Bahrain: The future?

Following a recent healthy discussion online about the current situation in Bahrain and the various ways for the country to move forward I would like to take some time out from my blog of memories to raise a few hypothetical points.

The recent discussion was primarily between a group of non-Bahrainis who are extremely frustrated and exasperated at the seemingly hopeless situation in the country right now. Every night we see messages online of villages being teargassed, we hear of citizens still being abducted and arrested, testimonies of torture despite the promise of a “zero tolerance”, more lies tweeted by the Ministry of Interior accusing the protesters of the crimes that evidence shows the security forces guilty of committing. While our hearts go out to the oppressed and persecuted families from afar we wondered what solution could be found to end this madness.

One excellent and totally accurate opinion was recently put forward by Frankie Dolan here. She very correctly states that the current Prime Minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, is the main stumbling block on the road to a solution and that he should be sacked. I could not agree more.

Our group discussion revolved around the question of “what then”? If (and believe me, the idea of Bahrain without the Prime Minister is a massive IF) this was to happen, would it be the end of all the problems in Bahrain? Let’s no forget that the main plank of the protesters wishes is for a democratic system of government, where they can finally have some say in the running of their country. Yes, there are the famous calls for Down Down, Hamad as well as a strong desire for the end of the Khalifa regime but the simple question remains: would the exit of the Prime Minister automatically bring democracy to Bahrain? No, of course it wouldn’t.

Perhaps one of the most shocking observations that I witnessed when I was in Bahrain was the revelation of the real way the government (and therefore its band of loyalists) saw the protesters, a view that left me totally disgusted. They are not seen as merely the opposition as in Labour versus Conservative or Republican versus Democrat. The protesters were and are still seen as the enemy of Bahrain, a threat to its very existence and, in many circles, they are seen as foreigners who want to ultimately destroy the country by handing it over to another one. But even worse than that is the obvious feeling that their religious affiliation is also a threat to Bahrain. We hear that the foreign security forces call the protesters “filthy Shia” – where does this come from and what does it have to do with their protests? Well, quite simply, if the government (i.e the Khalifa family) say that Iran is behind the protests and Iran is fundamentally a Shia nation, then, by association, the mainly Shia protesters are the enemies of the State. A perfect example of this attitude was revealed when the Shia mosques were unlawfully demolished by the Khalifas. Why? Not because they were built without permits or were unsafe, etc – they were demolished because they were symbols of the imaginary enemy lurking across the Persian Gulf.

So my question is this: does anyone truly believe that the exit of the Prime Minister will herald the sudden willingness of the remaining Khalifas to hold fair elections for all and, since the protesters represent 70% of the population, a new government consisting of Shia members? The removal/retirement/exile of the Prime Minister could see an end to the tortue, the teargassing, the arrests, etc but is the descrimination against the Shia people of Bahrain all down to one man? With him gone would the remaining Khalifas suddenly see the Shia population in the same way they see their group of loyal supporters? Assuming the King was free to be a true King for the first time in his life (without his allegedly overbearing and hardline uncle looking over his shoulder) does one honestly believe that he would allow the “filthy Shia” even the remotest possibility of forming a government amongst themselves?

I must admit that I am depressed by the thought of exactly how the democracy-seeking protesters will ever have any political freedom in Bahrain. Once again, if the Prime Minister was gone (and hopefully the cruelty ceased) who would fill his vacant position? Would one of the Prime Minister’s hardline supporters force his way in there? Would the King have the fortitude to appoint a more moderate family member from the large list already within the government? Would he promote one of his own sons to the position? All this is, of course, pure speculation but the overwhelming point is that none of it will produce a true democracy.

There has also been talk of a constitutional monarchy being formed. The King’s role could become a purely ceremonial one, representing the country, receiving foreign dignitaries, sending and receiving cables, etc and having no role in the decision-making process. Personally, I think King Hamad would be relieved to have this role and to continue leaving the decisions of state to be made by others. But what of the other Khalifas? Would they be happy to relinquish their positions within the government so they could be voted out and replaced by the “filthy Shia”. Of course not.

So what is the solution? I am no expert, just a humble English teacher, but I cannot see democracy in Bahrain being simply handed to the protesters on a plate. Bahrain is a family-run business. Anyone involved in this business swears allegiance to the family, not to the country. The protesters (the “filthy Shia”) are, ironically, true patriots, whereas the Khalifa loyalists are merely a group of nationalists. Sydney Harris put it beautifully when he said, “The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.” The Khalifa family business and its loyal shareholders will always resist any form of takeover. Merely replacing or shuffling some of its Board of Directors, however corrupt they may be, will not bring it down. The solution, to me, seems to be in finding an effective way to take it completely out of business. Down Down, Hamad all the way.

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13 comments on “Bahrain: The future?
  1. monther majed says:

    Man you so screwed up, you donโ€™t know anything about Bahrain and what’s happening here, all what wrote is exactly what you so call them opposition is saying and using as an excuse to create a puppet government for the Iranian regime in Bahrain, get back to earth and see the truth, the government said Iran behind what is happening in Bahrain, well let me explain one thing to you, when you see people marching carrying the pictures of Iran leaders and Hezbollah leaders, what do you call that? I advise you, you either find the real truth or shut the hell up.

    • I hope everyone who reads my post also has a look at “monther majed”‘s comment. Do I need to say any more? “You don’t know the real story of Bahrain”, “They are working for Iran” and finally “Shut up and go away”. He’s used all of their pathetic arguments in one post.

