Bahrain: Wrong governmental reactions to a just cause

Protesting in the streets.
(Photo: Ahlulbayt News Agency)

In 2012, the authorities in Bahrain showed little if any readiness to engage with the political opposition and civil society in order to find a fair and sustainable solution to socio-political and socio-economic challenges facing the nation.  If anything, officials intensified their repression of the democratic wishes expressed by a sizable number of people in February 2011.

Sadly, by shunning repeated calls for face to face roundtable negotiations, officials have only succeeded in harming the country's potential, reputation and ranking in international economic, political and social development indices.  This report focuses on the costs to the country's performance on various indicators as well as to the likelihood of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

The main goal of the mainstream opposition in Bahrain is to transform the country into a constitutional monarchy, much like those in Europe.  Other goals include an elected government; a free press and active civil society; a more equitable distribution of wealth and an end to discrimination against religions other than the Sunni minority. Government opponents also seek the elimination of all forms of administrative and financial malpractice.

However, instead of engaging with those expressing democratic wishes for a better future for all, the authorities reverted to numerous repressive measures, resulting in injuries and fatalities as well as the imprisonment of hundreds of activists including human rights defenders, religious figures and youths and the dismissal of thousands of Shia from their jobs.  The state-sponsored Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, released in November 2011, documented numerous cases of deliberate mistreatment of the majority Shia at the hands of the security apparatus.

More importantly, during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held in September 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council imposed some 176 recommendations on the Bahrain government.  Yet, from the onset, human rights defenders and organizations have raised doubts about the willingness of authorities in Bahrain to implement any of the recommendations.

What can be done? Rightly or wrongly, many political activists in Bahrain look up to the US, the UK and the European Union to help promote democracy in their country.

Certainly, there is only one way forward for Bahrain, namely that of gathering all concerned parties around a series of roundtables designed to develop a fair, equitable and sustained solution.  Any solution must take into account the interests of all local stakeholders, including both Shia and Sunni communities whilst not overlooking the concerns of expatriates living and working in the country, who presently constitute half of the population.

Source: Social Watch National Report 2013.