Sunday, June 05, 2005

Khalaf's take

There is only one serious Bahraini academic who has attempted to write and publish papers studying the socio-political situation in Bahrain, and that is Abdulhadi Khalaf (2005, 2002, 1998), sociology Professor in Lund University, Sweden. You can find his most relevant papers here:

What the Gulf Ruling Families Do when They Rule
A King’s Dilemma –Obstacles to Political Reforms In Bahrain (highly recommended)
Contentious politics in Bahrain, From ethnic to national and vice versa

Since Dr Khalaf is a regular reader of this blog, I hope that he would partake in this discussion and elaborate on certain concepts related in the above articles, which may help each of us concerned with the political situation in Bahrain, contextualise history and analyse events in this framework. This fits in nicely in the series of posts that I wrote a few weeks back. It takes us out of the common and rather obtuse terminology we often used when discussing politics (government/opposition, sectarianism etc. ) elevating the discussion to a slightly higher intellectual standard. It is heavy stuff, and took me a while to read and digest, however, I will summarise the main concepts here.

These concepts are that of ‘vertical segmentation’. Sustaining vertical segmentation of society has proven a useful form of social organisation and, hitherto, an effective vehicle for rule. He also contends that contentious politics is the result of the tension between two socio-political forces in Bahrain; the champions of enlightenment, and the defenders of the status quo. He also explores the instruments of regime stability, and the way the monarchies subdue society through effective use of strategies of penetration, fragmentation and marginalisation. And that even when combining what Michael Mann calls the “despotic power” of pre-modern states and the “infra-structural power” of the modern state, the Gulf monarchies have maintained their capacity.

“One of the immediate consequences of its control of rent and its circulation is making loyalty to the royal family a social as well as a political imperative. Unlike other society/state situations, what can be observed in the Gulf monarchies is shaped by two characteristic features of the state. The first is that the state is the ruling family, in other words more just an instrument of the ruling families. Rather, there is a distinct intertwining of state and the ruling families in a relation of indistinguishable organic unity. The second is that the state/ruling family is off-limits for all other social actors.

In its turn, the state promotes levels of dependency by citizens on its agencies, its welfare services and other facilities. Within this relation of dependency, a citizen becomes “disinclined to act economically or politically on his own behalf, let alone seriously criticise the state”.

Citizens, including merchants, entrepreneurs and business people, become more pre-occupied with attempts to access the rent circuit than reaching to build productive efficiency.”

Specifically on recent developments in Bahrain, he says:

“Recent history of contentious politics in Bahrain […] is a tension between the socio-political forces defending the status quo (plus minus) and the socio-political forces championing what has been referred to as enlightenment (plus minus). In Bahrain, according to Khuri (1980:198) 'this enlightenment meant rejecting sectarian politics, opposing colonial rule and the tribally controlled regime, and championing the cause of labour classes'. At the risk of over-simplification, the forces of status quo (plus minus) included the ruling family, the notables and the clerical establishment, while the forces of enlightenment (plus minus) most of the nascent business community, civil servants and workers.”

“Moves towards constitutional order in 1973-5 and since 2001 have not contravened the concentration of power…

While the ruling family may have wanted on both occasions to acquire constitutional legitimacy, it did not accept the formal and informal political, administrative, and judicial consequences of that legitimacy. The price seemed simply too high…There are some factors to add to this.

First, the ruling core has continued to exercise full control over all major sources of surplus appropriation. This unrestricted control has enabled it to continue steering the major economic and political actors, play them against each other and affirm their dependence on its goodwill. All other classes and social strata lack solid economic capabilities outside the orbit of the regime. All of them are dependent on the regime’s economic ventures and the political goodwill of its ruling core for their survival and prosperity.

Second, neither 1973 nor 2001 constitutions provide for mechanisms to separate the regime and its ruling core from government. The ruling family’s core continues to lead executive and administrative organs as well as other institutions of the state such as the judiciary, the military and the security forces. In spite of constitutional stipulations, all organs of state continue to be extensions of formal and informal powers of the ruling core.

Third, resources at the disposal of the regime, the docility of its social base, and regional and international support, have enabled it to embark on a massive reconstructive operation. These resources have enabled the regime to dismiss totally calls for a return to constitutional rule. Moreover, to the dismay of increasingly demoralised opponents, the regime has actually been able to initiate a modernisation process of its institutions, or to borrow an expression, with rather than against tribalism and communalism.

Strategies of control

Byman and Green describe six strategies of control that ruling families in the Gulf employ. These are:

1) use of aggressive security services to monitor, and at times suppress, opposition;
2) cooptation of dissidents and potential dissidents through extensive use of largesse; dissidence is also contained through control of the media via subsi-dies and direct funding or the threat to suspend publication and not so much through formal censorship;
3) creating divisions within communities and fragmenting any political opposition;
4) cunning and ideological flexibility which helps appease local critics and off-set outside meddling;
5) pseudo-participation using appointed and partially representative majlis to provide for discussion and input into decision-making; and,
6) accommodative diplomacy and the use of aid to placate foreign adversaries.

Vertical Segmentation

A very insightful concept explored is the idea of 'vertical segmentation of society' (maintaining a division of society and social institutions into a number of vertical parallels that are separated from each other through, mainly political, sanctions), as one of the main factors preserving the Al-Khalifa rule in Bahrain which has been "gradually expanded and refined into an effective instrument of power and of legitimacy of power. "

Vertical segmentation, in Bahrain, is maintained through mobilisation of tribal, confessional, and ethnic myths, through appropriate parts of communal histories, through co-optation as well as through actual use of physical force. Top dogs within each vertical segment are strong enough to keep order within their sphere but not enough to prevent the regime from intervening, directly or indirectly, whenever need arises. On an extreme end of the segmented system one finds the ruling family itself and chiefs of some of its tribal Sunni allies, while on the other extreme one would find the impoverished local Shia peasants. Foreigners, presently making more than one-third of the population, continue to be outside the system. Paradoxically, foreigners who live as temporary residents with virtually no other right than right to work, play important roles enabling the regime to maintain its hold on society.

Obviously, vertical segmentation between Sunni and Shia communities is the weightiest, but not the only, form of the system. Other criteria for social stratification operate separately or alongside confessional affiliation. In particular, wealth, kinship, as well as tribal and rural-urban backgrounds will persist and contribute, whenever mobilised, to strengthening segmentation of the socio-political order.

Effective manipulations of existing hierarchies, sustaining a suitable level of vertical segmentation, and pre-empting opportunities for horizontal, cross-hierarchy, interaction provided al-Khalifa, with a strategic asset to maintain its rule and a local source to legitimate that rule.

Oil, particularly since the oil boom of the mid-1970s, provides sufficient resources to continue recruiting additional, potential, intermediaries from nearly every social background. The entrepreneurial sector, for example, which was a major beneficiary of oil-boom investments, provided the ruling families with a new, and relatively modern, source of intermediaries. Advancement within this sector has been personal and based on political loyalty and acumen, rather than tribal or sectarian proximity to the regime. Project contracts, big and small, have been awarded largely for political loyalty. Those entrepreneurs whose loyalties were in doubt simply lost their access to contracts. Being in the good books of the ruling core and other senior members of the ruling family adds some considerable push to a business venture. Regular attendance to the weekly majlis, court, of any of these potentates, or preferably all, provides as strong a guarantee as any bank credit.


