ISSUE NO: 10 OCTOBER 1992 Unconstitutional “Reforms” Are Underway In what seems to be a calculated leak to the Arabic London-based financial daily (Al Aalarn Al Yourn) of 28 August, some goverrunent sources spoke of a royal decree being finalised to pave the way for an appointed national assembly. This was followed by press reports that on 17 September Saudi Arabia appointed an exmiluster (Mohamrned bin Ibrahirn bin Jbair) to head a power-less Shura Council for advising the King. Reports have circulated coming of contacts made by the prime minister with some personalities like Mr. Jasim Murad (who had been an MP in the previous parliament). These were aimed at convincing some quarters of the necessity of joining an appointed assembly. It has also been indicated that the prime minister was keen to gain the support of some figures whom the people have respect by the people. In any case, the government will be cornered. If no announcement is made, then Al Khalifa will have a far worse record than the present one, when even the backward Saudis have announced their appointedcouncil. If sanething less than an elected parliament is proposed then there is the task of convincing the public that this is a genuine body. Bahrain is facing a bleak future both economically and politically. Oil is expected to dry out around the year 2003 * Until then the government must find an alternative to this source which amounts to more than 60to of the total budget If the Al Khalifa dare to explore the oilrich islands of Hawar, the Qataris will react with the use of force. The latter know the weakness of Al Khalifa and how unpopular they are with people of Bahrain. This is why the Al Khalifa have been refraining from mobilising the public in the armed forces for fear of an armed upnsing. Instead they have been granting Bahraini citizenships (in mass scale) to foreign soldiers. However, money cannot guarantee loyalty when it comes to matters of life and death. The government has failed to create a viable and dynamic economic base in the light of vicious competition from other Gulf states, especially the Dubai free zone. Taxing the income of people will not be feasible. The people have long been left on the margin and feel alienated from a tribe which monopolised power and wealth and resorted to all means of suppression to quill opposition. Above all the problem lies with concept of “state” advocated by the tribal govemment. State is effectively defined in a tribal way. The head of the tnbe is the boss. If you want something from his majesty all you have to do is to plead and ask for his generosity, mercy and kindness. His open majlis (i.e. court) is perceived to solve every major and minor problem. The Amir is allocated half a million dinar ($1.3 million) everymonth from the budget to finance his gifts, gratitudes etc.. All youhave to do is to show your allegiance and a tiny portion of this may endup inyourpockeL If youdon’tlike this way of governing and if you are seeking a more civilised way of running a state, then the royal family has prepared for you prisons. Interrogation and torture is of high standard with British advisers and managers. As the 21st century approaches, Bahrain is going backward. The opposition is more enlightened and detenTIined to stand against dictatorship. The Al Khalifa, we believe, will find themselves losing their fight against global, regional and local waves of change towards democracy and free society.
PAGE 2 VOICE OF BAHRAIN OCTOBER 1992 Beheaded for Being A Shia Mr. Sadeq Abdul Karim Malallah, 25, was an aspinng young man living in the town of Qatif in the Eastem Province of Saudi Arabia. Last month he w as no long er there. His headless corpse was left for several hours in the town for the public to see it to draw the proper lesson. The head was two metres away and was staring at the sky. The martyr was accused by a Wahhabi court of swearing at God and his Messenger, a capital offense in the Islamic Law. He was thus condemned to death by sword. The circumstances of the incident are nevertheless different. It is known that the victim had been opposing the Saudiregime for many years and had been jailed in 1986. One year later he was released but continued to be harrassed. The fact is that Stir. Malallahwas a ShiaMuslim opposing the tribal Saudi regime. He was condemned to death on both accounts. In a society which is in the grip of a totalitarian regime such as the Saudi one, fact is always the victim, and Malallah, is yet another victim in the Wahhabi-run Arabian peninsula. Cleared After 80 Months in Jail The Stor,r of Hussein Nejadi, the Banker For the first time in seven and a half years, a man in his early fifties, set foot outside the doors of the notorious Jao Prison in Bahrain. Mr. Hussain Nejadi finally won the day and joined his family after a change of heart in the Palace of Rafa’ a. For almost eighty months the man had to endure the solitude of his cell not knowing his crime. WhatMr. Nejadiknowsis thathchadbeen the