Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"In a dictatorship you can't speak. In a democracy you can speak," said Minister of Information Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar Abdulla.

He forgot to add "In a dictatorship I [MoI] have a job. In a democracy I don't have a job".

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Adversial politics; media summary so far

The elections in Bahrain have received relatively good coverage and overall noted the skepticism and distrust over the whole process due largely to the recent Bandargate scandal. "Playing by unfair rules"as the Economist aptly describes the elections. Nevertheless, you are left to wonder at times whether reporters have accidently used an Iraq or Lebanon quick template, not just for their nauseating emphasis on sectarianism where every other word is Shia or Sunni, but we also had reports of "civil war", "Muqtada al-Sadr" appearances, harbingers of potential "Shia uprising" and even plots of ethnic "cleansing". Certainly the regional situation isn't a bunch of roses, and you realise how tension can spillover indirectly from your unruly neighbours. Lebanon - Bahrain is not, however much the media would like to play up Saudi or Iranian influence on the country. It is American influence on the ruling family which determines our political course more than anything, the story ad nauseum repeats itself across the ME.

Others have preferred to attribute Bahrain's "blossoming" situation to the initiative of our "reclusive" King. 'Blossoming' maybe just slightly exaggerated, i'd prefer the word "buggered", however 'reclusive' is an unintentionally fair description - so reclusive he is in fact that he has only ONCE ever paid visit to most of the unworthy villages in a tour of the country that covered the best part of 4 kilometres from his palace. The latter being the subject of this Financial Times article; Google's gaze over palace wall spurs equality drive in Bahrain.

Some of the palaces take up more space than three or four villages nearby and block access to the sea for fishermen. People knew this already. But they never saw it. All they saw were the surrounding walls,” said Mr Yousif, who is seen in Bahrain as the grandfather of its blogging community." Apparantly, "80 per cent of the island has been carved up between royals and other private landlords, while much of the rest of the population faces an acute housing shortage."

(An aside, I assure you that outside the geographic boundaries of Bahrain, namely in Geneva, London or Nice, reclusiveness is not a prevalent characeteristic of HH). The briefly blocked Google Earth and other "popular websites, such as the occasionally banned forum Bahrain Online, have a larger readership than any of the country's newspapers, and the young population is adept at using proxy sites to bypass official blocks." notes the Economist Intelligence Unit in Bahrain Politicals: Adversarial which on the bandergate scandal and subsequent gagging order states;

...the government has resorted to a clampdown on public discussion of Bandargate. The High Criminal Court has banned any reporting related to the report while Dr al-Bandar awaits trial, and the information ministry subsequently blocked some 20 websites (including personal blogs) that had discussed the case. In addition, two Haq activists were arrested in early November for allegedly possessing and planning to distribute leaflets encouraging Bahrainis to boycott the vote.

Let us not forget that there are prisoners of conscious still dwelling in Bahraini jails while this raucus ensues.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

هل يدفع الملك فاتورة الكهرباء؟

The mother of the three dead Bahraini children used "candles to light the flat, as the family could not afford electricity."

يا وطن الأغنياء. يا وطن النفط. يا وطن الطبّالة والسحّارة وتاج الملك

ألهذا الحد أنت مفلس،
ألهذا الحد أنت حقير!؟.
- يا وطن وزارة

ثمة سؤال يؤرّقني منذ طفولتي:
- هل يدفع الملك
فاتورة الكهرباء الشهرية؟.

لم يدفعوا أجرة الفاتورة
صبيّان وبنت.

أشرفُ منكم أطفال المنامة،
من كل فواتيركم،
اشرف من انتخاباتكم، من سائس خيل الوزير، من الوزير
نفسه ومن الوزارة
وأشرف من علمكم ونشيدكم الوطني

From Madas Ayatallah blog who asks the pertinent question, does the King pay his own electricity bill?

Well the answer is No, and not because he can't afford it.

Plea all journalists, NGO's and human rights activists who will be visiting Bahrain in to cover the parliamentary elections in two days time.

Two major issues need to be mentioned in your coverage. Firstly, the arrest of two political activists on charges of printing material criticizing the regime and the Bandargate scandal.

Should you require more information and contact help in Bahrain. Email me on

It is astonishing if not oxymoronic that so-called democratic elections are held at a time when innocent political activists are jailed, and a string of royal totalitarian edicts the latest of which is today's ban on worker's strikes virtually everywhere except your backyard.


MANAMA: Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa yesterday issued an edict banning strikes at vital facilities.

Striking or calling for one at these locations are forbidden as they 'may disturb national security and disrupt people's daily course of lives'.

Establishments include security, civil defence, airports, seaports, hospitals, health centres and pharmacies.

The ban also applies to all means of transport involving people or merchandise, telecommunications, electricity, water, bakeries, educational establishments and oil and gas facilities.