Political reforms in Bahrain since 2000 have provided a model for the kind of measures that do not require the ruling families to give up any of their privileges, including their control over economic resources and political institutions as well as their command over the armed forces and the security apparatuses. While the Bahraini scheme represents a significant step towards reducing symptoms of the prevailing political stagnation, it could generate new problems. Concessions by the ruling families may embolden local elites to demand more substantive political reforms. On the other hand, procrastination is likely to be more dangerous if it leads to enraging the gradually expanding networks of domestic and foreign actors demanding change. The urgency of the situation could force even the most reluctant of the Gulf rulers to conclude that reforms must go beyond the customary episodic cosmetic changes.

The most interesting of the papers I found, was the one on the King’s Dilemma, if you're going to read just one, i'd recommend that one. In it Khalaf evaluates and analyses the situation solely from the King’s perspective, the ‘astute tactician’, how the novice king cohabitates with his uncle who remains the strongman in the country, as the longest serving Prime Minister in history. Unfortunately I cannot copy and paste off this paper for some reason, so I leave it up to you to peruse and discuss. He touches on the weakness of the secular left, the mutual mistrust and the internal squabbles of the ruling family that are fuelled by political reforms that would challenge tribal privileges. Extremely insightful exposition, ends with the question : “how far needs a non-democratic ruler move on the path of political reforms before realising the reform process is becoming futile or even counter-productive?” He cites the important point right at the end, “Mutual mistrust is a serioius threat to any future collaborative attempts to rebuild bridges between the regime and its opponents. Second the corrosive effects of past decades of misrule, mismanagement of resources and violations of human rights, makes current reforms appear temporary and unsustainable”.

Posted by BB @ 6/05/2005 06:15:00 PM

Read or Post a Comment

Thanks B!

As I was reading the "Strategies of Control", I was thinking that the strategies presented could've been better visualised in a pyramid diagram or one of those "dartboard" like figures with

4) cunning and ideological flexibility which helps appease local critics and off-set outside meddling;

being the centre of it, and all the other points branching off it with different proportions.


The whole arguement about mistrust was on the dot as well, except that he failed to mention that mistrust exists even within what some people refer to as the 'opposition'.


I have to apologise as I feel like I'm doing you and the article injustice with a relatively short comment.

Posted by Blogger Evil Odd @ 6/06/2005 02:32:00 PM #

odd, I agree, there are many different ways you could express certain concepts. Khalaf, has only started the ball rolling, with the direct, realistic analysis that is sorely lacking.

Its my fault, I could have easily wrote 10 posts discussing a concept at a time, but no, you're gona have to chew on this one big bite. Your comment is highly appreciated.

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 6/06/2005 04:15:00 PM #

YES, I do my best to follow this blog (and many others). I envy you and other bloggers for your energies and your willingness to share. I have even considered becoming a blogger myself.´
Odds's comments and yours are interesting. I would love to have you appraise my response to them.
But first I must do several small things this coming few days (end of term chores). I will come back.


Posted by Anonymous abdulhadi @ 6/07/2005 10:27:00 AM #

Dr Khalaf, i'm honoured that you have commented and agreed to participate in this debate. I will eagerly await you're response.

Having read the papers a few times, I got a clear overview of the political situation in Bahrain, the 'macro' situation if u like. The papers concentrated on the role of the state, how about the role of civic society? Are political societies simply reflecting the vertical segmentation you have spoken about. How are we supposed to reverse this vertical segmentation?
How does political ideology play in social dynamics? Do you perceive islamists to be a true threat in the country?

On the flip-side, as Odd touched on, how about self-critiquing the opposition? Do you think that Wefaq is pursuing the correct tactic of escalation to pressure the regime into further reforms? In the life-cycle of kingdoms, how long would you guess the Alkhalifa's have left?

What would you advise young activists like the bloggers, to do in addressing what we may feel is a futulie and endless political confrontation witha corrupt and autocratic regime?

Could you tell us about you're experience as an MP in the 70s and how it felt to be part of a political institution that challenged the power of the Amir?

I must apologise for all these questions! And if you cannot answer them here, then I really do hope that you do set up a blog that could reach out to ppl across the world and share you're valued opinion.

In anticipation. Bahrania

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 6/07/2005 06:39:00 PM #

Bahrania, PLEASE don't take this comment wrong. The question is: how can you expect to engender good discussion and comments on a topic as important as this if the very next post you have is the announcement of the death of this site?

What's the point in flogging a dead horse (meaning this blog)?

Make up your mind, are you in or out?

Posted by Anonymous Mahmood Al-Yousif @ 6/08/2005 12:22:00 PM #

I said it was the final post, and i said discussions could continue, whether you choose to participate or not thats you're choice. Clearly, Odd, Abdulhadi and I are still interested in continuing this debate, since quite frankly, there isn't another platform where this can be done.

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 6/08/2005 12:34:00 PM #

I wish you, once again, the very best of luck.

Posted by Anonymous Mahmood Al-Yousif @ 6/08/2005 03:05:00 PM #

This will take a while to read and digest..

Hang in there girl. Silly mortals like me take a long time to grasp the ABCs of politics - especially having grown up in an environment where everything is TABOO.

Posted by Blogger SillyBahrainiGirl @ 6/09/2005 06:26:00 PM #

Also, I can't open the links.

Posted by Blogger SillyBahrainiGirl @ 6/09/2005 06:28:00 PM #

Hmmm...well i tried to summarise as best as i could, but I know the third article is definitely blocked by Batelco because it is from the site. The other links should work as they are from the University of Lund webpage. Not much I can do. I'll email them to u. cheers. B

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 6/09/2005 07:51:00 PM #

I am glad I can post a comment again :) but i dont have anything constructuive to say! :(

Kermit (the frog next door!)

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 6/10/2005 08:22:00 AM #

Hi kermit,

welcome back...u caught me in the nik of time...not sure if u read the post after this... anyways hope u will think of something constructive to say but thanks for dropping bye and reminding us of ur existance :)

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 6/10/2005 01:32:00 PM #

Salaam Bahrania and her guests

Before responding to some of the issues/questions you raise let me begin by saying that Mahmood Al-Yousif’s comment is well taken.
It is probably for the same reason that I do not accept invitations to join this and that Bahraini discussion forum. The last thing one wants to do is to provide an excuse for limiting the dearly won spaces free expression in Bahrain. In the following,

I will do my best not to write anything that I have not already said publicly in Bahrain.

Let me also note that there is a near agreement among students of socio-political developments in Bahrain that Shia/Sunni dichotomy generates some serious obstacles to endeavours aimed at institution-building. The late Fouad I. Khuri has insightfully covered this. While many before him have studied ramifications of Shia/Sunni divisions, Khuri’s pioneering study adds some new nuances to the ‘ethnic argument’. In its crudest form, the ethnic argument rests obviously on the image of the conqueror/conquered. Some would date that image to as far back as 1783, when al-Khalifa and other Sunni tribes from mainland Arabia ‘invaded’ Bahrain (Not a historian myself, I prefer the more documentable date of 1869, the beginning of Isa bin Ali’s reign). Khuri has convincingly argued against the simplistic notion that the ruling family is obsessively ethnic and tribal.

Departing partly from Khuri’s, I developed an argument against another simplistic notion widespread among Bahraini elite, stating that the ‘solution’ to all our problems lies in national unity. I do not mean to underestimate the ramifications of Shia/Sunni division on our past, present and future development. Theses ramifications are felt everywhere and can be seen affecting the career of small institutions that deal with day-to-day activities (consider for example what happened during recent elections of the board of Isa Town’s consumer cooperative), or larger institutions dealing with mid- and long term interests (consider, for example, the Chamber of Commerce, trade unions, or human rights watchdogs). Probably more evident is to how ethnic division has formed perception of state power and how this power is practiced. One can also argue that this division has shaped visions of the “State” which inspire and legitimize the activities of Bahraini political actors, whether they are loyal to the people in power or their opponents.

While conceding that the ethnic argument is a valid one I am, following Khuri, not convinced that it should be taken as an axiom. For the ruling family, or at least to the core of that family, ethnic division of society provide one of several instruments of exercising power. I tried to present my premises for saying this in ’Contentious Politics…’ and in the ‘Unfinished Business…’ (The Arabic translation of the latter is available in underground book sales in Bahrain).

In your perceptive presentation, you noted my reference to ‘vertical segmentation’. In ’Contentious Politics …’ and in the ‘Unfinished Business…’ I argue that VS has proven itself a useful form of social organisation and as an effective vehicle for rule. As shown during the oil-boom years of the 1970s, the regime has effectively used the resources at its disposal to create new corporatives and new intermediaries (retiring some old ones, and reviving others). Intermediaries are selected from tribal, religious, confessional groups as well as according to their wealth, kinship, or residential backgrounds. Individually these intermediaries have always been exchangeable, and, at times, even dispensable.

In practice, VS goes beyond the Shia/Sunni division to penetrate all public spaces in the country. (Well, private spaces are left for the religious authorities to keep in acceptable order). Unauthorized horizontal cooperation between social actors is discouraged and, on occasions, severely punished. While examples of these sanctions are numerous throughout the nearly seven decades that I focus on, I contend that utilisation of VS and other instruments of rule became more intensive and more extensive following the dissolution of parliament in 1975.

From regime’s perspective, the harvest of the past decades has not been bad. Thanks to VS and other instruments of rule, the regime has persevered and even prospered in spite of its chronic crises of legitimacy. During the past seven decades, it has survived several minor and serious challenges to its stability, including such dramatic events of 1953-6, the 1965, 1972, 1973-75, 1979-80, and 1994-2000. Optimists within the royal family may even believe that the same instruments will help them regime to outsmart its opponents and overcome the current constitutional crises. I am not sure these are realistic expectations. However, for a student of Bahraini sociopolitics, these are exciting spring times. (Yes, Mel Brooks would have made a good comic movie of it, although I think G. R. Hill, the director of another movie, the Sting, would be a better choice).

Even fanatic loyalist would agree that the harvest of the past decades, on balance, is distressing. Bahrainis continue to be treated as subjects of a dynastic ruler and not citizens of a state. As subjects, they may request royal favours and makramas, but they cannot demand rights and entitlements. The harvest of the past decades is distressing also because Bahrain society is in such a fragmented state. People seem to live in isolated oases unable of trusting inhabitants of other oases. As subjects, they may reach vertically for support from the regime but not horizontally from each other. The prevailing trust deficit is the most tragic part of the harvest of the past decades. [Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust Trust how many times can one repeat the word?] I believe that the trust deficit is detrimental to the future of the country. Something must be done before it is truly too late. The regime does not trust its people and vice versa. (Moreover, there is anecdotal evidence that pillars of the regime do not trust each other). The people do not trust each other (some exceptions are to be made for the trust that is exchanged among members of each vertical segment and within its confines).

Odd is right when he writes that mistrust also within the opposition. Unfortunately, I am aware of much anecdotal evidence showing that political organisations do not trust one another. Indeed, there are examples of leaders of this and that organisation who do not trust other leaders within the same organisation because they suspect these have their own private agendas and/or backdoor contacts with the regime. A history of cooptation has taken its toll. But that is another sad story.

In their different ways, Bourdieu, Fukuyama, Putnam, Rothstein, and others have discussed trust as a form of capital. Like other forms of capital, trust can be lost and can be accumulated. As a capital, trust can grow, invested, and reinvested. But it can be squandered. For trust to grow, outside the confines of isolated segements, people must learn to deal with each other, to interact in every form without fear of sanctions by the regime.

In discussing the idea that trust is a form of capital that can grow or be squandered, I take an example from our recent history. Consider what happened in Bahrain between November 2000 and February 2002. The Amir/people ‘trust index’ ( I am just making this up to clarify a point) rose gradually but steadily from zero, or even minus, to over 100. Columnists (whether the habitual drummers or not) were euphorically echoing the positive feelings prevailing in the country at the time, and the praise showered by most of us, including sceptics like myself, at the HH the Amir, and what we thought to be his audacity and vision. Most of us, wanted to believe HH. Some of us desperately needed to trust HH and his promises. When HH cited the lines: “We have yet to live the most beautiful days ….” from a poem by Nazim Hikmet, the Turkish communist poet, most of us just went in a state of trance. You probably remember more details than I can cite here. What a dramatic change of fortunes. Who would have thought that Sitra, of all places, would receive HH as its beloved champion, saviour, and hope? All in one. What Sitrawis did was also done by inhabitants of other parts of the country.

In a commentary published at the time I noted the HH was actually raising popular expectations much beyond what he can realistically deliver. I did not heed my own warnings. Like the rest of the country I invested portions of my trust in HH although it was obvious that the burden is just too heavy to bear by one person. In hindsight one agrees that trust is good and that too much trust, or rather unconditional trust, is dangerous to both sides.

What happened after February 14, 2002 is also a dramatic change of fortune. The Amir/people ‘trust index’ (again I am just making this up) fell from all time high to very low, and in some quarters to minus. The hard won fund of trust that HH accumulated gradually during the past two years were wasted by a stroke of a pen. A columnist writing in a Akhbar al-Khaleej actually referred to Piccolo. No one noticed that column.

My own disappointment is not because I was let down or that someone I trusted did not keep promises given. At my age, one learns that this part of life. What I think is really tragic is that on February 14, 2002 we witnessed yet another lost opportunity. We, all lost a historic opportunity to go beyond identity politics in Bahrain and to discard vertical segmentation of society. We all, HM as well as you and I, lost yet another opportunity to start building a state inhabited by citizens not subjects. From my perspective, our big loss was because HM chose to dribble away that unique historical moment. Average players and watchers of chess games know that being astute tacticians is not the same as innovative strategists.

As an incorrigible optimist, I do believe that there is still a chance to rectify the situation and to bring reform project back to life. Reviving the reform project is a major task that requires hard work including making those necessary arguments that convince HM that the current crises would not go away by simply waiting opponents, through dispensing some additional royal makramas, or by cooptation of more persons from the ranks of the opposition.

You are right, Bahrania, when noting that the three essays you mentioned focus on the role of the ‘state’ and do not consider the role of other social actors including the clans, the religious establishments, political organisations and other components of the civil society. I have tried to deal with the role of some of these social actors in few papers in Arabic. In fact, my first public lecture in Bahrain (May 15, 2001, I sought to highlight the problematic symbiosis that exists between society and the regime/ruling family. I was of course pleased to know that evening that HH watched that lecture live, thanks to Bahrain TV that beamed it to the royal palace. And of course I was genuinely dismayed to hear that HH did was displeased with arguments. The royal displeasure was expressed promptly in a harshly worded statement issued by the minister of Court Affairs and published by local media on the next day. To this day I am really, and honestly, astonished at that discourteous reaction from a would-democrat to another.

Here is a link to that lecture.
You may also have some time to check another paper in Arabic, written some five months later, which could fit the bill of ‘self-critiquing the opposition’.