      • Isa says:

        truly , you don’t need to say anymore.
        It is a useless debate. Some pro-government are brainwashed. Hurray down down Hamad all the way. Thank you for your support ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • burashidwarior says:

      am with u brother ๐Ÿ˜‰
      keep it going

  2. Moh'd Khalil says:

    Tony, you are an expert in Bahrain’s affairs, now, I could not agree more.
    For the others, that Iran involvement myth has been been shattered by Bassiouni’s or BICI (the government appointed commission) report.
    Finally, 10 10 T10, only Bahraini patriots understand it, lol.

  3. abdulla says:

    I can not add more on what I have written my professorial

  4. Jan Ryan says:

    The Shia argument doesnโ€™t hold up so well when you realise that many Sunni also want political reform as a way to achieve social equity. The Iran issue has been dismissed globally.

    Every good government needs an opposition. In the case of Bahrain, the government continues to show that it is not good and will not allow any opposition to be voiced. The country lurches from one horror story to the next. Meanwhile, the royal family members travel around the world telling everyone that they are making progress while doing next to nothing in the way of reform.

    Another point: when people march to a Ministry they are protestors. In Bahrain we have civilians who defend their villages from mercenary attacks every night. We have civilians who voiced their opinions and were then dismissed from jobs and education. We have leaders of opposition parties given life sentences for voicing their opposition.

    In letters to newspapers or tweets, perhaps we should make this distinction. Those young men defending their villages every night are not protestors. They are civilians who are being attacked by the government.

    • Abu Zahra says:

      Hello there
      We -every night- been shot by police or progovernment thugs with tear gas, for nothings, the only sin that we are Shiete. But we hope in very near future we’ll get the democracy government. Only with help of dignity pens like yours.

  5. So … an English teacher ๐Ÿ™‚ … please don’t try to spot any grammar or spelling mistakes in my comment ๐Ÿ˜›

    OK .. let me start by saying that I am an Atheist Bahraini and i think that this may give me a more neutral point of view (as opposed to a Sunni or Shia Bahraini) .

    I agree that Sacking our Prime Minister is one of the best solutions and for me the best replacement in the short term would the crown prince as he got the necessary leadership and he got balanced views that care about every Bahraini

    Our current PM is out of time and touch and he is not a democracy believer preferring to do things on his ways and he looked only interested in protecting himself and his family interest.

    However I totally disagree that fundamental shia are an “imaginary enemy” ,

    … now don’t get me wrong , i understand that the government promoting the idea of Bahrain Turning into theocracy Shia state is just an excuse to justify suppressing Bahrain uprising and protect itself.

    But … and this is a BIG but … that don’t mean the threat isn’t real , in fact there is a good chance if the royal family fall that we will get into a sectarian war and Bahrain can turn into a fundamental theocracy state (as opposed to a civil country that we enjoy now), and the theocracy could go both ways , i mean it could be also that Bahrain may turn into a Sunni theocracy state … like Saudi Arabia.

    let me explain more …

    Bahrain so happen is between two fundamental theocracy states , Saudi Arabia a sunni fundamental state and Iran a shia fundamental state … and because of common ideology a lot of Bahraini will support one of the countries or the other ,

    Yes most people want a civil a country but because of the way Islam is and our position between to extremist views … we should do it in small steps with a transnational democracy over 15 to 30 year .. and not the way opposition demand of immediate democracy because this will cause instability and civil unrest and most likely a civil war .

    One additional point i want to raise , that yes the governmental lied numerous of times sometimes to funny and ridiculous extents .. but the opposition (or part of it to be fair) didn’t play it ‘clean’ either , like the ugly media war they played where they exaggerate the description of every event like describing Lulu roundabout evacuation as a Massacre , and insist that the Gov. hidden hundreds of dead bodies. something that never happened as proven by BICI (Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry) , here is a short comical video that I made showing the media war in Bahrain

    I can explain more how all major political parties in are religious based and how they are against civil rights but i feel i have written to much already. thanks for reading ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks to Mr .Tony Mitchell to taking time and resources to blog about Bahrain , it’s refreshing to see an external point of view.

    • janiceryan says:

      Did you catch Ali Salman’s speech in London? It seems that he’s asking for a transitional democracy

    • isa says:

      realy, you want to replace a tyrant with another tyrant ?
      don’t you respect your people? “hey my people are so stupid to go
      for democracy” or like “bahraini people are so stupid they don’t have a leadership except the loser seas thief crown prince (we call him -salman sea- he is specialized in stealing seas leaving 3% for public property”)

      don’t you see your country is ruled by gangster family
      killing ,apartheid, torturing, demolition worship houses, converting a hospital to torture center, bringing gcc to crush people, employing thugs
      occupying 70% of bahrain land and dealing with people like their owned property

      “oh it is all exaggerating it is ok for alkhalifa to rule for another 15-30 years”
      shame on you

      if you don’t believe in anything leave the freedom believer alone
      other free souls are eager to fight for freedom witch im sure you don’t understand
      Down Down, Hamad all the way

  6. Michael Steiner says:

    It’s not quite as simple as Khalifa bin Salman. He is only the most prominent of the hardline faction within the Khalife clan. There is a whole bunch of them — collectively known as the khawalids — who are at loggerheads with Hamad over how to respond to the protests. While Hamad and his son are (or, at any rate, apparently were initially) open to discussion, the khawalids saw to it that the “prime minister” prevailed. Hamad is actually regularly criticized in the Bahraini media — all of which are pro-government, churning out propaganda of which even Stalin would’ve been proud — for being too lenient with the pro-democracy protestors.

    The ONLY solution is to get rid of all of them and hope that a genuine democracy is established in Bahrain.

    With that in mind: YA98OT HAMAD!!!

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