Tuesday, August 30, 2005

An Intervention Presented to a seminar at the House of Lords - UK


An Intervention Presented to a seminar at the House of Lords - UK
By: Abdulhadi Alkhawaja
President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights
London 25 August 2005


Assalam Alaykum and Good morning

All of us may know that as a result off internal unrest and external pressure, Bahrain has witnessed positive changes 1n 2000/2001. However, events took a different direction after the voting on the National Charter, the declaration of the new ruler as a king, and securing closer relation between the regime and the US administration.

In the past three years, human rights conditions has been deteriorating, both in laws and in practice, and at the different aspects of human rights: civil, political, economic and social. Recent reports issued by the US State department, Crises Group International, and many national and international NGO’s illustrate the setback.

During the last three years, the people in Bahrain have experienced the deference between true and false hope. For true hope is based on knowledge supported by struggle and hard work, while false hope is built on promises and depending on the kindness of others.

Five years ago, Bahrain people thought that heavens had sent them a savior. Many of us had put their trust in him and voted to make him a king, but we found out that, in real life you may not rely on miracles and other people good intentions.

The people of Bahrain woke up from the sweet dream to find out that the new ruler has been working cleverly to maintain absolute power but in the form of constitutional monarchy. He has been also working in secrecy for ten years to accomplish demographic changes by granting citizenship to thousands of tribal Arabs brought from other countries to serve in the military and security.

He has also acquired for himself and for members of his family, as private property, all public lands and the lands to be reclaimed from the see. In the last five years members of the royal family became more rich and acquired more influence on political and economic life.

On the other hand, discrimination, corruption have been mounting. While more than half of the people are suffering from unemployment, underpayment, poor housing conditions, at the time of growing oil revenues.

It was a shock when the special military forces, build by the king himself, and supervised by the Crown prince, savagely assaulted peaceful demonstrators who were demanding jobs, that’s we understand, to send a clear message to all the people to point out who is in control, and to declare the end of the transition period, as his father did in 1975 when he declared an end to short period of democratic life after independence.

So no wonder, the hastiness of the King last month in approving the restrictive low on political societies in two days, despite appeals by civil societies and society figures. Many people expect the king is going to approve many other restrictive lows in the coming few months such as the law on gatherings and demonstrations and the law against terrorism.

All of that has been happening with blessing of a rubberstamp parliament, and under the eyes of the press which is either state controlled or partially free but self censored, and in the existence of week civil and political societies.

As for the international role, there has been a lot to learn about hypocrisy and double standards of the western governments. They work hard for political changes in the countries that are governed by regime hostile to their influence and interests, but when the regime is an ally like in Bahrain, stability of the regime is of more importance than reforms, strategic interests replaces real democratization, and economic globalization lead political reforms.
So, no wonder that the US has approved the cosmetic fake democracy in Bahrain and present it as a model for the region.

The UN bodies and procedures are International nongovernmental organizations, were more supportive and are more credible when it comes to standards and morals, but their role is still off minor affect. They act only in urgencies, and when selecting there priorities in countries and issues they are influenced by states policies and funding, there were Bahrain become misfortunate.

However, and despite all the setbacks, there are great space for optimism. The main ground for that is the well and potential power of the people. For in Bahrain, the power and the will of thy people brought about the current intention for reforms, and that power will be a main factor in the future. And the story of the Bahrain Center for human rights is related to that factor.

As you may know, the Bahrain Center for human Rights was closed by the authorities in September 2004, for organizing activities and issuing reports in issues which were considered as taboo, namely privileges enjoyed by members of the ruling tribe, discrimination, and poverty related to mismanagement and corruption. But what happened since the closure of the center one year ago?

Every body now is talking about discrimination and corruption. Poverty, unemployment, housing is on the top of the political agenda.

As a result of the strategy adopted by the Center to empower the people, specially the disadvantaged and the vulnerable groups, Groups that were established as a part of the Center, have become independent societies and committees. Such as the Society for Migrant Workers, the Committee for Persons Deprived of Citizenship and the Bahrain Youth for Human Rights. All in addition to the Committee for Victims of Torture which was established by the center as an independent group three years ago.

In regard to the center strategy to promote economic and social rights, the unemployed were assisted by the Center to form there own organization, which has in few months become one of the most active actors on the issue, despite the aggressiveness and restrictions by the authorities. On the other hand, families suffering poor housing were also assisted by the center to start a popular protest movement which has been growing and active in the last few weeks.

On top of that, the closure of the Bahrain Center for human rights did not stop the center from issuing reports and statements in deferent issues an participating in regional and international conferences including the meetings of the committee against torture and the committee on racial discrimination. It is worth noting that both International committees questioned the official delegation on the closure of the center and recommended to insure the safety of its members.


In conclusion,

I would say that Bahrain is in a bottle neck, either it will returns inside the bottle with some cosmetics and more tensions and violations, or come out of the bottle to the democratic free world. We are working on the latter, despite difficulties, for we now that the expenses of the first is damaging.

Thank you for your patience, and allow me to specially thank Lord Eric Avebury, not only for hosting this seminar, but for his struggle for human rights in Bahrain and other countries around the globe.

Thank You.

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