I guess Bahrain is lucky that it doesn't have an underground tube system where strikes frequently occur bringing one of the biggest world cities to a standstill. Where protesting on a daily basis outside the Houses of Parliament in London, is legal, however much Tony Blair hates it. In fact, earlier this year, university staff in nearly all British universities earlier this year held an assessment strike for months. Industrial action and unionisation are the cornerstones of a democracy, however inconvenient.

Reportedly, an infamous minister once told Hamad, "take the constitution and tailor it to your size". That is what we ended up having, a deMOCKracy tailored and fitted to Alkhalifa's interests. Just so nice and convenient, is it not?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

He's back!

The legend who sang Lady d'Arbanville, Peace Train and Father and Son in the days where music and lyrics were meaningful and cogent...returns after 30 years of religious metamorphosis, older but still with the same great voice...await the new album, An Other Cup.


"Did talk of sure but gradual reform, mean changing things for the better, or a re-form, old ways taking another shape?

When it was said that the most beautiful of days are yet ahead of us, who were the “us” therein? The Riffa-based lot only or the dwellers of towns and villages as well?"

Beside the dextrous use of vocabulary, fellow Bahraini blogger Manama Republic masters the use of metaphor and Irony like no other (even the title of the blog carries deeper connotations). The previous quote is intended to highlight the irony between promises and the disappointing eventualities. I am no literary critic or english lit graduate, but I have come to discern the power of language in engaging the reader and conveying a message as a true art-form. The subtle wit is carried in every word and sentence structure. For example in coining terms such as "the dignity tax" or describing the soul of a man matching his "white thoub".

I am always left in wonderment and a sense of satisfaction reading the blog, "very nicely put", or why didn't I think of it like that. There is not much more left to comment on any particular issue. It is thoughtful "truth-seeking" at its very best-whilst he finds the nuances, most other blogs and I, report the superficialities in comparison.

On the eve of Halloween, he asked,

"Were jails empty of political detainees a trick or a treat?
Were homes unbroken into in the middle of the night trick or treat?
Was the most favourite mask, the Charter, trick or treat?
Was the top performing costume, the Reforming Democrat, trick or treat?"
The rhetorical and situational use of irony here is extremely poignant, has this King of ours actually given or taken away?

Today, he highlighted the irony of the arrest of two political activists for breaking a gag order,

"So swift the wheels of our ruling family justice turn in this constitutionally owned kingdom of theirs. When it suits their "just" purposes that is . It has been more than 48 days since a ruling family judge slapped a gag order on Al-Bandar Report, and yet not a single legal proceeding was undertaken against the really and criminally seditious".
Indeed, it is very ironic that the incriminated are free, and those calling for investigation are swiftly jailed. This ringing sense of profoundness through the use of irony only deepens our understanding of the subject (whereas something like humour brings insight and tolerance as another important tool, Repplier). Although irony or wit arn't necessarily arguments per se, nevertheless they are important polemical tools of dissent. Dissent in the face of an unjust state, is not only a moral duty, but in all its forms, consolidates a dignified existence, a heavily taxed one, it seems "This is a country with a steep dignity tax. And Dr. Mohammed Saeed and Hussain al-Habshi, are the very latest payers of it."

Very rarely will you find me eulogising (let alone publicly) but I feel unashamedly compelled to do so in the spirit of Kierkegaard's belief that "Irony is a disciplinarian feared only by those who do not know it, but cherished by those who do". I cherish irony, which lies in every nuance of our unfortunate situation in Bahrain, and therefore I cherish your blog, MR.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Constitutional Fallacy

...constitutional monarchy? Self-appointed monarch and self-written consitution I agree.

There is no room in Bahrain for genuine dissent. As long as you keep your views within the confines of a given political margin set according to some screwed up monarchial barometer you will be ok. This margin is set by laws promulgated through royal decrees. Over the last few years the most dangerous of laws have been set this way, laws banning group gatherings, press freedoms, impunity of former officials, societies laws, terrorism laws and now the banning of any debate/publications on Albandar. Two activists arrested last night in a printing shop whilst collecting a print order of a publication calling for the boycott of the upcoming elections were arrested and charged under new terrorism laws that can carry the death penalty.

Quite frankly i'm dismayed that some still use the word 'democracy' or 'reform' in our country, Bahrain is the anti-thesis if there ever was one. Certainly, its a fallacious argument one that is built on repetition, if you repeat these two words enough times it becomes fact. Political discourse in the media set directly by the Ministry of Information in uncanny Orwellian fashion is quite sickening. The existing parliament is about as significant as my university's debating society, and at least we have a credibly fair Chairman. But let us not, the free-thinkers of us, regurgitate this fallacy. As things have progressed, I have come to believe that self-serving proponents of this fallacy are not just the usual suspects, but the bourgoisie and the religious establishment. To me this has been the most disillusioning. I don't expect much from the top dog, but I expected more from these two. The topic of Bahrain's mediocre bourgoise and faltering religious establishment will be discussed another time. They got our Bishops (the clerics), Knights (the bourgoisie) and Rooks (the political societies), and our pawns are scattered as each unashamedly chases a worthless parliamentary seat.

