Bahrain: Human Rights Violations Continue The authorities in the Gulf State of Bahrain have announced this week that 64 dissidents would be allowed to return home from exile. Thisl the authorities claim, followed a “plea” for amnesty made by their families. As a result, the ruler issued his second decree in two months pardoning some exiles who had “violated” the State Security and Passport & Immigration laws. Those who return must then sign a declaration not to Criticize or “meddle” in politics again. Last April the authorities announced that it permitted 57 dissidents to return, although no names or substantiation were presented. Many of those who returned were issued with new passports, interrogated, asked to sign statements and then ordered to travel to neighbouring countries until their families complete submission of pleas to the Interior MinistryP The Bahraini authorities are beginning to realise the damage caused to their reputation and image by continuation of human rights violation. However, the ill-defined “pardons” and release of random figures fall short of serious political reforms. The real issues at stake are absence of any form of popular participation in the country’s political life and the oppressive domination of British-officered security apparatus over all major and minor issues. Human rights violations are a result of the powers granted to the Interior Ministry by the State Security Law which cites a long list of Offenses that are actually basic rights enjoyed by citizens living in democratic societies, such as freedom of expression. In Bahrain, there are no legal political parties or groupings, no freedom of expression, and above all, no elected legislative or executive bodies. Ever since the dissolution of the last and only National Assembly in August 1975, the 1973 Constitution has been violated by Amiri (Royal) decrees and paranoid security crack-downs. For eighteen years the citizens of Bahrain have been subjected to a reign of terror. Mass arrests, torture and expulsion of opposition figures continued undeterred by persistent protestation from opposition and international human rights Organizations. Therefore, while the latest announcement seems to be a step in the right direction, it has by no means addressed the fundamental issues cited above. The government can demonstrate any good intentions it may foster behind this move by more serious actions in the following areas: 1. Releasing all prisoners of conscience, whose cases are documented by Amnesty International and other human rights Organizations. 2. Repealing the notorious State Security Law which had led to the dissolution of the parliament in 1974. 3. Reactivating the 1973 Constitution in full without any delay. 4. Announcing a date for a free and dissolved National Assembly. election to return the 5. Allowing an unconditional return to the country of all political exiles. It is only then that the people of Bahrain can have faith in the sincerity and seriousness of the ruling family in relinquishing their iron grip over the country’s affair. Bahrain Freedom Movement 10 June 1992
Bharain’s Ecocomy: Unemployment – Part4 – Many people are out of jobs and the prospects are not good enough. The unemployment figures are classified information. In the recent past, Bahrain initiated steps to update information on a voluntary basis, by requesting the unemployed to register their names with the Unemployed Registering Office belonging to the Ministry of Labour and social Affairs. During the 1970s, Bahrain was suffering from inflation. Since inflation is the worst thing in any economy because it affects all and illustrates government incompetence, then the authorities targeted inflation and this helped cause high unemploymenL Confidential Governmental records estimate unemployment figure at 299e of the national labour force. Out of this figure some 1490 engage themselves invery low grades of labour, such as washing cars, marketporters, etc.. The decline in the GDP and the closing of many banks in particular have increased the number of people outof jobs. All told, Bahrain is ranked the first in the world in terms of lowest population in labour force, 26.6% in the period 198487 (versus 59.3% for China, 5090 for both the U.S and the U .K, 36.890 forIndia and 31.6% for Egypt). The age distribution adds salt to the injury. Bahrain has a very young population. Some 35.1% ofthepopulation isbelow fifteen-yearsold. Today more than 2090 of people are at schools. The nation must find jobs for the graduates. Realizing ices inability for solving the problem, the regime has turned to the private sector, using the trend of the crucial role of the private initiative (this is far from belief). The government’s officials are sparing no time to applaud Al Khalifa’s sudden love with privatisation and how is the country adapting to the changes in the world. The private sector is under pressure to employ more domestic employees. However, the Al Khalifa and those closet to them (and those who pay and entertain the influential figures are barred from the ordinance). Most companies preferemploying expatriates mainly from Asia because they are relatively cheap (and obedient) and this helps in the competitiveness, The protracted recession, high operating costs (partly blamed on the high utilities and telephone charges) and stringent profitability have been detrimental to hiring or investing in national man power. Recent findings are disappointing. The regime has commissioned the accounting and management consultant firm KMPG Fakhroo to study the employment case. The report concluded that drive to raise the proportion of Bahrainis in the private sector was unsuccessful as the number of national employees in 1991 was the same as in 1986. The account charged the wide disparity in wages for the discouraging findings. To illustrate, the average monthly salary for a Bahraini is US $1,048 compared to $330 for an Asian expatriate. Moreover, the report was critical of the government’s push for further Bahrainisation on the grounds