Values and Voting Systems

Souad Mekhennet, NF ’13, reports on the state of reform in Bahrain two years after the Arab Spring

By Souad Mekhennet
In his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama stated that, in the Middle East, the United States "will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights and support stable transitions to democracy." He said that the process "will be messy" and that the U.S. cannot presume "to dictate the course of change" but would insist on respect for fundamental rights of "all people."

If indeed the White House and State Department looked at events in the Middle East with a different view and based their judgments on which leaders and groups were really interested in "universal rights," a transition to stable societies that value fundamental rights would be much more likely. It’s about time we took an honest look into the fact that Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia are not good examples for democracies.

When the Arab Spring broke out two years ago, Western politicians, the public, and political organizations were quick to take the side of those who went on the street and protested. Some of them genuinely wanted democracy, but many were actually protesting against corruption or for more rights and resources. And, anyway, not everyone who claimed to be protesting for democracy was talking about rights and values but about voting systems.


A Bahraini anti-government protester poses for a photograph flashing the victory sign in front of burning tires on a road in the village of Dumistan, Bahrain in January. Photo by Hasan Jamali/The Associated Press

Having a democratic voting system is no guarantee for establishing democratic values. In the last couple of months, the situation in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia has taught us to take a step back and look again at what the uprisings meant for democratic values, women's rights and the rights of minorities. Taking a step back and looking more broadly at the case in Bahrain would also be a good idea. There is no doubt that human rights violations were committed during the protests two years ago, and human rights groups and governments in the West have put pressure on the government to reform.

Bahrain's leadership responded and the King, Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, took an unusual step for a leader, and not only for a leader in the Arab world: He invited an independent commission to research what happened during the events. Some groups had requested the same steps from the U.S. government to shed light on possible human rights violations during the “war on terror.”

Since February 2011, right after the crackdown, I have travelled frequently to Bahrain, most recently for my research here at the Nieman Foundation on long-term strategies of terrorist organizations since the Arab Spring. Diplomats and opposition leaders criticize the fact that many minister and advisor posts are taken by members of the al Khalifa family, and that will surely be one of the things that has to change in the long term: The ruling family will have to share some of its power with Bahrainis who are not members of the clan.

But the situation today is not the same as that of two years ago, and the leadership in Bahrain is different from the one in Libya, Egypt or Syria. A few weeks ago, the Bahraini king invited different groups to participate in a national dialogue, a step that many Western diplomats and governments supported. It would be a historic chance to end a conflict that has not only cost the lives of protestors and police but also created a deep mistrust between the Shia and Sunni sects in Bahrain.

Despite the urgings of European diplomats for a halt to protests to give the dialogue a chance, the leadership of the opposition movements did not agree. In some areas, protestors warned storeowners who opened their businesses that they would be treated as "traitors". According to members of the protest movements and Bahraini government officials, some protests turned violent. Police were attacked with Molotov cocktails and sticks, which led to clashes in which a policeman and a 16-year-old protestor were killed. Other protesters were wounded, and the government reported that several policemen were severely injured.

Leaders of the protest movements have often used "democracy" as a demand. But does the change in the voting system really mean that they want to implement democratic values? In discussions with younger protestors, some of whom showed me how they built Molotov cocktails, it became clear many of them had a different idea of democracy. Changing the family law, so that Shia women could get a divorce? The answer was, "Only if Ayatollah Isa Qassim says so!" Would they stop the violence so that the new dialogue would have a chance? Again the answer, "If Ayatollah Isa Qassim says so."

Issa Qassim is one of the highest religious leaders of Shia Muslims in Bahrain and has a tremendous influence on al Wefaq, the largest political party in Bahrain, and the neighborhoods where most of the protests take place. He could have the authority to stop the protests and give a dialogue a chance but instead he called for more protests.

Looking at his speeches and actions, Issa Qassim is not a great supporter of the rights that usually would be supported by a democrat. He was against the change in the family law, which would have given women the right to ask for a divorce, and has so far not condemned the violence from some protestors, violence that has increased in the last year. Molotov cocktails, roadside bombs and, just days ago, a remote-controlled device that exploded in a supermarket do not make it easy for the reformists within the royal family and the government.

