Saturday, 26 February 2011

Bahrainis peacefully demanded political reforms Regime responded killing peaceful Protesters.


Bahrainis, especially majority Shiites, came out in an unprecedented peaceful demonstration demanding constitutional reforms seeking political freedom and justice.  However the autocratic minority Sunni regime responded with violent crackdown raining death and destruction.    

As a result the people who once asked for political reforms now demand the removal of the king and his regime to pave the way for a government run by an elected parliament.

Bahrain, with a chain of 30 islands and a territory of 717 sq kilometers, has a   population of around 800,000 of which around three quarters are Shiites. They accuse the regime of shutting them out of housing, healthcare and government jobs. They also complain of unemployment and poverty and accuse the government of employing expatriates - according to 2010 UN figures there were 235,108 expats.   

Some of the Shiite villages lack even basic needs in contrast to the mansions of the elite in exclusive areas. The island is ruled by Khalifah family, Sunni Muslims, which captured power in 1783 after expelling the Persians who still view Bahrain as a renegade province exacerbating sectarian tensions.
The two sides do not trust each and the suspicion has been deep rooted and historic.

Bahrain, a British protectorate under the 1861 Treaty with UK, became independent on 15 August 1971. In February 2002 the country became a hereditary monarchy with a   toothless and cosmetic bicameral legislature and a powerless consultative Council.  

The political system is a medieval style autocratic tribal rule as in the case of rest of the Gulf countries. Sunnis dominated by the ruling Khalifa family remain a privileged lot with all the powers and perks. They control the  armed  forces, the government, government machinery, business, wealth, land, exclusive beaches and  almost everything other than  the air  which the Khalifas cannot prevent the Shiites from breathing.,  

As in the case of all pro western countries Bahrain too is westernized and corrupt. Liquor flows freely and  some areas known for prostitution involving  Muslim women from  poverty stricken North Africa , Central Asia and several other countries including  Iraq where   women who once lived a decent life but driven to poverty following the US  invasion. Friday is usually a Holy Day for Muslims worldwide. However here in Bahrain it is a day of fun, wining, dining and sinning starting from Thursday onward. Saudis and others from the region flock to the island for their weekend fun and sin.

People in general resist this shameful state of affair. However they are helpless as speaking about this means asking for trouble .Thus they suffer in silence with deep frustration.

Though a tiny island Bahrain has huge regional and international political dimensions and implications. For example Iran has been sympathetic towards the Shiites. This causes   serious concern in Saudi Arabia which has a sizable suppressed Shiite population in its eastern region known for its oil wealth which is controlled by the Saudi ruling family. To ward off any potential Iranian threat Saudi Arabia built multibillion dollar causeway linking Bahrain with Saudi mainland.

Bahrain is also the home for US Navy’s Fifth Fleet which  is  a shield for American forces against many countries “especially Iran, spy on Iran and controls the Strait of Hormoz.  Thus it would do everything to ensure that the regime remains in power.

It was under such circumstance that the Bahrainis, encouraged by political developments in Tunisia, Egypt, Jdan,.Yemen and Alegria, came out on   peaceful demonstrations on  14 Monday 2011 to draw attention to their longstanding grievances. They called for a new constitution that would move the country toward democracy as well as limited state control for the monarchy over top government posts and all critical decisions.

The regime responded with force using clubs, tear gas and live ammunition killing a peaceful demonstrator and injuring many enraging all alike.
The ruler King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah apologized.

The death prompted the opposition to call for massive participation. When the people gathered for the funeral   the regime, once again, unleashed violence killing more peaceful demonstrators.  In a single pre-dawn assault on Thursday  by riot police on protesters sleeping in the Pearl Square  four people were killed, 231 wounded and 60 others were missing,. The attack has been strongly condemned by members of the international community, including the United Nations. 

One columnist said “The king Hamad has blood on his hands after his mercenary security forces - Pakistani, Indian, Syrian and Jordanian - with no previous warning, attacked sleeping, peaceful protesters at 3 am on Thursday at the Pearl roundabout. Altogether seven peaceful demonstrators were killed, hundreds injured and scores disappeared-some believe killed. In the midst eighteen members of the Bahrain parliament resigned from their posts   to protest against the violent crackdown.

Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Kassim who described the killing as massacre warned that Bahrain’s Shia uprising has just begun and if Manama fails to satisfy the people's legitimate demands for change quickly, it will pay a heavy price. He urged Bahraini authorities to release innocent prisoners and to fight the widespread corruption .He also criticized Manama for not trying to prevent the spread of atheism in the country, warning that if the government does not change its policy, in the near future, atheism will prevail.

In this volatile and tense environment King Hamad praised the troops for what he described as their “bravery”.  This was not only provocative but also insult to peaceful demonstrators. The inevitable result was the people who for political reforms now demand the removal of the king himself and his government Shiites dug in at Pearl roundabout, Bahraini version of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, stating they will not leave until their demands are met. .

The US, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf rulers will not allow the fall of King Hamad and his regime. Change of regime means a nightmare scenario for US and the Gulf States as it would tantamount to handing over power to a pro Irani Bahrain.

In Bahrain it is Iran vs.  US, Britain, Israel and the Gulf sheikhdoms which were brought under US security umbrella during the past two decades. Perhaps it is time for   serious and meaningful reforms meeting some of Shiites’ demands?  Ends  

Latheef Farook is a Senior Sri Lankan journalist who, after working for  Ceylon Daily News and Ceylon Observer for almost a decade,  led a team to Dubai in February 1979 where he re launched Gulf News. After almost a quarter century in the Gulf he is now based in Colombo.

Q & A on Khilafah

An in-depth Q&A on the Khiafah and it’s plan for the Muslim World

Q&A on Khilafah

  1. How do we deal with different mazhabs?
  2. Is the Khilafah state solely for Muslims?
  3. Are you working to establish the Khilafah in Western states like Britain?
  4. Will women be given education?
  5. Will the Khilafah teach other than Islamic education in it's schools?
  6. What will be the Khilafah's view towards technology and the internet?
  7. Can the Khilafah solve the problems of poverty in our countries?
  8. Will the Khilafah close itself to the foreign world like North Korea and other rogue states?
  9. How will a Khilafah state emerge?
  10. What will be the basis of foreign relations? Recent examples of Afghanistan have shown a lack of political thinking. We seem to equate an Islamic state with a state that wages war on the world.
  11. How will your Islamic state deal with political actions such as embargoes, isolation and other political actions from hostile states?
  12. How will your Islamic state deal with Israel?
  13. What will be the basis of relationships with other Muslim countries?
  14. Will your state be run by clerics?
  15. Would the Caliph be elected and held accountable for all his actions?
  16. Explain in brief the key principles of the Islamic political system
  17. What do you mean by ‘authority belongs to the people’?
  18. People say this would be an election that is ‘one-man one-vote one-time’
  19. But with no fixed-term limits, doesn’t this just become an elected dictatorship?
  20. Apart from the head of State are there any other elected institutions in the Caliphate?
  21. What are the powers of these assemblies?
  22. If legislation is divine in origin, does that not make the Islamic State a theocracy like Iran or Saudi Arabia?
  23. Political parties who adhere to the constitution should operate freely within the system. But if you believe the Caliphate is not theocratic, then surely your state is religious and therefore not pluralistic?
  24. But aren’t people in the West are free to criticise their leaders and their political systems?
  25. How can this be reconciled with a ‘free media’?
  26. If legislation is sourced from divine law, how can you progress and solve new challenges and problems?
  27. Are you therefore saying that people have no role in policies because everything is divinely ordained?
  28. Political leaders should represent the interests of all the people, not just a narrow elite. You are obviously critical of the closeness of big business in democratic societies, but how would you stop that happening in the Caliphate?
  29. There should be a judiciary independent of the executive and who can hold the executive to account. Are you saying the judiciary is therefore independent from the State in the Caliphate?
  30. Are you therefore saying that no individual or group is above the law?
  31. Are you saying that the Caliphate will not discriminate against any of its citizens on the basis of creed, race, gender or disability? Surely by being based on Islam, Muslims will always be favoured and surely secularism is the best way to go?
  32. Arbitrary arrest, spying on citizens, internment, torture and extraordinary rendition should be absolutely prohibited. However if you do not believe in democratic rights, wouldn’t people say that made the system a Police State?
  33. Didn’t religious rule in Europe in the medieval period hold Western society back in terms of material progress?
  34. Even if you reject the Western model based on its corruption and inability to tackle longterm challenges isn’t China an alternative?
  35. How would you choose a ruler in the Khilafah?
  36. How is a ruler accounted or changed in the Islamic Khilafah system?