chairman of the Arab-Asain Bank when the Ministry of the Interior, Sheikh Mohammad Al Khalifa ordered his detention on 23rd Apnl 1985. Despite his pleas of innocence, he remained a hostage and would not be released. His family won areprieve twice during the first few months, but the decision to jail the man was not a legal one; it was political. Nejadi was the chairman. The loan was to fund a building project which included the constluction of the building which was to house the Bank later, and which is known as the “Diplomatic Tower”. The AAB was established in 1975 with the help of Mr. Nejadi. When the time came for the Minister to start paying back, he asked for a rescheduling of the loans. The management proposed several ways to settle the problem, among which a shared ownership of the tower, but he refused. Instead, he suggested paying only part of the original suxn and without any interest. On 3rdApril 1985 theBoardofDirectorsof the Bank convened a lengthy meeting which went on until 2.00 amen but were unable to reach Un-Royal Marriage The Tribal Rule is: Outsiders Are Not Welcome in Al Kholifa Circles An interesting story has recently leaked to the public in Bahrain. It is a love story in a sense and would have attracted the interest of the tabloid press in the West. It may be as interesting as the stories of the affairs of some members of the British royal family or those of Bill Clinton, the presidential candidate of the United States. One of the daughters of the Emir of Bahrain fell in love with one of the stewards of the palace And in ordcr not to extend the relationship further, and to avoid illigitimate pregnancy, the steward went to the Emir asking for the hand of his daughter. The reaction of the Emir was hysterical. He immediately convened a meeting for the Al Khalifa Council (which includes senior members of the ruling family) to discuss the issue. The verdict was that any Al Khalifa member cannot marry a non-Al Khalifa. One attendant told the Emir that an artist called Wahid Khan, had married a female from the ruling family. The Emir became angry, demanded Mr. Khan and his espouse and asked them to divorce. The couple refused to obey the order, and the Emir asked them tat leave the sountry and not to come back until they have divorced each other. The couple is now in exile. They must be wondering why on earth shouod this unholy tradition be kept in place in the twentieuh century. According to the news of his release leaked to the press which published it on 22nd September 1992, Mr. Nejadi” was cleared by the Supreme Courtofthelast charge levelled against him”. However, the charge was not specified but is assumed to be related to the one mentioned in his 10-minute appearance infront of the Bahraini Court on 14thOctober 1985. That court followed the earlier two trials which had cleared Mr. Nejadi of any financial misconduct. Having failed to justify his continued detention, the Ministry of the Interior set up a new charge against Mr. Nej adi claiming he had embezzled the bank of US$ 2 million, something he had denied thoughouthis ordeal. In the brief court appearance the prosecution, whose members were from the Security Service, claimed the defendant had defrauded the Bank of the said amount but produced no evidence. That claim had never been mentioned in the original lawsuit in the earlier trials. It took the Interior Ministry almost six months to prepare its claim, an then it took the Bahraini courts seven more years to prove the innocence of the man. But what did really happen that could have landed Mr. Nejadi in such a serious trouble? The story goes back few years back when the Minister of the Intenor borrowed money from the Arab-AsianBank (AAB) of which Mr. a conclusion. Mr. Nej adi had booked on a flight overseas on a business trip. His passport was confiscated iirunediately after the meeting and he could not make the trip. Here the “theMiddle EastFinancial Group” of Luxemburg which is owned by the Bin Mahfood Family was asked to “salvage” the AAB. After deliberating the matter, the Group turned down the deal, but after pressures from the government, the Group agreed to buy the business for US$ 70 million. Following this arrangement, Mr. Nejadi resigned from his post. He was replaced by the Manager of the “Bahraini Company” which is a subsidiary of the National Commercial Barlk which is owned by the Bin Mahfood family. On23rd April 1985 Mr. Nejadi was arrested. The Bahrain Monetary Agency managed to get hold of the private papers of Mr. Nejadi whcih included papers rclating to Swiss companies in his ownership from his solicitor in Switzeralnd. The Agency also sent some of its lawyers to the offices of London-based company, among which was one kno vn as “High Tec” which are linked to Mr. Nejadi. Seven and a half years later, Mr. Nejadi is a free man having been cleared of all charges set up against him simply because he had refused the request of the Interior Minister to write off his debts to the Arab-Asian Barlk.