When some European diplomats in Bahrain increased pressure on al Wefaq to participate in the dialogue and work on a political solution, the party’s General Secretary Ali Salman accepted an invitation from the Russian foreign minister and travelled with some of his members to Moscow. These actions raised among some diplomats the question of whether al Wefaq was really interested in finding a political solution for all the people in Bahrain, as it claims.

If so, the other question it raises is how much influence the Shia religious leadership in and outside Bahrain would have on internal state politics. We do not know how many Bahrainis are Shia and how many are Sunnis; there isn't an official statistic so far. One can assume Shias are the majority, but does al Wefaq really speak for all of them? Most probably not.

There are still Shia ministers, and many members of the business community in Bahrain are Shia. I met one of them, who spoke against the protests during an event at Harvard. She said she wanted reforms but not to see a group in power that would deprive women of their rights and establish an Ayatollah state. Two week later, one of her businesses was burned down in Bahrain. Therefore the issue for Western, and especially U.S., foreign policy is, if human rights are truly universal, they shouldn't be seen in a vacuum but fairly from all sides.

Souad Mekhennet, the 2013 Barry Bingham Jr. Nieman Fellow, is studying how the uprisings in Arab countries in 2011 have influenced the long-term strategies of terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and how Shariah (Islamic law) deals with human rights, women and democracy.

27 Comments on Values and Voting Systems
Almoawda says:
May 13, 2013 at 7:12am
Thank you very much for your very interesting report it is really an excellent one that brings the facts for the readers around the world. Especially that many other reports are unbalance when they reach to the facts of the opponents.

Finally, we got a balanced article that covers the real facts that some tried over the last two years to hide or silent them as they did with Bahrain's terrorism.



Well done and keep going Dear


Ahmed Mohsin says:
March 10, 2013 at 9:16am
This reply is to Mr. Mahmood.



Dear Mahmood,



The statistics presented by you about Bahrain's indigenous population are indeed laughable perceptions that are easily dispelled by a well versed reader. You can only fool yourself, Mr. Mahmood, by thinking that the "sectarian" majority only came into being from the 1930 to 1960s by mass migration of Shia from neighboring countries and their rabbit-like reproduction rates ever since. I challenge you to provide any historical reference and medical statistics of the birth rates that would help aid the myth that you trying to propagate here.



On the other hand, the historical references (including maps) that describe the history of Bahrain, its inhabitants, its town and villages are available in abundance. And guess what they say? The total opposite of Mamhood et al version of Bahraini history.



Additionally, the statistics of population growth in Bahrain since 2002 are available and clearly show that the rise in population was not due to natural and projected birth patterns. Can you inform the reader of the details of how the population of Bahrain has increased since 2002, who has to migrated to Bahrain since 2002 and in what numbers? How many have been given Bahraini nationality and on what basis? And more importantly the reason why? As far as I know the date palm groves (any left?) no longer need farmers, after all that is the reason why we came to Bahrain originally? (Sarcasm)



The reality remains that Bahrain has a fundamental problem of injustice, and that is the core problem. It’s not about kids being offered menial sums of money to riot nor is it about religion.



Mr. Mahmood, your feeble attempts of trying to disguise people’s genuine demands are part of the problem in Bahrain. Your attempts to brush aside the injustice, discrimination and outright abuse of power is almost sickening.



We both have rights in Bahrain, and human rights are very clear. You don’t have most of the human rights organization condemning the Government of Bahrain for nothing. I doubt if the organizations in mention are on the same payroll as the kids you mention or part of the "higher echelons of the organization" (sarcasm)



By wiping the dust under the carpet, the place is hardly clean, Mr. Mahmood . We are both well aware of how grave the problems are in Bahrain, and being in a state of denial is hardly an action plan.



