The CNN ticker over 12 and 13th May, 2012 have been flashing the news that the US is recommencing military assistance to the Bahrain and secondly, that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are holding discussions concerning a “political union” in order to jointly smother the restive bid by some of their nationals, predominantly of Shiite religion, to secure more political participation, representation and rights.
The process of clamoring for political rights and representation has been a main feature of the Arab Spring so no wonder that Bahrainis and Saudis all want to stress their desire to achieve the same. Two striking differences can be noted: firstly, the Shiite Bahraini majority population’s bid to secure political devolution from corrupt, autocratic and non-representative sheikhs was ignored and then berated by the global media and by the US and the West; secondly, the US continued to support the minority and isolated corrupt sheikh rulers to stay in power despite a contrary political current, and now have resumed military aid to a regime that has perpetrated massive human rights violations and state sponsored terror against its own population. Sounds familiar? Yes in Libya and Syria as well as Iran, this would be slammed as State oppression and Security Council would be hot on the issue, but for the reason that it is only Shiites being affected in Bahrain, even Human Rights Watch and George Clooney are all quiet.
Now we hear that Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of OBL and terrorist officialdom, and Bahrain are considering a ‘political union” primarily to control and stifle their common problem of indigenous Shiite populations trying to secure a modicum of political rights and representation. US and UK are major military supporters to Saudi Arabia and have effectively helped to keep in place the opulent Saudi Royal family and a systemic repression of political and social rights for all their people. This union is proceeding with the blessing or perhaps at the behest of the US, mainly to deal with control – as stated, Shiites are fair game – they are out of fashion with Washington and somehow, don’t rate as human beings that deserve the same protection and participation as others. Shiites can be killed and Washington, in full knowledge of the extent of the torture, state sponsored and orchestrated killing and recrimination has decided to look the other way and ignore this human suffering. On the contrary, they are recommencing military assistance to this killer corrupt regime.
In previous posts such as “Islamic Mosaic: The Patchwork of Shiite and Sunni Communities Quicksand for Regional Stability” (check Middle East analysis category), I present a microscopic picture of the complex ethnic composition of the Gulf and the Middle East. If the US tries to maintain the status quo in Bahrain as it did in Egypt, without allowing and encouraging political opening and the elimination of state sponsored human rights violations, the result will be worse than that in Egypt. The simple reason is that in Bahrain, only the minority Sunni population and the corrupt monarchy benefits from US assistance and friendship. The majority Shiite population are being systematically slaughtered by population segments that directly benefit and use American assistance to perpetrate those violations and violence.
Bahrain was one of the first places to embrace Islam, and remained under Islamic rule until Portuguese forces occupied it from 1521 to 1602. The Safavid Persian Empire displaced the Portuguese and ruled from 1602 to 1783. The family that eventually established the modern ruling dynasty of Bahrain, the Al Khalifa, is a branch of the Bani Utbah, a tribe which settled in Kuwait in 1716. Some 60 years later, the family left Kuwait for the western coast of Qatar. There they inhabited the town of Zubarah where they engaged in commerce in pearls. In 1783 the Al Khalifa family, led by Sheikh Ahmed bin Muhammad Al Khalifa, gained control of the territory of Bahrain from the Persians who had been garrisoning the island. This was the beginning of Al Khalifa rule in Bahrain, which continues through the present day.
In the early 19th century, the British Empire, as part of a policy to protect the approaches to its imperial possessions on the Indian subcontinent, entered into numerous treaties with States in the Arab Gulf. In 1820, the first of many treaties was concluded between Great Britain and Bahrain. In 1861, the two States entered into a Perpetual Treaty of Peace and Friendship, pursuant to which Bahrain became a British protectorate.
Bahrain declared independence on 15 August 1971, following the withdrawal of the British troops stationed on the island.27 HH Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa acceded to the position of Emir of the State of Bahrain, a position he held until his death in 1999. HH Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa then became the Emir until 2002, when a new Constitution was enacted and Bahrain was transformed into a Kingdom and the Emir was declared King of Bahrain.
