Thursday, March 24, 2005
If looks could kill, then Jaleela Alsayed is a serial murderer. Her stern unfaltering gaze and the resolute aura of confidence that emanates from the podium when she takes the stand is apparent on the few occasions she chooses to address an audience. Voted Bahraini Woman of the Year in 2004 by Alwasat's readers, primarily for the lead she took in organizing last year's notorious Constitutional conference which like everything else round here, led to confrontation with the government who spared no lengths at attempting to stop the event- from forcing the hotel manager of the venue to cancel his contract, to refusing entry to foreign participants, Alsayed had to come face to face with her ex-colleague on the National Charter Committee, the Minister of Labour who threatened the organizing societies with closure.
Ok, so she may not have had many contenders for the Award. We aren't exactly overflowing with pioneering women who have influenced the public sphere even if u do count the token women in government. A respected lawyer with international credentials, she was a member of the Supreme Council of Women- a media glorified group of handpicked women chosen by the King's wife probably as a poor excuse for getting out bed in the morning, palace-life can get tedious you see. Later she was also chosen to be part of the Committee to promote the National Charter and market it to the public, especially women. It was in this role that I had first met her.
On 14th February 2002, the day the Bahraini ppl, as Emoodz puts it, were fooled, it appears that Alsayed was as shocked, if not more shocked than everyone else at the undemocratic amendments made to the constitution which severely restricts civil liberties (see La Monde article ) having been a misguided campaigner for the King's initiative in the first place. She immediately handed in her resignation for all government/official positions she held, helped write the legal paper that sought to prove the illegitimate way the King amended the constitution and switched to oppositing ranks. As an independent figure, she was chosen by the four boycotting societies to head the Committee that implements the proposals agreed in the constitutional conferences. The latest being a national demonstration that will be held this Friday (25th March) under this year's slogan of "Constitutional Reforms First", in addition to a rally held late yesterday attended by over 4000 people.
If we zoom-out for a moment, you will realize that all the recent problems in Bahrain, the eighties, the nineties, and the new millennium spill into a a popular constitutional movement that began in 1973 when the late-Amir dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution ending a democratic experiment that lasted 2 years from 1973-1975. The constitution, being the social contract that bind the ruler with his people needs to be defined, and hence the slogan CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS FIRST. If not, the four main political societies, will boycott the 2006 elections again.