AUGUST 1992 Home Thought FT Says: Al Kholifa Are Liberal, But Are They? The Financial Times Newspaper calls it “stable, progressive and liberal”, Amnesty Etematimal accused it of “Ee use of prolonged, incommunicado detentions which can facilitate torture and unfair trials of political pnsoners”. The object of these two contradickxry assessments is none but the government of Bahrain. Youcanmakeupyourmind. Here are some cluest Infact, the FT report on Bahrain last month failed miserably to sustain the claims of its headlines Indeed, the Prime Minister, according to the newspaper’s reporter Mr. Roger Matthews, is emphatic he will not try to set the pace forpolitical liberalisation * so, it is not liberal. Is it progressive? No, says the reporter, “on the contrary, the traditional family-onente 1, paternalistic style of national management shows every sign of persisting”. There you are, then, but why?. Is it true that “there is little demand for change?’ Tell this to the scores of political prisoners who faced trials (more like tragic farces) often presided overby judges from the ruling family icy are eager to defend: Tell this to tile families of those who died under torture and maltreatment over the last decade. The survey on Bahrain, carried out by dlis reputable businessman’s newspaper is full of contradictions and mistakes. You will not be blamed if you get cor~. At tames you would think an article is descnbing Sweden, so liberal and SO democratic. In otherer areas, you would imagme that Pol Pot regime of Cambodia is the sllbvt of the analysis. Deere are false allegations 1Z, especially whendesibip e majorib ia MPlim comm*. It cAiis that fir ate of haniitmdesUentN~. Xisnotlmow idid Mr. Matthews get this classification of the Bahraini Shia from. Could it be from government sources? The fact is that, the Shia families have lived in the island for hundreds of years before they were invaded in 1782 by Al Khalifa family. They are either indigenous Arab inhabitants or migrants from Najd, Hijaz and Hajar (eastern province of what is now Saudi Arabia). Wile most Shia families still maintain their links with their relatives on the Arabian side of the Gulf, most of their fellow Sunni Muslims come from Iran. lEis is not a statement of race supremacy but an attempt to establish ahistorical fact. In any case, Al Khalifa ruling family is not duly Caverned with religion or ongin. It s main preoccupation is to cling to power and silence any opposition to its practices of abusing this power. Witness the report of Amnesty Etemational cited above. On page 63 of this 1992 report, it documents the case of Dr. Abdul Latif Al Mahood. An assistant professor at B. ahrain University, Dr. Al Mahxnood is a prominent Sunni scholar. He was arrested on 14~ December 1991 for giving a lecture at Kuwait University on the Futurc Perspectives of fee C;CC. Although he was subsequently released after spending two weeks in jail, and following immensc international pressure, he is now barred Con teaching and preaching. Somehow, he is lucky, by Bahraini standards. Others arc left to mt in sub-human Jails for a long time and are still there. Some liberalism. What is more worrying about diee Financial Hines Survey (14th July 195>2) is their relentless and almost dogmatic attempts to find ex¢usesfortheBahrairu authonty’s failures, blunt violation of human nghts and the lack of any p efinu.Whilethegwlsspi lems are clear facts and figures, the massages implied by the paper are more jumble bumble. lEus, while unemployment is estimated by Western diplomats, as mentioned by Fir, to be rurlliing atup to 20percent, it is claimed by the paper that local people dislike particular forms of employment and private sector jobs! ! Now, we understand why Bahraini graduates wash cars and work as porters at themainmarket in Manama, while foreigners from sixty countries represent more than fifty per cent of the work force. Moreover, one article in the survey states that the “well-trained and British-advised security forces contain the threat”. Everybody in Bahrain knows how these forces contain threats; torture, mass arrests, killing, deportation and all forms of fearful methods. You would think that if they were “British-advised (British-managedmoreprecisely), they would promote freedom of expression and institutionalise opposition. Not Infact, “Bahrain is not tempted to make even modest political experiments”, says one Freudian slip. It is hard to cofnprehend, why would a publication as respectable as the Fmarscial Times goes to 8 great length toiustify a tribal dictatorship like Al Klulifa family. Bahrain is not even rich. out of four pages of sheer drivel, there was only the equivalent of one page of advertisements, unless all the articles are paid for. En that case, we apologsse for Mr. Roger Matthews, and his co-author, Mr. Mark Nicholson. What on earth is wrong with the Wcst? Wherc are the values of freedan, democracy and respect of human rights? One may understand why diplomats and businessmen in the West are protecting their chum in tic Arab world. But, why journalists? ========== Ordeal of Bahroini Nationals in Kuwait In the early hours of Sunday 28i June 1992 a massive “security” operation was launched by members of the Kuwaiti Special Branch in which many Bahraini nationals were seized. The raid was both unprovoked and unwarranted. In all, 15 people were arrested and taken from their homes to the new State Secunty Headquarters. They are; Muhammad Abbas, KhalilIbrahim, HussainAli Hassan,Muhammad Redha Ghuloom, Mansoor Abdul Rasool, Abdulla Ibrahim Al Khal, Muhammad Abdul Redha, Mustafa Ghuloom, Hadi Al Sayyed Abdulla, Abdulla Muhammad Abdulla, Jassim Mansoor Hassan, Sayyed Ali Muhammad Ali, Ibrahim Ali, Abdul Barr Abdul Redha and Saced Ibrahim Al Khal. The arrests were carned out in the most vicious way, during which beating, swearing and other kinds of abuses were used. The night raiders sifted through books, magazines, newspapers, .. .etc. but nothing of a suspicious nature was found. The books found at the house were of a cultural and educational nature But interrogation continued with emphasis on sectarian affiliation and religous beliefs. The tactics employed by the secunty men included beating, swearing and other forms of humiliation. The Bahrairus remembered the ordeal of the Palestinians immediately after the liberation of Kuwait. It is reported that long-term effects of the torture are unavoidable. Apparently, the Interior Mirustry which had failed to do anything substantial prior to the Iraqi invasion two years ago is trying to build up an empire of fear similar to that created by Saddam Hussain in Iraq. This tirne, it chose Bahraini labourers who had come to Kuwait to play a role in reconstructing the country in a spirit of solidarity. The intensive interrogation and the severe torture they had to endure convinced them they had been wrong to come to Kuwait, and to possess innocent motives. Although many Bahrainis do not share their government’s attitudes and policies, it iseems likely that this titne atleast Bahraini expatriates are paying the price of inter-tribal dispute In 1986, Bahraini workcrs and students in Qatar were subjected to similar, though less harsh treatment by Al Thani’s secret service. The group was ordered to leave the country within a week, and their contracts with their employers were terminated. Most of them have now arrived in Bahrain and are recovering from their nightmares in the post-liberation Kuwaiti cells. Tempers are running high in Bahrain and people feel betrayed by the Kuwaiti government, especially the Al Sabah ruling family. They also express dissatisfaction with the lack of reaction from dleir own Al Khalifa regime. No lessons seem to have been learnt from the ordeal of the occupation of Kuwait. That is the sour fact which every national in the Gulf has to swallow.
Back to index