Its Check, but hopefully not Checkmate yet.

Time for a pawn or two to block the attack. Join the rally calling for investigation into Bandargate today.

Release Dr Mohammed Saeed NOW.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Aljazeera English

Tonight I grabbed my remote control and fiddled with the frequencies till I found Aljazeera English to see what all the fuss is about.I haven't watched enough to judge content, so just my aesthetic impression will suffice. In summary, I thought it had enough White household names to keep Western viewers happy, and more than enough Arabs with heavy Englsih accents to keep Arab viewers happy. Although probably the 30 second interview snippets they get on other English channels is more than I can usually bare ("All broblem habbening in 3irrraq izzz all Amreeeka faulld") . Unsurprisingly, Aljazeera's infatuation with Mohammed Heikal continued, however I was surprised that he is actually a very good speaker in English.

A very old media pundit and old-school don once put it..."Rageh Omar, Riz Khan, well you would just expect them to join wouldn't you?...but David FROST - part of the old-school British media that is a surprise...!" I didn't know whether to take this as an insulting racist comment...but my gut feeling is that it summarises the tentativeness of the West towards this channel simply because for once, it is White people choosing to work for a foreign organisation rather than the other way round. The next comment that usually comes after that of course, is how much did they pay them!

Nevertheless it was a good strategic move, and the 'real' accents of the presenters make a change from annoying CNN American or posh BBC english, although you may need a bit of the latter, no one does weather reports quite like them!

Now this brings me to the next issue of, when will a good English broadsheet come out of the Arab world, can someone please suggest it to the Qataris?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sabeeka and her army of Gucci handbags asking for equal rights. I agree, every woman should have a Gucci handbag.

If you want us to help you clear up your mess. At least ask nicely.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What is the GCC doing with $500 billion of oil surplus revenue this year other than building a few hotels with gold-plated toilet handels ...?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Keep it mundane, keep it sweet....or blog anonymosly!

A bit of advice to Bahrain bloggers to avoid getting jailed, interrogated or gagged. Restrict your opinion solely to the earth-shattering topics of your pet dog, your mental health, music or the progress of your pot plants. Be careful when debating pot plants...this could spark a grassroots movement(pun intended) better steer away from anything green that grows from soil all together.

إثنانِ في أوطاننا يرتعدانِ خيفةً من يقظةِ النائم .... اللص والحاكم
Two people are scared from waking the sleeping...the thief and the ruler...(Ahmed Matar)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bahrain to Beit Hanoun

Poster made for Al-Quds rally 20th October 2006 (click to enlarge)

By all standards I did not expect this poster to be considered a 'threat to the regime' in Bahrain. But when my friend got hauled into the back of a police car, cautioned and threatened with arrest should he dare to be so 'unpatriotic' ever again someone obviously doesn't want these facts publicised. I took this photo just before it got confiscated.

This poster shows a photo of Sheikh Hamad shaking Shimon Perez's hand, an article that quotes the Crown Prince telling Perez that, "the day is not far when you could visit us and we could visit you" and the Bahraini head of the UN General assembly boasting her regular meetings with Israeli officials.

It is almost impossible to reconcile or justify such stances with the horrific situation going on in Palestine today. Hamad et al provide the legitimacy to the Israeli state with their silence, secret deals as thousands are killed in Palestine, and an entire elected government held under seige and undermined.

However regurgative this topic may seem, images will forever resonate in arab collective consciousness:

The blood of innocents is on all their hands.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bahrain's formidable arsenal

At a time when the world is shuddering at the thought of Iran flirting with the idea of nucleur weapons.... and flashing its Shehab-3, Fatih - 10 and Thulfaqar-73...missiles in a naughty display of defiance....

Bahrain has taken giant leaps and strides in the latest laser-guided plastic weaponry that can shoot precision-guiding shots of water across a 3 metre distance...

Bahrain's state-of-the-art naval fleet of raft boats

(take a closer look at the impressive arsenal of blue guns here)

This is a dangerous escalation in the region. Reports suggest teddy bear hand grenades and anti-tank barbie dolls were also on display.

Bahrain recently came under attack by a foreign-made bomb called Albandar, although only paper was used in this device, reportedly of Sudanese-origin, the ruling family establishment was hit severely. Serious measures have been implemented since this attack, including the banning of paper in the country all together.

Thanks Maroon Al-raas