained Bahraini and a British Torturer The case of Dr. Abdul Latif Al Mahmood is still alive and well. Despite the fact that the enormous international pressure on the Bahraini authorities forced them to release l:)r. Al Mahmood on bail, the case itself has caused a furore not only amongst the people but within the ruling family itself. The two weeks of detention at Al Qala prison in Manama have only contributed to make the victim more resolute in his stand. As mentioned above, Dr Abdul Latif Al Mahmood, the lecturer and the head of the Department of Sharia at the Bahrain University, was released on bail (500 Bahraini Dinar, orUS$1200) on 28th December 1991. He was told he would be tried later. The charges against himt as he declared on Friday 3rd January were livery serious”. They included defamation of the Emiri personality, incitement to rebellion and an attempt to overthrow the government. These charges, if proved, could put him in jail for life. He laughed as he iterated these charges to his audience who gathered forthe Friday prayers at the mosque of which he had been the Imam. Since his release, Dr. Al Mahmood has been prevented from heading the prayers at the mosque or delivering a sermon or a lecture. But he had the collrage to defy the authorities and address the worshippers aRer the prayers and inform them of his ordeal. He was proud of it and expressed no remorse. Indeed he stood by the contents of his speech which he had delivered in Kuwait three week earlier and repeated his determination to repeat what he had written and said if the opportunity arose again. While awaiting the atrialn patiently Dr. Al Mahmood was tipped off that it would be left hanging in the air to act as a deterrent to him snot to get involved in politics again”. But Dr. Al Mahmood has another plan of his own. If they do not take him to court, he will! He is considering the matter seriously and is likely to try to inflict as much injury to the pride of the Al Khalifa as possible. Perhaps the extent of the international support he had received has made him even more steadfast. Perhaps Dr. Al Mahmood has come to the conclusion that the status quo must not be allowed to prevail forever, and that the foolish act of his arrest must become the turning point in the relations with the regime. Whatever the reasons are, it is clear that the arrest of Dr. Al Mahmood has done nothing to promote the cause of the Al Khalifa family. It is reported that a major row had erupted in their circles in the aftermath of their debacle and one leading Al Khalifa figure was quoted saying to his colleagues at the Council of the Tribes: You have made him a hero. Perhaps he was light. Perhaps if they did not resort to their oppressive tools this time, the whole affair, including his speech in Kuwait, would have been forgotten. The British Offilcer, Mr Ian Henderson is again at the centre of the episode. He master minded the operation that failed drastically. This was not the first time and will not be the last. Less than two years earlier he had attempted a dangerous play which also failed. He had misled the British Security Service by giving them false information on Bahraini opponents in Britain. Three were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act” and after four days of intensive interrogation released without being charged. The three Bahraini intellectuals were found innocent and received sympathy with their just cause from every corner ofthe world. Mr Henderson was left biting his fingers. His doctrine which is based on pre-emptive strikes against opponents with utmost ferocity does not always work. It has worked against hundreds of defeneeless Bahrainis, but when a person like Dr Abdul Latif Al Mahmood is targeted the matter is entirely different. Mr Henderson zenjoyed” the company of Dr. Al Mahmood and kept him in cells for two weeks He bombarded him with tens of questions, perhaps hundreds . It is now known that eleven of these questions were sent to the Emir and the Prime Minister for approval so as not to keep them out of the blame. Dr. Al Mahmood at one stage gave himself the liberty to ask the Scotsman (Henderson) whether he could freely say at Hyde Park what he had said in Kuwait, and if this is the cases why was he interned for his opinion. He was asked whether he was ready to be governed by the Shias (a hypothetical case raised to saw dissension amongst the Bahraini people). Dr. Al Mahmood refused to be drawn to sectarian matters and affirmed that Quran was a unifying force among Muslims. During his detention, Dr. Al Mahmood’s family was approached by agents of the government and told to request a pardon from the Emir, a suggestion flatly rejected by the whole family. Today, two months after the episode, the case is still pending. Dr Al Mahmood is neither guilty, no innocent. His release on bail was not the end of the matter. He attends Bahrain’s University of which he is a senior lecturer and the head of one of its faculties, but he is not allowed to see his students, talk to them, or even give then tuition. He cannot leave the country and is not allowed to lead prayers. His case, however, is not unique in Bahraini society. Many