The Bahraini regime trying to reach a post-revolt phase

By: Tora Systad Tyssen

Whereas the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt at the beginning of the Arab spring led to regime falls, the Bahraini one did not and the Al Khalifa royal family is still ruling the small island just off the Saudi coast. In fact, the only thing that has fallen so far in the kingdom is the Pearl monument at the Pearl Roundabout in the capital Manama,  thought to be to the Bahraini revolution what Tahrir was to the Egyptian. It was bulldozed in March when the protesters residing there were dispersed by force.

Even though the anti-government demonstrations prevails across the country and the state security police are out almost every night charging and arresting demonstrators the regime is working hard to give the impression that Bahrain has entered a post-revolt phase. Following the lift of the state of emergency on June 1st a set of steps have been made to give the impression that Bahrain is on its way back to a more stabile political situation[i].

One step was the introduction of what was called a national dialogue in July, where oppositional forces were invited to discuss matters of political, economical, social and human rights reform with the government. Al Wifaq, the main oppositional group that pulled out of the parliament in March in reaction to the governments repression of demonstrations this spring, decided to boycott the dialogue after having attended some of the sessions. Rejecting strongly the regimes emphasis on socioeconomic problems rather than political ones as the root of the protests this spring, they also decided to boycott the by-elections in September/October. The elections were conducted to fill the 18 seats that became vacant after al-Wifaq pulled out of parliament. This being another step by the regime to bring political life in the kingdom back to a more normal state, ignoring the demonstrations still happening across the country. At the opening of parliament on October 9th King Al Khalifa stated in his opening speech that it now is the duty of the Cabinet and the Parliament to take the recommandations from the national dialogue in July into practice and legislation if needed. According to the king significant political reforms are underway including granting the parliament more power and implementing stricter guidelines for nominations for the Upper House (Shura Council. The Bahraini parliament consists of two houses, an elected lower house, and a nominated upper house). The current voting districts, often accused of being gerrymandered to secure a sunni majority in the parliament, are being reviewed to ensure, according to the king, «that Bahrain’s citizens are given fair representation in their electoral constituencies»[ii].

A third step was the establishing of The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry by the king on June 29th this year. The committee, consisting of five non-bahrainis, is tasked with investigating and reporting on the events that took place in Bahrain from February 2011, and the consequences of those events. In other words, to map out the alleged violations of human rights by the state security forces and give recommandations on what its consequences should be[iii].

And so how successful have these steps been in taking Bahrain into a post-revolt state? Well, the easy answer would be not very. Demonstrations are still ongoing, no real reform is seen and and the fact that the Saudi military forces have not completely pulled out those not convey an image of stability or normality (supposing the political situation in Bahrain was stabile and normal prior to the uprising). True, the demonstrations are on a smaller scale than earlier this year, but that is mainly due to a severe crack down on them, rather than the demonstrators pulling out having achieved their objects. Even though the king has promised political reform, no real evidence is seen of it. The fact that al Wifaq has pulled out of the parliamentary system (and the voter turnout in September in some districts was less than 20 %), harms its legitimacy and illustrates the royal families failure to convince the population that it is taking its demands seriously.

In addition the Commission of Enquiry is accused of being biased towards the governments interests and the fact that it is nominated by the king does not help in this regard. The issue is addressed at the commissions official webpage stating in its defence that it «has benefited from a consultation process with various bodies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights». Still many Bahrainis do not expect the commission to map out the breaches of human rights in a sufficent way, despite the commissions postponing of its report from October 23rd to November 23rd saying it needs more time to review in depth the 8800 complaints it has heard and the 5700 interviews it has conducted[iv].

What will be interesting to see is whether the commissions findings and recommandations will be acted on. In the opening speech of the parliament the king promised it would. How much that is related to the $53 million American arms deal Bahrain is trying to close, is difficult to say. A spokesman of the American State Department said on October 18th it would look closely at the report and «continue to take human rights considerations into account as we move toward the finalization of this deal”. At least half a dozen senators have written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticizing Bahrains human rights violations, claiming «completion of the arms sale would weaken U.S. credibility amid democratic transitions in the Middle East». Some reports claim the deal is already finalized. If it turns out to be, a strong American statement is made that they view Bahrain as being in a somewhat post-revolt phase, as many would claim selling weapons to a state handling a revolt would be questionable, despite the arms supposedly only being meant for «external use»[v].

 


[i] More on the current development in Bahrain:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15358707

[iii] More on the commission and its legal framework:
http://www.bici.org.bh/

Advertisements

1 Response to “The Bahraini regime trying to reach a post-revolt phase”


  1. 1 Colleen May 20, 2013 at 06:17

    I suspect that my information on his or her Domain Name Availability.
    The group from the East Coast, representatives of
    the mortgage market during the 2000s housing boom.
    To summarize, we had spent way too much time on it,
    we can be so certain because the domain name availability for Fatfoe fat
    melting pads has been set up regarding safety and non-exploitation of children that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Archive


%d bloggers like this: