Press TV:Nabeel Rajab:Discrimination and sectarian oppression in Bahrain, a systematic reality
Mon, 23 Feb 2009 16:47:39 GMT By Nabeel Rajab
Is there a Shiite-Sunni dispute in Bahrain?
First of all, I have to clarify that the current dispute in Bahrain is not a sectarian Shiite - Sunni dispute or an ideological dispute at all. On the contrary, the dispute is between the Shiite sect, and they are the largest portion of the indigenous people in Bahrain and the regime because of its policy in sectarian discrimination, segregation and apartheid. The authority tries hard to picture the dispute as if it were a dispute between Shiites and Sunnis, It even drives it to be so.
The Bahraini society has a high degree of religious tolerance among all its segments, despite their religious, sectarian and ethnic background. We as Bahraini people are proud of this combination of beliefs and ethnic homogeneity which contributed and enriched building the prevailing civilization and culture in the country since hundreds of years. This even distinguishes our citizens from the others in the [Persian] Gulf region.
Shocking BCHR Report
Days ago, we released the results of our second report on sectarian discrimination, and before that, there was our first report for the year 2003 and which was one of the reason for closing down the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
As for the main results, which were included in the second report, that while the Shiites form approximately two thirds of the population, they only fill 13% of the senior position in Bahrain, and most of these posts are based in service institutions or the non-prevailing institutions.
In many important ministries and government institutions, the Shiite citizens fill 0% of the senior posts and these institutions are:
1. Ministry of Defense 2. National Guard 3. Ministry of Interior Affairs 4. Ministry of Cabinet Affairs 5. The General Organization for Youth and Sports 6. The Royal Court 7. The Crown Prince Court 8. The Central Informatics Organization 9. Survey and Land Registration Bureau And Finally 10. The Supreme Defense Council
This Supreme Council is regarded as the highest security body in the country, meant for decision-making during crisis. This council is formed of 14 members of the ruling family only, and is headed by His Majesty the King and includes in its membership the Prime Minister who is the King's uncle and the Crown Prince who is the son of the King and the heads of the important ministries.
Based on the report of the former adviser Dr. Salah Al-Bandar, the Supreme Council is responsible for laying out a secret plan that considers the Shiite citizens as a threat to the regime, and upon that, a secret network was established headed by member of the ruling family in order to isolate them from all aspects of life.
It was also noted that the Shiite sect form 5% of the judiciary corps, 16% of the diplomatic corps, 7% of the Ministry of Transportation, 18% of the Constitutional Court, 10% of the Ministry of Finance and 6% of the Ministry of Information.
As for the ministerial positions, there are only five ministers of the Shiite sect in the current government among 25 ministers and 3 of those are ministers without ministries . This percentage is the lowest representation of the Shiites in the government since the independence and establishment of the first executive body for the government in January 1970.
Is there a relation between the marginalization of the Shiites and between their level of education or lack of efficiency?
The ruling elite at first absolutely denied the existence of sectarian discrimination; however, the report that was published by the BCHR in 2003 created a shock to the Bahraini society and a surprise to the government, due to it consisting figures and information on sectarian discrimination. Since that time, the ruling elite has been changing its defense strategies in this regard. After it was denying the existence of discrimination in first place, it started justifying it in attempt of proving the saying that there is a lack of qualified people in the Shiites sect, and their low level of education. This is what the authority is trying to let pass lately to its visitors of foreigners and regional and international institutions, as we have noticed through our work at the international level or through some of the column writers that are close to the authority.
In the meantime - as human rights activists - we do not accept these justifications or arguments that contradict logic. We, however, looked into that matter as well and have found that the percentage of Shiites in the lists of honour graduates of boys and girls from high schools for the years 2006 and 2007 are approximately 78%, and that the Shiites form 70% of college students. This conflicts the government's claims of them being incapable or inefficient to fill government posts. The results actually confirm that there is a big gap between the percentages and numbers of educated citizens of the Shiites sect and between their employment in government institutions.
The aspects of discrimination in Bahrain are numerous and are not limited to what we mentioned. There is, in addition, marginalization in the distribution of scholarships, and in building mosques, and in the services provided to their areas and in dealing with the case of the people deprived of the citizenship.There are still many families deprived of the citizenship and They have not received a Bahrain citizenship only due to their sectarian background, noting that they and their parents were all born and grew up in this country, and where the country openly and without shame brings tenth of thousands of members of tribes from some of the Arabic and Asian countries and grants them the Bahraini citizenship in an illegal way.