In that lecture, I noted the non-existence of 'a common national space'. I expressed my belief, and hopes at time, that king Hamad had an historical opportunity to remedy the situation by mobilising popular energies to contain, if not eradicate, the social, political and economic conditions that hinder fostering of a common national space in Bahrain. Using the Habermasian notion of Constitutional Patriotism I suggested a way out from the futile attempts to eradicate ethnic identities and to replace the Sunni/Shia dichotomy by a non-existing ‘national identity’. Instead, and following Jürgen Habermas, I proposed that we (HH/the regime as well as their supporters and opponents) should cast off identity politics and focus on constructing a more realistic alternative. The alternative, I suggested, is a contractual form of community based on ‘constitutional citizenship’. (Unfortunately, what is happening in Iraq these days could give the Habermasian Constitutional Patriotism a bad name).

Further, I argued that the reform project is facing some difficulties. Parts of these difficulties are rooted in the general perception that is it, the reform project, is a private royal initiative. This, obviously, is a major weakness in the reform process in Bahrain hindering it from taking roots and from being consolidated as a national pact. (Pacted agreements are more likely to be realistic and are more likely to take into consideration the worries and strategic interests of most participants). As a royal initiative, the reform process will remain a series of makramas, which are exclusive prerogative of the king. In short, the reform process will be counterproductive in the sense that it would only consolidate the feeling of exclusion experienced by ordinary people as well as by elite.

I hope I have responded to some of the interesting issues you raise. I will leave the remaining issues/questions for the future. Some may remain unanswered (e.g., how long time has the regime left?) because they need more than a welcoming blog space.

And, finally, yes. I would love to write about the 1973-5 parliamentary ‘experiment’ and on my feelings of being part of an institution that challenged the regime at the time. Vanity, if not history, is good enough motive. However, a former elected member of the 1973-5 parliament, Ali Rabia, has beaten me to that. Alas! His excellent manuscript documenting that experience remains unpublished. I do not find this strange, though. There are not so many history buffs in Bahrain. How many books you know that deal in seriously with 1953-6 ‘events’?

Take care


Posted by Anonymous Abdulhadi @ 6/13/2005 11:53:00 AM #

السلام عليكم

لي مجرد تعليق بسيط على مداخلة دكتور عبدالهادي خلف، في الجانب الذي يتحدث فيه عن الثقه الضائعه بين الحكومة في البحرين و بين الشعب..

اول ما استغرب منه، هو ترديد المعارضه في الوقت الحالي بمنح فرصة اكثر لملك البلاد، لاثبات حسن نواياه في الاصلاح و ارساء مملكة القانون، و استغرب اكثر اننا من المفروض ان نصدق ادعاء ان هناك اصلاح حقيقي قد تمر به البحرين في يوم من الايام..

اعتبروني متشائما، او حتى اعتبروني غير مقتنع بكل هذا الزخم الاعلامي المردد بأننا نعيش عصر اصلاح و انفتاح و شفافيه..

هل الشفافية و الاصلاح تبدأ من خلال تزوير اجزاء مهمه من تاريخ البحرين و تمريرها على انها مسلمه من مسلمات التاريخ؟

هل استطيع الثقه اليوم بمن تدخل و غير في تاريخ البلاد حسب ما يراه مناسبا له و لأهوائه؟

الشيخ عيسى بن علي حاكم البحرين ابتداء من 1869 و لمدة تزيد عن النصف قرن، لم يدخل للبحرين كحاكم بناء على طلب من ابناء شعب البحرين كما جاء في المقدمة التاريخية لميثاق العمل الوطني لعام 2001، بل تم تنصيبه كحاكم على البحرين من قبل سلطات الاحتلال الانجليزية بعد احداث معركة الضلع الشهيرة و المثبته تاريخيا.

خرق واضح للتاريخ، تضمنه الميثاق، يزلزل كل ما قد احمله من ثقه تجاه ملك البلاد، فكيف يمكنني ان اثق بمن يتعبث في التاريخ ليغير ما يريد حسب ما يرضي هواه.

الشيخ عيسى بن سلمان الامير الراحل المتوفي في عام 1999، وفي بداية سبعينيات القرن الماضي، عندما طرحت الامم المتحده التصويت على البحرين، هل يتم دمجها مع دولة شاه ايران او بقائها عربيه تحت حكم آل خليفه، ذهب على الفور للنجف الاشرف في زيارة عاجله و تعهد امام المراجع العظام بانه سيرفع الظلم عن الشعب، ولن يكون هناك شيعيا واحد مظلوما طوال فترة حكمه للبلاد، اذا ما صوت الشعب لبقاء البحرين تحت حكومة ال خليفه، وثق المصوتون بتعهد الامير الراحل، ولم تقدنا هذه الثقه الا الى 25 سنه من الحكم الاسود الاستبدادي و المنتهك لجميع حقوق الانسان، فلم يبقى منزل من منازل البحرين شيعة و سنه الا وعانى ما عانى من ظلم و جبروت حكومة الامير الراحل.

بمناسبة استقلال البحرين في عام1971 تقدم بعض وجهاء الدوله للامير الراحل بطلب ليصدر بموجبه عفوا عن المبعدين و المعتقليين السياسيين، الا ان الامير السابق رفض كل ذلك معللا قوله " لن ابدأ عهدي بالافراجات حتى لا يقال بان الحاكم ضعيف الشخصيه " ان كان الحاكم يعتبر الاصلاح و رفع الظلم هو ضعف في شخصية الحاكم، فكيف يمكننا الوثوق به و تصديق تعهداته؟

دكتور عبدالهادي تذكر جيدا كيف اختفة كلمة " وان احترم الدستور " من قسم امير البلاد الراحل في المضبطة المطبوعة للجلسه الاولى لبرلمان1973، و كيف اعترضت انت شخصيا على عدم وجود هذا الجزء من قسم الامير في مضبطة الجلسه، و كيف تم تعليل ذلك بانه مجرد خطأ طباعي لا اكثر.

بعد كل هذه السنوات والاحداث، الا تعتقد معي بان غياب كلمة " وان احترم الدستور " غياب يحمل في طياته الكثير من المعاني و الابعاد، وهو غياب مقصود، لابعاد الملك عن كل ما يجرمه من خروقات قد يقوم بها لاحقا، وقد قام بها فعلا.

ايضا اتذكر موقفكم عندما طالبتم بالافراج عن المعتقليين السياسيين بمناسبة احد الاعياد الاسلامية في عام 1974، و شددتم على عدم ادراج كلمة عفو اميري، لان العفو يصدر بحق المجرم و هو اعتراف من المجرم بذنبه، ولكن المعتقلين ابرياء ولا ذنب لهم

كان ذلك في 1974 رفض شديد لكلمة العفو، و تحول هذا الرفض الى تصفيق في عام 2001 و شكرا وعرفنا لملك البلاد لما قام به من اصداره عفو عام، اثبت علينا التهم، دون حتى ان نعترف بها، الا عندما قبلنا بهذا العفو

اعذرني للاطاله دكتور عبدالهادي، لكنني افسر فقط لماذا لا امتلك بداخلي ولا ذرة واحده للثقه في ملك البلاد او حكومة الشيخ خليفه بن سلمان

انهي ما بدأته متذكرا و مذكرا قول الله تعالى " و اوفوا بالعهد ان العهد كان مسؤولا "

و ايضا متذكرا و مذكرا " لا يلدغ المؤمن من جحرِ مرتين " و يكفينا ما انلدغنا منه

Posted by Anonymous Abdulla Mohsin @ 6/13/2005 02:19:00 PM #

Dr Khalaf,
It has been a pleasure to read your papers/articles over the past few years, and it's an honour that you've chosen to engage with us here on Bahrania's blog.