citizens are in a similarsituation, and someofthem havebeen like this for over a decade. The Al Khalifa family has successfully managed to keep a tight lid on events in Bahrain and little is known about events in this Gulf island. Dr. Al Mahmood’s case gained prominence because it took place partly in Kuwait and because the overall situation nowadays is different. The treatment by the government of the people who express their opinion is unique and indicative ofthe extent of repression and suppression in the island. Once again the two main actors are; a Bahraini in chains and a British Officer armed with all tools of repression and torture SHAME ON YOU: The 14 Day Ordeal of a Bahraini in a Kuwaiti cell Oh 25 Janualy 1;992, a Bahraini national was arrested at the Dwaiti border post of Nuwaisi:b. Mr Eamza Hassn Al Ghannami, who was on his way to K it looking for ajob had been impnsonedbythe Bahraini authonties in Wst 19* with a number of youths who were subsequently i told. His wife was also interrogated by the Bahraei Special branch. He spelff twenty monthss in prison before being acquitted by the State Security Court in Math 1990. Since then he has been unable to find employment as the Speclal Branch prevents employers from recruiting ex-politieal prisoners However, as the government was pressed for international human rights organisations, some ex-political prisoners were able to retrieve their passports last September. Re spondilzg to calls from both the Bahraini and EuwaRi governments} Mr Hasan joined the thousands of youths wit decided to move to Kuwait seeking low-rate employment. On 25Januarythe Kuwaiti cusXmoffic~ ers asked him to prove that he was not the same person designated by the computer as a awanteR man. Mter four hours dquestioning he was taken to the Passports Directorate at Shuwaik. There, he was informedthathe was under arrest for zState Security” offencesl He was subsequently taken to the State Securer Centre. There, he was blindfolded At thetime when the Kuwait Purities l screamEabout the atrocities committed w l Wham Hussein, they themselves are coIn; witting indecent assaults on imtent citizens ManotherGfilfoountty. We deMitelysympa~ l ffiise with the families of the Edwaiti pnsoners of war and call upon X international community to exert pressure on Iraq for their release But the Kuwaiti government must not be allowed to get away with similar acts of oppression.
FEBRUARY I992 VOICE OF BAHRAIN PADP.9 A Brief Taste of Democracy The story of Bahrain’s National Assembly By the end of the sixties Britain decided to pull-out all its forces from the East of Suez, which included the Gulf region. The dilemma in the Gulf emerged as it became apparent that the created small states (Bahrain, Qatar and the sevenemirates comprisingthe present U.A.E) cannot be transferred to stand-alone entities. The British proposal of unifying the nine ruling families didn’t see the light, as the animosity between the Al-Khalifa ruling family (of Bahrain) and Al-Thani ruling family (of Qatar) couldn’t be settled. The Al-Khalifa family faced two problems, relating to external and internal security. Bahrain, as a small state with negligible defence forces, cannot defend the country against ambitious expansionist forces, such as the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia and the Shah of Iran. On the defence question, the Al-Khalifa were happy to transfer the Jufair naval base from Britain to the United States, and grant the Pentagon a free access to Bahrain’s territories. Politically, Britain and the United States used their influence on the Shah to retract his claim for the Fourteenth Province of Iran (meaning Bahrain). A face-saving exercise was implemented, whereby the United Nations sent an envoy to report the wishes of the Bahraini people. This U.N. action slightly cornered the Al-Khalifa family, who felt that the internal situation is unstable because of dissatisfaction of the public and because the national movement has been active for forty years demanding popular participation. The present ruler, Essa bin Salman AlKhalifa, paid a visit to the holy city of Najaf in Iraq and met the then world-leading figure for the Shia Muslims, Ayatullah Sayyid Muhsin Al-Hakim and requested him to appeal to the Bahraini Shia (some 709to of the population) to express their wishes in favour ofthe Al-Khalifa ruling family. In return, the under-dog treatment of the Shia would end and the Al-Khalifa would not attempt to prevent the Shia from practicing their rituals (as the Saudis may wish). During the visit, the ruler offered a gesture by allowing those religious scholars (such as Sayyid A!i KamalU-Din), who had participated in leading the national movement in the fifties to return to Bahrain. The UN envoy visited Bahrain in May 1970 and toured the countly meeting senior personalities, clubs members and others discussing with them the desired political identity of Bahrain. His report concluded that the Overwhelming majority ofthe people of Bahrain prefer an independent state”. The A1halifa considered the conclusion as a rubber stamp of their rule. The national movement was intensifying its activities and the