The use of military force, systematic torture, detention, dismissal, verbal abuse of peoples beliefs and lineage, nightly raids of their homes, demolition of mosques, PR services, kangaroo courts, media campaigns, sectarian analysis and finger pointing, patriotic articles and songs on TV praising the wise leadership are not going to change ground facts nor build bridges of love between the citizens. I wonder how much the Government of Bahrain has spent so far in the past two years?



Thirty-two million Dollars on PR alone..I am sure that amounts to much more than the menial amounts you claim the kids receive. Why would you need to spend so much to improve your image? Give it to the kids instead since they are just mindless children that you claim are just paid to protest. After all their motive for protesting is only money (Sarcasm)?



I hope you realize that at some point the floor will need cleaning and the dust will continue to mount under the carpet. It is not sustainable in the long run, whether you wish to rewrite history or change the demography of Bahrain. We are all part of Bahrain, its not my Bahrain or your Bahrain. Its not about majority or minority. Its about rights, order, accountability, civil state rather than a country that is run like someones back garden.



I enjoyed reading your reply to my comments; it was thoroughly more enjoyable than watching a game of ping pong, but a sad reminder of what we have to face in Bahrain.



I remain on my own payroll, in the country of my forefathers, on my own soil, amongst my people and in my home (country). I remain opposed to the injustice that characterizes oppressors wherever they maybe…under a crown (*hint*) or under a turban (*wink*). Hopefully, in future the ICJ can put people on trial irrespective of their head dressing, position or standing. I am sure we all have some nominations.



That is the difference between us without having to write fiction.



I look forward to your next novel.

Thank you

Ahmed Mohsin
4everBahraini says:
March 7, 2013 at 5:00pm
THANK YOU
Khaled Jamsheer says:
March 6, 2013 at 9:38am
An excellent article which brings the facts of how deep Iran is involved in making troubles not only in Bahrain but the entire Arab countries. Persians hates Arabs since the days of ALkhalifa Omar Bin Alkhattab's forces lead by Sayyedna Khaled Bin Alwaleed " saif allah almaslool " broke the Persian empire.
John says:
March 5, 2013 at 6:06pm
I raise my hat for you Souad
Nil says:
March 5, 2013 at 4:33pm
At last someone have guts to tell the truth among the herds of sheeps in international media.
Ali says:
March 4, 2013 at 11:47pm
Souad, thank you for this. It's hard to go against the herd. Unfortunately , it is easy for someone who sits in front of a computer in DC to judge and compare us to Syria or Yemen. They might have the best of intentions and I do give credit to opposition lobbyists in Washington who are doing a way better job than the government.



In my humble view, our government failed to meet the aspirations of our people and that left a room for the sectarian opposition to ride the wave. You hear them today hiding behind the human rights and democracy talks but their history make us worry.



Alwefaq, for example, (including mattar mattar who lobbies in Washington) refuse the rights for women to get divorce. Ali Salman (head of wefaq) refused to resign as Secretary General of his party although he was elected out. He "feared the hard liners will take over", according to wikileaks.



It is an easy ride for them: the Arab spring, the media hunger for another country to fall in the region, a well connected world thanks to technology, and NGOs who are eager to see western values spreading. It's the perfect ride for the opposition dispute their ill motives.



My final point, the Bahraini case is being abused locally and regionally. The government is not the best but our opposition are not angles either. I fear for my country. I want to see us evolve rather than distroy what we built over the years. I don't want us to end up being led indirectly by the ayatollah. This is the worst thing that could happen to us.



My wife and I enjoy a liberal life. She can drive, wear what she wants and we get to chose what lifestyle we want for our kids. Of course we want more say in our government but we don't want to be like Iraq, lebanon, Iran, or Egypt. We don't want the sectarian/religious motivated parties to take over by riding the libral wave.



Keep up the good work.



Thank you
Noora says:
March 1, 2013 at 8:08am
Finally we can see truth being spoken. Bahrain is a diverse country. Having any sides control over the other will only increase instability, especially when relegion is involed. I think Bahrain should focus on its problems rather than the relegious differences.



Al wefaq has done no good in the country other than increasing hatred amongst shia and sunni in Bahrain



Sincerely,

A neutral citizen.
Jassim moh'd says:
March 1, 2013 at 7:57am
One of the best articles/reports that I have read so far. Totally unbiased. It's all about the truth regarding Bahrain.



Finally, with an honor of profession speaking the truth. We, Bahrainis, suffer from those reporters that come to Bahrain with a story already in their heads... Which means, they never seek the truth based on the informations and biased stories passed to them already.

They never want to hear both parties. They stick with what's in their heads and go with it which is not fair at all.



Based on their intentions, seems like they have their own secret agendas. Those reporters never intend to push reforms forward. They prefer to cause more drama to back their case with a hot story.



It's very sad but it's true.



You're unbiased,.. Simply because you wrote this article based on what you saw live. Not based on lies and information that were passed to you.



I do thank you very much for speaking the truth. You,ve done more than a great job. Keep doing your job exactly the way you do it and never let anyone mis-lead you.



Once again, thank you and god bless you.
Abdul Aziz says:
February 28, 2013 at 4:59pm
I do agree to your report and if I may add: to know really what is going on in this beautiful country, you need to get closer to the problem and not just accept what you hear or read or even see in the YouTube. I myself have witnessed how opposition tell and spread dirty lies and show them "smartly" as being the truth! They block roads to attract policemen patrols who come to clear the mess but they get attacked and when the policemen fight back they are filmed and shown in the YouTube as using violence against peaceful protests. The opposition even used to play another dirty game: during what is called "peaceful protest" they hold flowers and go to the policemen pretending to give them as sign of peace and film them but what no one who see the video will know what they say to the policemen. They just insult them with dirty words to force the policemen to react negatively. There are so many stories which it is better that you just visit Bahrain and see themlive. The opposition is simply playing a dirty game.
Mohammed says:
February 28, 2013 at 3:39pm
It is the unbiased report I have seen in a while regarding the situation in Bahrain. It is true there were wrong steps taken by the government; the King himself accepted it and asked for an independent commission to analyze it. Also, he accepted criticizm by the independent commission and looked forward for its solutions. Other than that, the King ordered a dialogue to make things better in Bahrain; however, the opposition were never interested to see Bahrain go forward. If they really thought for the benefit of beloved Bahrain, they would join the dialogue without any conditions. Anyway, I hope we go forward for a better future.
Ali says:
February 27, 2013 at 8:26am
Thank you very much for your article. One of the best written about Bahrain recently. Unfortunately, the depressing reality in Bahrain is that both sides (the govt. and opposition) are pretty messed up. There is a silent minority which is stuck in the middle of all this nonsense and the future is not looking good. In my opinion, clergymen and religious figures should stay in the mosque. Politics+religion is a very dangerous thing. And to the person that said that Ayatollah Isa Qassim doesn't have a prison or an apparatus that condones torture, I say to you: if he gets power, he will. Just like the other Ayatollas in Iran. We're stuck between Wahabis and Ayatollas. God help us.
Mahmood says:
February 21, 2013 at 12:39am
I believe Mr. Ahmed does bring up an interesting perspective of shifting blame like a game of Ping-Pong. However, I agree the government does have its fault in its bloated bureaucracies slowing administrative process, housing, military spending and corruption. Yet, I am not convinced the alternative is any better.



Clergy running the show would not only be detrimental to Bahrain's future (seriously the last established theocracy was back in the Middle Ages) and the contemporary example of Iran has done wonders to its people (sarcasm)



Perhaps Mr. Ahmed needs to be reminded of the 20th century history of Bahrain with regards to his comments about sectarian majority. Even as Mr. Belgrave's (former British advisor to the Bahraini Emir) has provided plentiful content for opposition ideologies, it does also create drawbacks at the same time. Throughout the 1930s until the 1960s Bahrain witnessed large influx of illegal migration from regions such as Qatif, Khruashahir and Basra as unskilled agricultural labor illegally flocked to Bahrain for job opportunities. They were naturally welcomed into society, yet they could not fully integrate.