that already many attractions for foreign firms to work in Bahrain continue disappearing and that the coercion is making life more difficult for these companies. It makes sense to a good extent since Bahrain is in need of these concerns. Thus, while being in need, the government cannot impose restrictions simultaneously. The Al Khalifa apply pressure on many private sector employers partly to dampen the growing domestic disenchantment, thus depicting the regime as a champion and blaming the companies but not the failed ruling family policies (or better lack of planning) for the steep unemployment. Even the Emir is engaged in promotion. The government is so desperate to entice foreign firms to operate in Bahrain that the Emir devoted a good portion of his long trip to the U.S and then to Japan, marketing Bahrain as an ideal source for business in the region (using the themes that Manama is a the natural base for countries desiring to do business with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the giant market of Iran). May be the Emir has learnt of the planned theme of George Bush’s visit to Japan forbeing a seller. Female employees make matters worse. Among the Gulf nations Bahrain stands out as having the highest women labour participation. Based on official statistics, in 1989, females constituted some 13.8% of the total labour force but 19.3% among the Bahraini labourforce. The Al Khalifa take pride of this fact in international sectors especially the UN’s social indicators. Certainly, females have the full right to work. After all, they must utilize their learned skills to the benefit of the economy. The real problem lies in the regime’s inability to have enough jobs for both sexes . Still, in B ahrain, the man is responsible for feeding the faxnily aside from building the house, etc. The age distribution is the alarming signal. As of 1989, 35.190 of the total population were classified as below 14, the necessary age to be included in the labour force. Most of the unemployed fall in the 15-24 category who make 15.790 of the inhabitants. With unemployment already dangerously high, one wonders of the future awaiting the new entrants to the labour force. Only a small portion of the 1970s and 1 980s baby boom have entered the labour force, the majority are yet to do so. The bulk of the youth and young are Bahrainis because the majority of the foreigners are males in their 2544 of age (both the B ahraini government for fear or worsening employment situation and the Asian governments for hard currency purposes discourage the expatriates from having their families with them in Bahrain). Bahrain has more than enough expatriates. Foreigners represent 3290 of the population but 5690 of the labour force. Other Gulf states, notably Qatar (839e), the U.A.E (over 9090) and Saudi Arabia (72%) expatriate participation in the labour force, but those countries, unlike Bahrain, have supply problems. Educated and experienced expatriates will always be needed. ~ ,wever, the semi-skilled expatriate workers w. currently competing with domestic job seek . Bahrainis are ready to work in motor filling tations, washing cars, etc.. but nationals from k e other GCC member states consider these as nferior jobs that suit people from the sub ltinent and other South East As ian countries . > offense is meant to the occupations and ople of low-income countries, but this is the titude of many residents in the Gulf. There is httle social backlash against the expatriates aspite the fact that many nationals are out of ork because of competition. Certainly, ahraini people are unique in this behaviour. however, people with positions of authority have developed a new phenomenon The free sa. This is a form of document that allows foreigner, with specific skills, especially those rom the sub-continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) to arrive in the country and engage in any kind of occupation including “house maids ” . The “sponsor” demands that he gets paid by the xpatriate, the holder of a free visa, up to $500 every three months or so. The sponsor does not care how the free visa person earned his funds. Greed and desire to make money in the easiest ay possible are the reasons behind the spread of this inhumane concept. For one thing, this is creating pressure for jobs; for another, this is a form of modern slavery. Bahrain has a 65% to 70% Shia Muslims population. Enter job discrimination is based on belief. The government partly revealed its disapproval of the Shia majority through its job policies. Most of the unemployed today are Shia. Still, the government badly needs the Shia’s full domestic support for economic development in addition to the dispute with Qatar. The unemployment cond i ti on i s s o compl e x and emotional that the local newspapers do not even mention the unemployment situation in other countries fearing public ridicule. One receives congratulation on finding a job nowadays in Bahrain. Salaries are declining while cost of living is on the rise. Lacking other alternatives, people accept any compensation in order to live and feed the dependents. There are cases of some working for free so as to get “experience” the buzz word, to find suitable occupation at a
later date. The unemployment situation is an indication of Al Khalifa’s inability to efficiently rule such a small country. The people are not told of the acute problems facing the country. Still, people are asked to continuously appreciate the Emir, his brother the Prime Minister and his son the Crown Prince. All such problems exist while the country is producing crude oil. All indications suggest thatBahrain will be running outofoil within 10 years if not by the tum of the century. Then what will happen. Well the Al Khalifa have secured their income partly by owning many business. Basedon the status quo,Bahrainis will undergo an ordeal before long, much harsher than the current experiences of the Russians and other former communist bloc countries.
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