Your "vertical segmentation" model is a very useful model that is applicable to even the more recent attempts by the regime maintain control. In particular, I see the new parliament as little more than an attempt to find new social actors who will play the role of intermediaries to be able to maintain VS. This may become increasingly important if the intermediaries from the traditional patronage systems lose popular influence, or if they misbehave.

That the King reportedly presented each of the nuwabs with a brand new Mercedes is an indicator of the regim's intentions. I think therefore the leaders of the boycotting parties did well to have resisted the temptation of the royal patronage that they could have opted for.

One of Bahrania's question that you didn't answer was about how the VS of society can be dismantled. Identifying Habermasian Consitutional Patriotism as an end goal is a good first step, but how can we convince everyone to jump on board in the face of tempting royal patronage?

I'm interested in whether you think there are opportunities available right now for people to translate the regime's limited private reforms (and previaling external conditions) into real public reforms? Can these small cracks be used by activists to burst the floodgates? (There are a few factors which may come in to play: (i) the government's greater tolerance of public expression, (ii) that the government no longer has a stranglehold on the flow of information because of the Internet, satellite TV, SMS, etc, and (iii) the US's and the world's greater interest Middle East democracy.)

If you have the time, it would be great to hear your reponse. Many thanks again.

(I had a good laugh when I read your comparison of the situation here with The Sting.)

Posted by Anonymous chanad @ 6/13/2005 04:24:00 PM #

Dr Khalaf,

I thank you on elaborating further some of the points above and raising new ones which add to the the depth and insight of the discussion, such as trust as ‘capital’, the notion of constitutional citizenship, and the importance of a true ‘national identity’. The first step in resolving any problem is identifying it, and this what we have done in this discussion, like Chan’ad, I’m interested in knowing how based on this framework, we can now as activists move forward and out of the historical pattern of cyclical political crises, some sort of strategy for conflict resolution. How do we kick start reform again, knowing that it needs to be all-encompassing, not just a contractual constitution, but built on trust, through inclusion and cohesion. Since we know this lies in the hands of the King and the ‘ruling core’ this requires a true conviction on their behalf that the transition to democracy is in their interest. The simple fact of the matter is that it is NOT in their interest to democratize, since as u pointed out in one of you’re papers they will have to cede power, tribal privileges, and machavellian customs they have perpetuated over centuries. Although they realise that democratization is an imminent factor in their future survival in the modern world, the ‘defenders of the status quo’ will do all they can to distract, mislead procrastinate true reform for as long as possigle- a difficult pill to swallow to cure the country’s ailments.Although I believe it is just a matter of time, depending on domestic and global factors, are we just supposed to wait and become consumed in daily tit-for-tat politics and flagrant violations of the law?

My concern is that many of the youth have just become disengaged and disillusioned, and already making lackadaisical statements like, “but the Crown Prince is different, he is cool and progressive”, unfortunately history has shown us that none of the Alkhalifa rulers have been radical enough to challenge other members of the ruling family, and I don’t see how this CP will be any different, but maybe it is a comfort to place false hope and trust in anything deluding us to a brighter future. Optimists and cynics sway between giving ‘benefit of the doubt’ and being totally suspicious about any initiative taken by the ‘ruling elite’ since it’s priority is to protect its interests if not to unabashedly serving it. Although you have said that you are an optimist, you ended you're talk with the following sentence:

سيبقى الوطن مزرعة وسيبقى المواطنون رعايا

As a ‘champion of enlightenment’ (a slightly glorified term!) how would you advise a movement for change to approach the ‘ruling elite’, for example with radical or passive approaches, and how would mobilisation of the ‘street’ help?

Finally, even if Ali Rabea beat you to writing his ‘memoirs’ about his time in Parliament, I don’t see how this excludes you doing the same thing, knowing, for example, that you were notoriously outspoken, and aged only 27? I have also heard a few stories, outlined above by Abdulla Mohsin, about radical positions taken by you in refusing to sign the minutes after the deliberate ‘omission’ of the Amir’s verbal promise to ‘abide by the constitution’ in one of the sittings. Even then you proved to have the foresight and insight, that you have kindly shown here.

regards. Bahrania

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 6/13/2005 09:23:00 PM #

Ok! Bahrania. Now I know there is at least one sure buyer of my ‘memoirs’. In the following, I will test how quickly I manage to bore you.

Of the few times I thought I need to write something to ‘set the record straight’ was after I read our prime minister’s commissioned biography. In chapter 10 ,

the PM's commissioned biographers describe a very minor event that I thought will go for ever undocumented. The PM’s biography states:

“On Sunday, 23rd December 1973, the National Assembly held its first practical session. The session, due to be held at 9 a.m., began 45 minutes late, due to certain patterns of behaviour, mistakenly thought by some members as part of the democratic process, whereas they were merely fruitless arguments, incompatible with the spirit of true parliamentary practices, and obstructive in the efforts of the State in many fields of national service”.

The 45 minutes delay of the first working session of the parliament was due to a meeting the PM had with me (as a spokesperson of the People’s Block to which I belonged). The PM began the meeting with a demand, nay a command, that we rescind the very first motion we planned to table that same day, our first working day as ‘representatives of the people’. That motion calls for the release of all political detainees and return of all exiles. (A point mentioned by Abdulla Mohsin above). I had a zero experience in the art of negotiation with such a powerful man who is full of himself as well. What made things worse, for a young and inexperienced person, was that the presence of another person attending that meeting. Sayyid Mahmood Al-Alawi, was then the minister of finance, but he was also one of my maternal ‘uncles’ who would have the traditional authority and right, in normal circumstances, to order me about.

Our ‘negotiations’, laced with the usual incentives, offers and outright threats, were fruitless. The forty-five minutes were spent more or less like this: he gives me the order to withdraw our motion and I respond by noting that we ( the block) have a popular and constitutional mandate to table that motion. Can you imagine how many ways in forty-five minutes you can rephrase the exchange: “do-this-I-cannot-do-that”? But we, the PM and I, managed well. To make things worse my colleagues in the People’s Block tasked me with tabling that motion myself on the same day.

Add a footnote to the above: On about the end of April 1976, while I was in my second spell of solitary detention, I was called to Henderson’s office for tea!!!! It was surreal tea party. Ours was the type of ‘civilized’ conversation you would expect between a brutal jailer accused of heinous crimes including torturing his detainees to death, and a detainee who was not even informed of the charges against him. While sipping tea from his exquisite china we conversed on this and that ( I remember babbling something about ‘legacies of British colonial rule”!! Rather inappropriate subject in front of the butcher of Kenyan freedom fighters. But I probably wanted to sound ‘scholarly’).

During that conversation, Henderson told me that he did not order my arrest nor was he interested in me. For him I was ‘uninteresting’ (which, one would rightly think and after three months of confinement, borders on a personal insult). Henderson claimed I was there on the personal orders of the PM. I did not seek to verify Henderson’s claim. Nor did I, for that matter, request the PM, or his biographers, to elaborate on what he or they mean by stating that ‘certain patterns of behaviour, mistakenly thought by some members as part of the democratic process, whereas they were merely fruitless arguments, incompatible with the spirit of true parliamentary practices, and obstructive in the efforts of the State in many fields of national service”).

Bahrania ! How about that for an opening of a chapter? See. In writing one’s recollections, one becomes self centred and boring, mostly to onself.