Over time the areas that these new agricultural migrants ghettoized their neighborhoods forming them into sealed enclaves. Shia religious figures, who were motivated by being the recipient of the Shia annual tax of Khoms (20% of assets) would compete for influence in these enclaves.



In time, such religious figures became immensely influential and could issue edicts (fatwas) to their necessity. In order to ensure that Khoms was sustained but grew as well, edicts called for expanding the members of households.



Perhaps this could be one of the notions that create this unofficial sectarian demographic of Bahrain.



Ahmed it is important to note that people were dismissed because they didn’t come to their jobs for over 2 weeks, as the same in any part of the world.



It’s easy to detract comments (apparently with a smiley face as well) that Ayatollah Isa Qassim doesn’t respect human rights by focusing on the government, but the government is held accountable to the international system. Who holds Isa Qassim accountable? Iran? Tanzania?



The Ayatollah systematically praises the Iranian revolution on its anniversary in his sermons, stating it was a “divine gift”, thus creating a dilemma in national vs. transnational sectarian loyalties.



The reason these poor children in this ghetto enclaves are involved in rioting is because they are targeting and provided menial sums of money to participate, as they grow older the riot organizers integrate them to higher echelons of the organization to ensure its longevity.



Students in Bahrain University were engaged in sectarian attacks, vandalism and disruption of high education. Some of these students were intentionally attempting not only disrupt and damage the university but took out their sectarian anger on students beating one student to a bloody pulp.



Don’t forget Ahmed Mohsin that rights are universal and don’t play favorites, if you have a right then so do I. Human rights fail when they are politicized and cannot be treated within an egalitarian line.
Rashad says:
February 20, 2013 at 11:48am
It's about time one ask about the actions and motives of every so called "freedom fighter".

It's better to question befor they get in power rather do it after they do and then destroy a whole country.



The best proof is the rejection of the Family Law that governs the rights of women and children that was rejected by Al Wefaq when they held major seats in the parliament. They are not democratic at all.

If they were, why no Sunni is repressed in their leadership?
Bassam says:
February 20, 2013 at 11:11am
Finally a balanced article that covers facts, reality and asks the right questions. questions that some tried over the last two years to hide or silent them as they did with the Shia businesswomen mentioned in this article and many others who disagree with them and wants a liberal Bahrain that can be shared by all Bahrainis and not an Island of extremism. Bahrain never was a soil that feeds extremism nor sectarianism but those so called democracy seeks are not trying to plant the seeds of democratic values rather they are trying to use democratic tools to grow extremism like never seen before.. God bless Bahrain
lexbirch says:
February 20, 2013 at 8:34am
at last somebody who actually writes an honest report on the Bahrain situation. Writes with integrity and knowledge, not just biased passed down information. Unfortunately the West as we call her, is blinded by emotions when it comes to talking about Human Rights. They believe that if other nations are not abiding by their vision of what is right or wrong then that nation must be barbaric. It is this channeled vision that causes so much confusion. Those of us living in Bahrain are not anti human rights, not animals, nor dictator lovers, we simply do not agree with Al Wefaqs' or Ayatollahs' vision on human rights. The standards are very different. We want Bahrain to move forward, to embrace modern thinking and ideas, to encourage both God and social advancement in their lives, to learn to respect authority and to treat eachother with mutual tolerance. Unfortunately not everyone has the same idea about democracy and not everyone has the same standards regarding human rights. Whats right for one country, or religious sect, may not be right for another and so a happy medium must be found, internally, without interference from other countries. Its a hard sell, but can be done if the dialogue table is surrounded by honest people who really want peace and not domination of another nation. its been a tough 2 years economically and socially its been a nightmare, but the true supporters of Bahrain (not merely monarchy) have found the determination and strength to tolerate the unheavals, get through the bad days and, as the Christians would say, turn the other cheek. for the sake of Bahrain and ALL Bahrainis lets hope that the dialogue works this time so that we can move forward and begin to rebuild friendships and relationships that are so badly missed.
Omar M says:
February 20, 2013 at 2:01am
A refreshing and thought provoking piece. Just a look at what has been going on in the country in the last couple of days with the increased instances of violence, bombs, and the brutal murder of a young police officer and the tragic death of a young Bahraini persuaded into attacking police for no actual cause- all during the time of dialogue between various groups in Bahrain, shows the true nature of our "opposition".