intelligentsia would settle down for no less than a parliament. The ruling family was divided between two wings . The first was against any form of popular participation, and considered these ideas as a threat to the prestige and sovereignty of the ruling family. The maximum Concession” this wine would accent was a constitution written by a selected number of people. This wing was led by the eldest brother ofthe ruler, who has sincebeenthePrimeMinister, Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa. The other point of view was put forward by the present Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa, who realised that it was best to offer a certain amount of popular participation ratherthan having it imposed on the ruling family, and therefore losing prestige. The mingling of the two sides and the continued popular pressure resulted in the announcement of the establishment of a Constituent Assembly, half elected and half appointed by the ruler, to offer advice on a constitution document drafted by the rifling family. After one year of deliberations the constitution (basically a modified copy of the Kuwaiti constitution) was issued. The constitution called for, amongst others, the establishment of a National Assembly comprising of 30 elected people and some fourteen appointed ministers. In both the first and second assemblies four tendencies emerged, which latter formed themselves into blocs: the Religious (Islamic) Bloc, the People (Leftist) Bloc, the Independent (Centre) Bloc and the Government (ministers) Bloc. In the National Assembly, the first two comprised of nine and eight people consequently who constituted the opposition to the Government, while the independent Bloc comprising of the remaining thirteen members were not coherent in their policies. The first year of the National Assembly (1973-74) was spent in getting to know each other and the ways of lobbying and formulating policies. The Government headed by Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa adopted an adversary attitude towards the MPs and attempted to limit their powers to an advisory Students demonstrations were frequently held to protest against the policies of the Education Ministry. Labour strikes in the Aluminium smelter and other sectors of the industry continued to press for higher salaries in line with inflation, improved working conditions and the right of labour to organise their affairs through unions, as agranted” by the constitution. Mass gatherings were held every where, and debates were conducted on all issues of importance to the people. At the same time the Special Branch was busy monitoring, arresting and interrogating activists (mainly workers). Towards the end of 1974 the MPs moved the debates in the parliament to the core of problems and began questioning issues such as the budget, the financial allocations of the ruling family, the foreign military presence, the ill-treatment of political prisoners, the dominance of British of firers in the sensitive positions of the Public Security department and so forth. In October 1974, while these debates were taking place, the ruler issued a aDecree Law on State Security Measuresw permitting administrative detention by order ofthe Interior Minister for up to three years (renewable) of any person suspected of involvement in activities judged by the Minister as a threat to the internal or external security of the state. Any person held by these provisions has no right of appeal and may not be informed of the evidence against him. The decree also grants the Interior Ministry officials (mainly the British-led Special Branch) unlimited powers in the ways of arrest and interrogation, thus paving the way for a wide use of all kinds of psychological and physical torture (including indecent acts). The people of Bahrain were stunned by the publication of such a law, and the MPs found themselves by-passed and patronised. This environment resulted in an unexpected unity between the two opposition blocs, who were later joined by the independent Bloc in demanding the revocation of the law. By mid 1975 the clashes between all the elected MPB and the Government intensified and the ruling family failed to drive a wedge between the various MPs . The Prime Minister found a golden opportunity to bring the parliament to an end, by ordering his ministers not to attend the sessions. The parliament was therefore paralysed as it couldn’t hold the session without a quorum. On 24 August 1975, the Prime Minister resigned in protest against the MPs, claiming that the parliamentarians hindered the work ofthe government and the experiment proved to be a waste of time. The following day his brothers the ruler, issued a decree dissolving the parliament and suspending two articles in the constitution which called for an election after two months of termination On 25 August 1975, Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa emerged triumphant, and was asked by his brother to reinstall the same government and take all the responsibilities of the legislature until further notice. Seventeen years ons Khalifa’s dominance continues.
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