Now let move to the more serious sides of our discussion.

Abdulla Mohsin has kindly reiterated few things that I have no arguments with. Even his objection to my reference to ‘building trust’ is well taken.
اول ما استغرب منه، هو ترديد المعارضه في الوقت الحالي بمنح فرصة اكثر لملك البلاد، لاثبات حسن نواياه في الاصلاح و ارساء مملكة القانون، و استغرب اكثر اننا من المفروض ان نصدق ادعاء ان هناك اصلاح حقيقي قد تمر به البحرين في يوم من الايام..

I appreciate the real difficulty trying to convince people who watched HH sign the al-Ghuraifi document and who feel the immense let down caused by later events. Who would want to try again? To try to convince people that we have to persist in spite of our frusterations and anger is a colossal task indeed.

But I sincerely believe it can and must be done. In fact neither the people nor HM have another way out of this current crises.

It is not simply out of good-heard generosity, or extreme political naivety, that I suggest “making those necessary arguments that convince HM that the current crises would not go away…….”.

The ‘arguments’ that we need to make include, but not limited to, a better organisation of opposition forces, a clear and an unequivoval articulation of the minimum political platform that these opposition groups can agree on, and of course, a definite rejection of all backdoor negotiations (including segmental negotiations with this or that religious and tribal leader or this or that wajeeh or wajeeha).

I am heartened by following the work, for example, of the Consitutional Committee, a united forum for the opposition.

Ms. Jaleela al-Sayyid and her asssociates are providing some innovative examples of the type of arguments that would ultimately convince HM, and his domestic supporters as well as his extermal benefactors, that the current crises would not go away. More of the same is need. (I have detailed my views on “Forms of Civil Resistance” in a book published in 1988 , in Arabic).

As we formulate these ‘arguments’ and as we go through these and similar actions we learn more, become more innovative, and more audacious.

The common chests of trust become gradually filled through these JOINT actions and through learning to work with each other. I agree with you, Chanad, that floodgates could actually develop from the small cracks that are caused by organised political activities, spontaneous collective actions, effects of various forms of weapons of the weak. AND, of course one must add the other factors you mention: the government's inability to continue stifle public expression, or maintain total ‘stranglehold on the flow of information because of the Internet, satellite TV, SMS, etc: I also agree with you Chanad on the important role the US and the rest of world could play in how things develop in Bahrain, their direction and speed.

Sooner rather than later, Bahrania, it will be in THEIR interest to concede to popular demands. Or else, risk it all.

They can of course delay the inevitable but they cannot avoid conceding to the will of the people, exactly because they would have to realise, as you write, that “democratization is an imminent factor in their future survival in the modern world”.

You are right also in observing that “the ‘defenders of the status quo’ will do all they can to distract, mislead procrastinate true reform for as long as possible- a difficult pill to swallow to cure the country’s ailments”.

Yes, it is a matter of time, but it is NOT just that. We have to do our bit to expedite the process. And we get a good help from the regime’s own arrogance of power.

One does not need to be an inspired being like Mahatma Gandhi to see how the weak becomes strong. Just look at our own recent history.

A powerful adversary inevitably gets blinded by its power and greed. See what caused Malkiya and the form it mobilised so many people with so many diverse interests and agendas. Arrogance of power has generated new adversaries to the regime. The previously unmentionable issue of land grab ( and sea grab) has become front-page stuff. Al-Malikiya has brought to the fore forgotten places like Jidda, Umm al-Naasan, Umm Al-Sobban and more……….

Before I close, may I put in full a sentence you quoted from my Alumni Club lecture: the sentence reads

بالنسبة لهؤلاء سيبقى الوطن مزرعة وسيبقى المواطنون رعايا

The pronoun refers to the warnings one receives ‘after each nadwa as signals of the impatience of the old gurads ……( and other opponents of reform)…………… for ‘who would continue considering the country as their private garden and the people as their subjects’.

وما التهديدات والتحذيرات والتي نسمعها بعد كل ندوة ... إلا إشارات على تململ الحرس القديم الذي لم يقتنع ولم تقتنع بطانته، بـل وحتى الانتهازيين والمتمجدين (حسب الكواكبي صاحب الاستبداد ومصارع الاستعباد) في صفوف قادة البلاد الإصلاحيين، لم تقتنع بجدوى الانفراج الراهن... ناهيكم عن عدم اقتناعهم بجدوى الإصلاح السياسي ومن ثم التحول نحو الديمقراطية والدولة الدستورية والمواطنة الدستورية. بالنسبة لهؤلاء سيبقى الوطن مزرعة وسيبقى المواطنون رعايا


Posted by Anonymous abdulhadi @ 6/14/2005 01:44:00 PM #

This has been a little late coming. I'm somewhere between SBG and Mahmood on this one. The issue is almost too much to address adequately in one post.

Dr. Khalaf's commentary has been very insightful and it has given me much to think about.

I was curious to address these points. None of these events occur in a vacuum, and while the phenomenon of Vertical Segmentation occurs internally, at some point one wonders whether it happens externally as well.

Dr. Khalaf would be best to address this, as for all intents and purposes, Bahrain is a city state that operates within a regional framework. It is not a monolithic nation with a unique national identity (a la USA or France). While the Family is managing internal affairs by way of its generosity (the bedouin give and take), it is also juggling the outside world in much the same way.

So one hand they paint Iran as the foreign scapegoat for interference, while checking in with Riyadh, London or whoever they decide will give them a better deal this week on the other.

There exists this culture among them (that none of us are above either), of doing what it takes to survive in the fashion that they are accustomed to. I don't mean to say that it excuses the situation. the sooner we can account for it's effects, the sooner they can be addressed.

The whole set-up in the region can be best described as competition for patronage. Bahrain having the smallest and most fragmented population, offers a very different scenario than the other regional players. The best I can say is that as a whole she has the least enthusiastic players in that arena.

In that sense, it seems that HM the King has begun to take notes from more of his contemporaries, in Jordan and Morocco who deal with similar demographic characteristics (fragmented populations that aren't dependent on royal patronage). A stable Iraq would also fit thatt bill (which could very well account for the PM's alleged closeness with Saddam Hussein).

That viable solutions have not appeared in any of those entities is slightly troubling, but not disatrous.

These are just observations, I wonder if any of you have other thoughts....

Posted by Blogger Desert Island Boy @ 6/14/2005 07:10:00 PM #

Dr Khalaf, quite the contrary, I found that introduction pretty exciting since it features what have/will become the archetypal villains of bahraini history, the defiant hero, the backdrop of a historic struggle, and a showdown! These are the key ingredients of a good story and a successful book. Of course, any autobiographical piece will seem egotistical to the author, but most movers/shakers of world history have had their autobiographies written, not necessarily for self-glorification but to inspire others and become a role model. It is important to document events such as these. History is written by the winners, look at the PMs autobiography, which you have shown to be totally twisted. There is another version of events and it needs to be expressed. So please do not under-estimate the importance of publishing you're experiences; if it is not appreciated in the present, i'm sure it will be in the future. Even if it is not of an autobiographical nature, then even a non-fiction book collating all you're thoughts and wisdom in english would be a much need source written by a native.

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 6/14/2005 09:18:00 PM #

Just wondering, why doesn't Mr Khalaf start a thinktank or run for Parliament again. Secondly, do you think boycotting elections is a good strategy?

Posted by Anonymous U-sif @ 6/15/2005 04:21:00 PM #

This is the 10th time I visit this post over the previous two days and I am still at a loss.