OCTOBER 1992 VOICE OF BAHRAIN parer x home thought The Art of Marching Backward Rwnours have it that Al Khalifa family is apparently thinking of introducing some public participation in the country. Don’t hold your breath very long. They have not been transformedinto democrats. Farfrom it. there are no Rafsanjanis, or Gorbacheves in Bahrain. If the rumours, published in an obscure newspaper called “Al Aalam Al Youm” or The World Today, are confinned. then the ruling family are practicing one of their favourite hobbies: marw ching backward. You would expect, in a country which had ti had an elected National Assembly some two decades ago, the next step forward would be giving such an assembly a new life line and expanding its role. Instead, what is prophessed is an appointed council, or a few dozens of unelected goverrunent employees trying k} ate a false atmosphere of openness. The Gulf is full of similar misscouraged institutions. Qatarhas avery ineffective assem bly, its members are chosen by the ruler every fouryears. Thus, members tow the government line. Otherwise, there is no come back. They draw high salaries and other privileges, use their official contacts to advance their own commercial interests, and provide the govem mentwith a fig leafoflegitemacy (mindyou,the Qatari rulers require a fig tree to provide some concealrnent). When some Qatari nationals demanded more openness and democratic prac tices they were rounded up and harrassed. Some were even threatened with arrest. Down, in the United Arab Emirates, they also “enjoy” a life with this great farm of democracy? The point about these “Shoura Councils” or whatever they are named from time to time, is that they ridicule the rulers and insult the intelligence of the people By appointing their members, the Gulf ruling families are bluntly saying to the people that they are not capable of electing their representatives in these councils and that foreign advisers are more aware of people’s needs than the people’s themselves, and that they have more right to shape this generous provers than the whole of the nation. Back to the “democratic” coup in Bahrain.
Why now? Yw win no prizes for guessing. Since August 1975, when the Emir dissolved the elected National Assembly, the country has been ruled by his decrees. The wealth of the Island has been squandered. The budget deficit is mounting every year, while the ruling family goes on in a craze of extravagant spending. Not on social services or on investment but mainly on personal and security matters, and on polish ing their image. Meanwhile their standing is getting weaker every day, both inside and out side the country. This inturn tarnishes their irnage, which needs money to repolish, and soon, a vicious circle.
This is parallelled with an iron fist policy cornmandered by Colonel Ian Hunderson and the P.M. Khalifa bin Salman. It continues to be repressive as ever, arrestmg and tortunng oppunents of the regime. This has ensured Bahrain a permanent and ever expanding space in the annual reports of Amnesty International, and oftenhumannBhtorganisations. Moreover, the United Nations Committee for Human Rights (UNCHR) is keeping Bahrain under observation for 1w2, to monitor government’s practices. An easy task, no doubt, since it is almost verv fanliliar. On the other hand, the government relauons with its neighbours and partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council have been deteriorating, especially in the last two years. Before the second Gulf War, many schools and hospitals, for example, were being built by Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. allowing the Bahrain govexTunent to spend more on security. Now the two Emirates have closed the tap. Moreover, Kuwait has been channelling most of its reconstruction projects, through Dubai, rather than through Bahrain as they had promised to do so. This prompted the infamous pro-Saddam noises made by Khalifa bin Salman. In the mean time, U.A.E with Dubai spearheading total economic and legal liberalization, is starving Bahrain of foreign investment.As with Qatar, relations remain as nasty as it has always been. AL Thani of Qatar lays a claim on some islands and sea reefs and are conducting an arms race, which Bahrain can’t possibly afford.
With this background in mind, disastrous failures of internal and external policies, the new rumour is not surprising. But it is pathetic. Surely the government knows that not many Bahrainis would take an appointed council seriously . B ahrainis are not envious of Qatan or Omani, let alone Saudi Arabian style of govemment. Indeed, very few people elsewhere are. But they witness with some envy the situation in Kuwait. Therefore, the minimum dema