One would think that at least while the process of dialogue is going on, the leaders of the oppo would ask their minions to stand down, if not for a little while at least.



Many Police officers have been taken to account. A few have even been charged with murder. The oppo as usual claims to be peaceful and claims to be champions of democracy but yet always fails to walk the walk.



While they are experts at looking "western" when it involves over-seas trips and talking to foreign media, the people at home are not fooled.



This country has already suffered alot. Many business have closed. Innocent families have been targeted for no apparent reason. A few companies have even left the country. All for what? what has been achieved by the oppo over the last 2 years, infact all that they have achieved is the distancing and ridicule from Bahraini citizens, including those who one actually sympathized with them.



it is at times like these, when those who truly love this nation and wish for peace come to the fore. Don't blindly follow turbaned radicals who just preach hatred and further polarize society. Peace, dialogue and unity is not a one way street.



Absolutely nothing but mindless carnage has been achieved over the last two years. It is such a shame that some of the very citizens of this beautiful nation fight so hard to bring it down.



Many from the oppo claim they have nothing against the Bahraini citizens, their actions are only targeted at the Government. But a look at the daily occurrences would tell a different story. the lives of ordinary Bahrainis are negatively effected by your actions, we are the ones who feel the pain, who wake up to blocked roads, burning tires and a fear of the unknown every single day.



If you truly love this country, then please do show it through meaningful dialogue, through reconciliation, through love of this nation and ALL of its people.



I can only pray and hope that those who still have some semblance of a brain, wake up and see the damage they are causing and fight for good instead of hatred.
Sarah says:
February 19, 2013 at 8:32pm
Its a breath of fresh air to read an article these days that isn't riding on the thrills of the narrative of Peaceful Protesters Vs An Oppressive Regime. No two uprisings have been the same; whether you compare scale, cause, legitimacy, popularity..or my favourite..the international community's reaction /interaction/intervention or equally lack off.



Bahrain's uprising may have been successful in achieving what is measured as progress and reform if it had remained based on Bahrainis legitimate demands for better reform and accountability. Instead it has become an unpopular uprising of destruction--popular perhaps to external agendas-- Sadly its been highjacked by Shia Islamist parties with an agenda of their own. It is especially appalling how they are using an ideology to brew sectarianism, hatred and the culture of death and martyrdom corrupting the minds of the youth.



This is far from a conspiracy as history reveals and we have live examples to disasters we must avoid in; Lebanon, Iraq and Iran.



As a Shia Arab woman I salute you for being the voice of the liberal silent majority. For there are many like me that fear the repercussions of a radical shia led opposition but remain terrified to speak. We fear this undemocratic opposition will have us losing more rights, liberties, our voice and basic freedoms.. Rights our constitution already grants us as Bahrainis.



Well done for revealing the reality of Wefaq's "Democratic Ayotallah" ! Keep it up!
Ebrahim Ahmed says:
February 19, 2013 at 2:45pm
Thank you very much for a very interesting piece ...we as leberal bahrainis r suffering from people who r preaching democracy and not practicing it , Al Wefaq's secreatry general is in the same post 1999 and Isa Qassim is the spiritual leader since 1973 ...they r not representing the whole of bahrain population...we as liberal bahrainis r against this
Sara Jassim says:
February 19, 2013 at 2:33pm
This does raise some interesting points that I think a lot of Westerners haven't considered and have no knowledge about. Wefaq is not your grandfather's Republican Party with strong religious values, but an entrenched belief in separating Church and State (or Masjid and Kingdom).