Why was this period chosen to bring forth the sectarian discrimination issue?
In our previous report for the year 2003, we warned of slipping into violence and counter-violence, as the ruling elite did not put an end to the discrimination policy. In a related context, the International Crisis Group issued a report in the year 2005 in which it also warned of the seriousness of the situation if the government continued in its marginalization policy against the Shiites. However, the Bahraini government responded by closing down the BCHR and ignored all the warnings. Here we are today witnessing what we warned of in the past of almost daily clashes and confrontations between the people of the Shiite towns and villages and the special forces, who are brought as by the Bahraini government as foreign mercenaries.
Now, after 5 years of issuing the first report, and under the King's so-called reform project and with the existence of a parliamentary institution, it became clear that the situation has worsened significantly. The percentage of Shiites representation in the country's institutions is deteriorating and on the decline. After the figure was 18% in the year 2003, it became now 13%, which is equal to a deterioration of 5% in the last five years.
The BCHR is following and with deep concern that clarity that the ruling elite is ensuing in the policy of marginalization on the educational, economic, political, cultural, religious, social and civil level, neglecting all international appeals and recommendations, including the ones issued by the United Nations.
Introducing this report was a result of us being aware of the seriousness of the current situation in Bahrain, and the probability of it turning into a conflict more violent than ever.
We wonder, are we asked to wait for Bahrain to turn into an area of civil conflicts and war? As is the situation in Iraq or Darfur, until we begin to act to set the situation right?
The cleansing crime in Bahrain which is practiced today by the ruling elite sets the foundations, basis and fuel to these clashes, paving the way for a civil war between the citizens.
The Accusation of the Shiites being politically loyal to Iran
If these claims were true, then that means that the regime in Bahrain suffers from a legitimacy crisis, as the Shiites who are more than two thirds of the Bahraini population would be disloyal to it. The account is not so, the ruling elite is working on taking advantage and manipulating the international disputes and contradictions to firmly continue the marginalization of the Shiites. The ruling elite works on taking advantage of the bad relations between Iran on one side and the US and Israel on the other side, in order to publicize to the world the issue of the Shiites' loyalty to Iran to gain sympathy and support from those countries to its policy towards the Shiites.
However, the question is, until when will the ruling elite depend on those international disputes and contradictions, to justifies its oppression against the people? Is there anyone who can guarantee that the map of international relations always remains the same?
The discrimination issue against the Shiites is not a new phenomenon, it started when the rulers of the country invaded Bahrain, more than two centuries ago, and has no relation with Iran who only formed its modern state in the last 30 years.
The British colonizer's existence in Bahrain helped in reducing the discrimination policy against the Shiites at the beginning of the last century. However, since its independence in the early 70's and the return of the reign in the hands of the ruling elite, the policy started gradually once and again. This policy became even more aggressive, systematic, organized since the King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa came in power.
Are Shiites threatening the regime in Bahrain as is alleged?
It is absolutely apparent that the ruling class in Bahrain is living a state of fears and delusion, that the Shiites forms a threat to the Ruling family. However, the reality is not so, up till this moment there are no political opposition forces in Bahrain - Shiite, Sunni, or National - that threat the regime, or that fight over the reign. All the demands are limited to the participation in decision-making, the justice in distributing the wealth, equal citizenship, criminalizing discrimination, equality in opportunity and respect for human rights.
Nevertheless, the continuous of this unjust policy pushes some groups of citizens - out of frustration - to carry out extreme means in expressing their demands, or it may drive others to ask for help from other countries. If we do not want these matters to move into this direction, we should reform our home, now and not tomorrow. Time, in the light of international changes, is beginning to run out.
However, we totally believe that one of the main reasons for the spread of sectarian discrimination, is our negative attitude ignoring to present it, and being ashamed of indicating it even by those groups affected by it, in fear of being accused by the authority and its associates that we are sectarian and work for Iran.
We, in the BCHR, have a moral, ethical, legal and humane commitment that the campaign against the sectarian discrimination is one of our priorities in the coming months or years, on the local, regional and international level.
The author is the president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).
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