I think we should break down the topics into smaller issues and each one could give his take and time permitting Dr Khalaf could add his insightful remarks.

I don't know how best to do it but a blog with Dr Khalaf's articles and the opportunity for the mortals in Wonderland to comment and raise questions (forgive me God for having such sinful notions) would be welcome.

Another silly thought by a silly girl from Wonderland ;)

Posted by Blogger SillyBahrainiGirl @ 6/15/2005 07:07:00 PM #

I am not sure I understand what Desert Island Boy refers to when he wonders ‘whether (VS) happens externally as well”. A versed student of international politics would probably give us some reasonable directions.

On the other hand, let us, for the sake of building an argument, start a mental excersise.

We can consider the US attempts at Old Europe/New Europe or, better still, we can consider the GCC situation. In both regions the US views itself as the Supreme Patron (benefactor). The GCC regimes and some Europeans, at least, have no quarrel with this.

As all rational patrons would do , the US prefers to deal with its clients individually, one-on-one-basis. The Clients must, at reasonable costs, be divided simply because they may, once united, feel strong enough and audacious enough to present joint demands.

It is in the patron’s (the US of A) long-term interests to discourage any move towards collective action. The patron begins negotiating lucrative trade agreements with the GCC Six, seperately. Bahrain signs (Oman signs, the UAE signs…… etc) a trade agrrement that does not take into consideration the collective interest of all the Six. In fact each of the negotiating GCC states enters the negotiation room as weak and vulnerable negotiator. Eah is eager and ready to accept any deal. Each overbidding the other and offering a concession after the other to sweaten the deal. The GCC’s over ambitious declarations of ‘joint actions’, of building a pan-GCC economic base ….etc etc.. are thrown into the sea.

Who wins? The patron, of course. Just recall the brawl during the last GCC Summit. Moreover, a GCC ministerial meeting decided last week to exempt deals with the USA from the GCC committment to 'joint actions'. Bingo! for the VS strategists in Whashington DC.

The above sound OK for a mortal sociologist. But I am not sure it will hold ground in the eyes of a political scientist. Make up you own mind.

I am grateful to you, Bahrainia, and to your guests, for your kind words. Let us stop at that, agreeing that I got my dose of kind words to cover my need the coming six months.

What do you mean, U-sif, by suggesting that I start a thinktank? Btween 1983-89 I was the CEO (and co-owner)of a small(hole-in-the-wall) consultancy office. It did not work very well and it consumed all my savings. That is why I came back to my alma mater where I found that I simply love to teach sociology. Trust me, mine is a nice vocation. In this you find one possible answer for why I do not consider running for parliament again. (there was a joke among my friends that once I decided to run for parliament, the PM would declare 65 years as the minimum age required for candidates :)Do not take it seriously, because I did not.

As with any step or action we take, in our personal or professional lives, boycotting the elections could prove to be the best or the worse strategy ever. It was evident from day one that what would deterimne the value of the boycott and its consequences would depend on what the boycotters do AFTER they have declared their position.

For a long while during the past two years, one could say that backdoor negotiations and segmental deals were threatening to make the boycott a political flop. I guess there some serious indications that such a threat has been averted for now.

In the context it may fit to reiterate that I believe that what have been initiated by Ms. Jaleela Al-Sayyid and her associates are examples of those measures, actions, or you wish, arguments that could make boycott a rational and effective strategy. Of course, the situation calls for more of these measures, actions and arguments.

You are not alone SillyBahrainiGirl feeling at a loss. I am too.

While it is always fun to be ‘the topic of the discussion’, the fun wears out quickly and becomes embaressing.

I agree with you, SBG, that we consider focusing discussion on a topic or two (small or BIG) where all of us, including mortals from Wonderland can participate. But what?


Posted by Anonymous abdulhadi @ 6/16/2005 12:22:00 PM #

Thanks Dr Khalaf for taking time to respond.

Let me tell you a story, not as bold as yours for I am a woman and you are a man; for your times are different from ours; for we have been brought up in an environment where everything is taboo.

A few years ago I was at a film festival in France and there were 'intellectuals' from all over the Arab world. Where else would Arabs meet and speak freely otherwise?

Anyway, I was having this deep discussion with a group at a reception one night when all of a sudden it turned into a one-on-one head on collision with this guy.

Shallow silly me didn't know who he was and didn't know where he came from. Is he Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian? I can't make out the accent because I only speak to the Arabs I know in English.

So I asked him: "Excuse me.. I won't waste my breath on someone I don't know. Who are u?"

The people around me were shocked. There was this man who even choked on his drink. I got rebuked by someone for not knowing his name and not reading his books. Apparently, he was a Syrian writer.

Silly me wasn't ashamed. Silly me being who I am shrugged my shoulders and said: "Well, it isn't my problem that I don't know him. It is his problem for not making himself known. It is the problem of a system he has supported by being quiet and not breaking the barriers and walls that keep us away from each other's literature and art."

The people around me were angry as to how dare I tell him things like this. He nodded. He understood. Now I know who he is. No I haven't read his books because I cannot comprehend reading dry textbook material ;)

Dr Khalaf, people of your stance and your experience, have a national obligation to reach out to us and teach us all those things purposely omitted in textbooks.

We have grown up sheltered, shackled and bonded. We have been born into slavery and if we don't make a change and if we don't demand a better tomorrow, then our children will have to carry this heavy burden and pass it on to theirs as well and the vicious circle would continue.

That is why we are eager to learn. That is why we want to know. And when we know, we can make our own informed choices and stop being herded like cattle the way we are.

As an educator, you shouldn't take after Bahrain and become like Adhari. I am not suggesting that you leave your job and come back and do charity work with us because this would be futile as you have correctly pointed out that the reform we have is an arbitrary decision made by he who is in power - and he who giveth could easily taketh.

Those cosmetic reforms we are not happy about could be withdrawn with immediate effect and you will not be forced to vote for that.

Please consider setting up a blog/forum/website where people of different schools of thought (hehehe) can come together and discuss things openly - in English.

The benefit is for Bahrain. For a better tomorrow. For the beautiful days we have not lived yet.

Posted by Blogger SillyBahrainiGirl @ 6/17/2005 02:19:00 AM #

Should Dr Khalaf take up our suggestion to set up a blog, I suggest a Mahmood-style one, where one can comment on comments.
You know what I am talking about.

Posted by Blogger SillyBahrainiGirl @ 6/17/2005 02:21:00 AM #

Dr Khalaf,
I know you're already inundated with comments and questions, but I hope you'll answer a few more (It's not often that we get the opportunity to speak freely with real scholars on Bahrain).

First I'd like to join everyone else in encouraging you to write a book documenting your experience as an MP, or if not that, then a blog. The blog recently set up by Wardah and Ward is great because it gives the politics a personal context which is so hard to find these days. Something along those lines would be great. I'm sure I'm not the only one who enjoyed reading about your interactions with the PM and the Butcher of Bahrain. It's quite simple to set up a blog, but if you're short of time I'd be happy to set it up for you.

And a question:
When the King announced in Feb 2001 that only the elected chamber would have legislative power, do you think he had the intention of following through on this? And that it was only afterwards that he realized he had promised more than he could deliver?

Or, as you have hinted with your comparison to The Sting, was it all part of premeditated plan to fool the people and extract the much needed Yes vote in the referendum? If it was the latter, how did Hamad know that the country would not be plunged into the violent crisis of the 90s again when he would eventually reveal the new 2002 constitution? What indications were there at the time that the opposition had been pacified? Or was it a risk, that he had to take because he didn't have many other options available?