I think we all know how Wefaq tries to present their position to make it palatable to the foreign allies they are seeking. Just read Ahmed Mohsin's reply, as certainly he works for them.
ghani says:
February 17, 2013 at 1:43pm
Unbiased finding Needs to dig more history, foreign involvement, and top of that feelings of calm & silent majority.
tariq says:
February 17, 2013 at 12:53pm
As a bahraini citizen its the best report which speak about fact leaving emotions and personal relations aside 100% true what is in the report God Bless & keep on showing the truth to the world
Freedom bird says:
February 16, 2013 at 2:55pm
I thought at the beginning that it is going to be an unbiased opinion. Yes the king did hire an independent group but what was the result? Did they take their recommendations? How many doctors are still in jail and how many people were laid off of their jobs? You are making it sound like the protestors are naive and Blind followers!
Ahmed Mohsin says:
February 16, 2013 at 8:11am
Wouldn't it be nice if you shed as much light on the Bahraini goverment as you do to its opposition. You question the sincerity of the opposition, without scrutinizing the Bahrain government actions (or lack of) in the past two years.



There has yet to be even one high ranking official held accountable for the abuses and deaths that took place. There has yet to be a stop to the witch hunt on ordinary people who demand reforms and the discrimination they face in their jobs and everyday life. There has yet to be a true implementation to the recommendations of the independent commission that you highlight in your article that make the Bahraini government seem "open" to reform and so different to its Syrian counterpart.



Just having a 90 or 200 page report on what should be done and what wrongs were committed doesn't mean much if its not binding.



To the versed reader of the affairs of Bahrain, the Bahraini government has not changed, and as such irrespective of the view of any religious figures-the protests will continue until people feel a fundamental and true change.



Whether all Wefaq speak for all the Shia or not, does not change the fact of the injustice and corruption rampant and the total disregard for human rights by the Bahraini government.



Yes, Ayatollah Qassim is a respected figure to some Shia just as most religious men are in their own communities. Some would listen to him because they trust his wisdom and opinion, but again and If I may use your own words "One can assume" just because a few people follow him blindly would that mean the majority do? "Most probably not".



You also seem to overlook the continuous imprisonment of many ordinary people, the sacking of professionals from their jobs, the systematic abuse of people and personal property and the use of mercenaries to confront the indigenous population.



Your article totally disregards the actual root of the problem in Bahrain and I am sorry to say that is far from balanced . Drawing parallels with Syria or other countries is a very poor attempt to

cover up what is fundamentally wrong in Bahrain irrespective of the number of deaths or methods used to suppress peoples demands.



You state that Ayatollah Qassim is not a great supporter of the rights, and I ask is the Bahraini government in turn a great supporter of rights? The truth is that there is a "rights" vacuum but then again the Ayatollah does not rule, nor does he have an apparatus that uses torture, nor does he have a prison full of detainees subject to all forms of abuse. Nor does he dismiss people from their jobs because of their political views. Nor does he run the kanagroo courts that summon children as young as eight for political activity or dismiss students for humming a tune that is considered political! :)



Its a shame you visited Bahrain without really getting to know whats beneath the surface.. beyond the Molotov cocktails and few quotations from the Ayatollah mouth.



Its a shame that the Shia minister In Bahrain business was burned down, but can you "fairly" say by whom? We all know too well of covert operations and tactics used to paint your opponents in "good light". Conspiracy theories do have their place. Maybe an introduction the "Bandergate" scandal in Bahrain could give your readers an insight to the nature of supported Government actions? :)



The usual rhetoric about the danger of the rule of religion or clergy is fine but that should not overshadow how rotten the current system is to its core. Speaking fairly :)



As for the assumption that Shia are a majority in Bahrain, perhaps a small trip down history lane would help :) But then again you require a headcount as history and facts dont count.



Thank you.
A.Aziz says:
February 16, 2013 at 5:41am
One o f the most balanced factual articles I've ever read.
May says:
February 16, 2013 at 3:13am
A well written article. Balanced and the author knows exactly what he is writing about.
richardoo says:
February 15, 2013 at 7:13pm
This article is certainly biased,unbalanced,incoherent and lacks depth.
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