Bahrain joined the United Nations (UN) and the League of Arab States upon independence in 1971. Bahrain is also a founding member of the six-member Cooperation Council for the Arab Gulf States, also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC was established in 1981 as a forum for coordinating policies in various areas, including security and economic development ( information taken as a quote from “The Aborted Revolution: The Bahrain’s Democracy”).
Bahrain gained its independence from Britain in 1971 and adopted its first constitution two years later. Its first parliamentary elections proved that Bahrainis could work on common ideological platforms across sectarian lines. However, by 1975 the Emir (the current king’s father) dissolved Parliament, suspended the constitution, and declared emergency law.
￼The ￼latter action suspended most individual rights, including the formation of political parties, and enabled the arbitrary persecution of any opposition. The resulting crackdown, which remained in effect for the next thirty years, affected all opposition movements in Bahrain, but fell hardest on those secular and Arab nationalist dissidents who were either imprisoned or exiled.
In the 1990s, a significant number of educated and professional Sunni, Shi’a, secular Bahrainis, as well as religious groups, petitioned for an end to emergency law and the enforcement of the constitution. The government responded with a brutal crackdown that produced internal conflict for years, as deep-seated grievances caused violent clashes and many deaths. In addition to the loss of life and property, Bahrain lost crucial economic development. Despite its professionally educated population and liberal attitudes (at least by regional standards) toward foreigners, investors took their money to other Gulf locations that sought to mimic Bahrain’s advantages, most notably Dubai. bahrain’s lack of relative stability convinced the merchant class and ruling family that another course of action was needed.
Upon ascending the throne in February 2002, King Hamad bin Salman Al-Khalifa sought to liberalize bahrain politically and turn a new page in its history. He oversaw a process that culminated in a national Action Charter (NAC) that was supposed to establish a constitutional monarchy with an elected body, as well as an independent judiciary, and end the state of emergency that had suspended all constitutional protections. Opposition leaders were encouraged to join a political process that, they anticipated, would lead to meaningful reform.
These reform efforts boosted his popularity with all segments of Bahraini society, including the majority Shi’a. A general amnesty was granted to all political prisoners and exiles, and for any acts of violence committed by opposition leaders. The law also gave a similar amnesty to the security services, thereby preventing torture victims from holding their abusers accountable. Many bahraini’s believed that the NAC would initiate a process of reconciliation. torture victims and exiles were permitted to publicize their stories, something that had never been permitted. new non-government organizations (NGOs) planted the seeds of a vibrant civil society; sought to address public grievances related to housing and employment discrimination, as well as elections and district manipulation; and expedited naturalization in the army and security forces.
Despite the initial belief that NAC would reactivate the suspended 1971 constitution, the outcome was a major disappointment. King Hamad retained control of all three branches of government and his uncle was appointed head of the executive branch despite having served as prime minister ever since the nation’s independence forty-one years ago. The king appointed half of the legislature and could veto all legislation. Laws could be issued by royal decree with no parliamentary oversight, and he also had the authority to appoint the constitutional court and judges. The security services maintained their position in government with many of the same personnel, and the parliamentarians’ salaries continued to be increased with additional housing and transportation perks. The public soon lost faith in Parliament’s ability to remain independent and adequately represent the population.
Due to the ruling family’s refusal to loosen its stranglehold over the country, NAC became nothing more than a thinly veiled authoritarian monarchy bent on maintaining its power structure (Excerpts taken from “￼Citizens, Not Subjects: Debunking the Sectarian Narrative of Bahrain’s Pro-Democracy Movement”).
The Bahriani democracy movement is a secular movement of citizens wanting to reclaim their democratic rights lost due to decisions made by the current Sheikh and his father. They had more freedoms before and they were taken away. A little research would expose you to the truth of the situation! I welcome comments and discussions and thank you for yours!
Tags: Bahrain, corruption, Human rights, human rights violations, Media reporting, middle-east, nepotism, political devolution, political union, politics, Saudi Arabia, Shiite Majority Bahrainis, state sponsored violence, US Military assistance