Again, I do hope you have the time to answer, and many thanks for all that youve shared with us already.

Posted by Anonymous Chanad @ 6/18/2005 05:19:00 PM #

Salaam to you all

Unfortunately, this will be my last message for this once.
The movers are on their way to move our department to another building. Presently we are housed in one of those ‘cultural heritage buildings’ i.e. very cosy but not really functional.
Repairs and modernisation would require two terms according to one plan.
Although our transit building is only four hundred meters away, the movers will need near two weeks to have us re-settled. My cyber contacts will be heavily limited.

SBG.’s story from the film festival in France is interesting. It confirms that the world is full of Arabs, Europeans, Indians, Chinese…..etc. who are full of themselves and who get shocked that ‘we’ do not recognize them or know of them. I, too, do not feel ashamed admitting I do not know this well-known person or that, or that I have not read that well-read book or that. We cannot ‘know everyone and everything’.

It is heartening to read that you were not intimidated by the rest of the group and that you shrugged your shoulders. Get them SBG. Do not let them intimidate you. Shrug your shoulders another time.

However, I do not agree with your suggestion that I, or anyone else for that matter, has ‘a national obligation’ to teach you, i.e. the young generations. While it is tempting to fulfil that sort of national obligation, allow me to opt for abstention. And, let us leave the matter at that for now.

The last thing you, and your generation, need is another old person dispensing his/her ‘wisdom’. Your generation, SBG, should be allowed to live its own life, and also to learn from its own mistakes. I guess I was your age when I shouted in the 1960s, in unison with almost ‘every self-respecting student’ in Western universities: ‘Never-Trust-Anybody-Over-30’. Had our generation, in Bahrain, listened to our elders, or let them fulfil their obligation to teach/indoctrinate us, we would never have made our own mistakes or have made the things we are credited for. This may sound like a lame cliché , but it is fitting: find out your own solutions to your own problems.

Your story about your encounter during that film festival in France is a case in point. I guess I, when I was your age, would have been intimidated. You did not.

Your other points are well taken.

I have, on different occasions, deliberated the questions posed by you, Chanad: 1) did HM actually intend to follow through all the promises he made from November 2000 to February 2002? 2) did HM discover, sometime during that period that he had promised a) more than he should, b) more than needs to, or c) more could deliver?

I do not know the answers. I do, however, speculate.

My reference to the Sting does not necessarily mean that I credit HM with what you call a premeditated plan to fool the people and extract the much needed Yes vote in the referendum. (Such a plan would require a strategic thinking and not just tactical resourcefulness).

No. The parallels with the Sting story that I refer to are found in the PROCESS. You would recall that all moves by Henry Godrorff and his helpers in the Sting were not based on a definite plan but on their gut feelings, on reflexes AND on their judgement of e Lonnegan’s moves. It is a con, it is an artful process, but it was developed on ad hoc basis.

They made their new moves as they went along.

My own feeling, not based on any hard evidence, is that HM and his closer associates were devising each move as they went on. Almost on daily basis. (No serious plan would include something like signing al-Ghuraifi Document in front of Tv cameras).

NO. There are no indication that the whole thing was planned, con or otherwise. What is clear is that they well defined goal. The end objective was to bring calm to the country. Or to use a metaphor favoured by HM, ‘to get the country out of the bottleneck’ – No where does it say : and then what?

I guess HM was surprised by how smooth the whole process went. How low cost it was. He did not have to go far. We, all of us, were euphoric – a national state of trance was engulfing the country.

Without having any hard evidence to rely on, I believe that HM , in November 2000, was readying himself and the family to give up some of privileges and offer the opposition more concessions. But things went unexpectedly well. Too well, I might add. At one point, the opposition seemed too pleased, too content and too grateful, and too split, to pose any demand, to question the process – its pace and direction.

Why then, if I were HM, should I give more?

In a public lecture I referred to the battle of Uhud. I still think it is a fitting metaphor (not mine, in fact). I still think the metaphor sheds some light to answer your question and to help explain what happened after the referendum. I elaborated on
this in another public lecture in Bahrain (1/3/2003)…doc

I have no clue to help me attempt answer your other questions
“how did Hamad know that the country would not be plunged into the violent crisis of the 90s again when he would eventually reveal the new 2002 constitution? What indications were there at the time that the opposition had been pacified? Or was it a risk, that he had to take because he didn't have many other options available?”

It was obvious to many of us that the con, while successful, would be short-lived. It was evident to many of us that what SBG call ‘cosmetic reforms’ would only take us out of the bottleneck. And, It was evident to many of us that outside that bottle there is a more serious mess that we, all including HM, need to deal with- sooner rather than later.

HM should have had access to more information than we acccessed.

Some of intelligent advisors must have considered that the way the reform process was running would plunge the country in a crises of sort. Or at least they hould have consider it, the crises, as a possible outcome – a worse scenario. They did not. Or, most likely, they thought the regime is powerful enough to withstand another ‘bottleneck’.

That was a folly that fits Barbara Tuchman : HM had everything going for him, then…

Finally, Chanad, you may want to check this link

to read my letter to one of HM’s advisors on some of the issues we have discussed while I have hosted by Bahrania.

Thanks to you all


Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 6/20/2005 02:37:00 PM #

Abdulhadi, many thanks for taking the time and trouble to address us here. Speaking for myself, i can say this has been one of the most intellectually riveting debates i've had on Bahraini politics. I've learnt alot. Its funny that we're having this discussion against the backdrop of the Malkiya Wall protests, and seeing it resolved yesterday by the PM who 'compensated the owner with other lands'. Yet another nice example of the way the regime appeases the wrangling parties and maintains vertical segmentation and emerges on top as the saviour. In any other institutionally 'democratic' country, the courts would settle this, but in Bahrain we're still living in the era of whims. Day after day we see events such as Malkiya. No doubt the owner has been given land twice if not treble the value of the disputed territory. All parties are happy, tension diffused in an instant, at the expense of further corruption and backdoor negotiations.

I can summise the fruits of this debate into the following:

-we must all support moves that would enhance social cohesian and work towards building a national identity that transcends the ethnic, religious, sectarian boundaries.

-The policy of marginalisation, fragmentation and segmentation has been the tool that empowers the regime, we must heed this and try and overcome it through collective effort, and supporting the likes of Jaleela Alsayed and the Constitutional conference.

-Finding a common national space, through symbolic national events and celebrations that unite the Bahraini ppl, an example being the celebration of Independence day in August. This could also include, building a new educational curriculum that enshrines a true Bahraini national identity.

-working towards institutionalising any reforms and minimising the whimsical interference of the monarch. Moving away from the perception that the reform initiative is an Amiri project, towards one in which reforms are embedded and institutionalised through consitutional patriotism and citizenship.

-opening a dialogue in which all factions (national figures, including the monarch and all national representitives) can determine the political course of the country and embark on it through a united vision and collective effort, 'Camp David' style.

I hope all the other bloggers, can take some of the ideas we've talked about here and share it with their own readers and debate further on other platforms.

Abdulhadi, I hope the move goes smoothly, and I do hope that you would consider setting up a blog and take up Chan'ads offer of technical support.

all the best. Bahrania

Posted by Blogger Bahrania @ 6/21/2005 12:27:00 PM #

You have a nice blog here! I will be sure to book mark you.
I have a double email in lead opt site. It pretty much covers double email in lead opt related stuff. Check it out if you get time :-)

Posted by Blogger Marketing man @ 10/02/2005 07:35:00 AM #
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