Press Conference of the Opposition Political Societies
on the Reasons for the Call to Overthrow the Government
A coalition of seven opposition political societies invites you to join the Bahraini masses to attend the grand march on Friday, 4 March 2011, entitled “Down with the Government.”1 The opposition coalition believes the current government must resign, for the following reasons:
1. The need for a transitional government of officials with integrity whose hands have not been stained with the blood of martyrs to pave the way for the transition to real reform.
2. The professional and moral responsibility of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman for the government’s errors and excesses and failures and violations of the law for over 40 years.
3. Repeated and serious human rights violations, which led to the deaths of dozens of martyrs, shot dead by security forces or tortured to death in dungeons, and the arrests of and injuries to thousands of protesters since the seventies.
4. The responsibility of the Ministers of Interior and Defense for the murderous acts perpetrated since 14 February 2011, resulting in seven martyrs and hundreds of wounded, and the responsibility of the Head of the National Security Service for the resurgence of torture over the last few years.
5. The government’s failure to achieve a minimum decent standard of living for citizens, despite the huge inflow of oil money, increasing more than five times in ten years.
6. The government’s failure to solve the housing problem, leading to the exacerbation of the number of people on the waiting list within ten years from 32,000 to 54,000.
7. Senior government officials enriching themselves at the expense of the people through bribes for tenders and the grabbing of state lands and waters.
8. The Finance Minister’s obfuscating of the government’s expenditures that fund the expenses of the Royal Court and the Royal Family Council as well as hiding of information on the fate of budget surpluses.
9. The government’s contribution to the destruction of the social fabric through large-scale political naturalization and its destructive economic and social effects, especially the political naturalization of nearly 60,000 in the period between 2001 and 2007, besides the political naturalization which occurred both before and after that period.2
10. The control of half of the cabinet seats by one family, especially the sovereign portfolios of defense, interior, and foreign affairs in addition to the post of prime minister and his two deputies.
11. Contribution to discrimination among citizens, increasing sectarianism, the exclusion of competent national talent, and the strengthening of the system of tribal and royal family privileges through recruitment and promotion in the different branches of government.
1 Editor’s Note: Here are some videos of the 4 March 2011 protest. Note the militancy of women in the first two videos.
2 Editor’s Note: This is the most contentious point. The ruling family, of the Sunni sect, is criticized by the opposition for seeking to change the social makeup of Bahrain through large-scale preferential naturalization of Sunni Arabs from elsewhere, due to the royal few’s fear of the Shia majority. See, for instance, <18.104.22.168/cable/2008/02/08MANAMA76.html>. In particular, the composition of the security forces of Bahrain is a big bone of contention:
Bahrainis often complain that the riot police and special forces do not speak the local dialect, or in the case of Baluchis from Pakistan, do not speak Arabic at all and are reviled as mercenaries. Officers are typically Bahrainis, Syrians or Jordanians. Iraqi Ba’athists who served in Saddam Hussein’s security forces were recruited after the US-led invasion in 2003. Only the police employs Bahraini Shias.
The secret police — the Bahrain national security agency, known in Arabic as the Mukhabarat — has undergone a process of “Bahrainisation” in recent years after being dominated by the British until long after independence in 1971. Ian Henderson, who retired as its director in 1998, is still remembered as the “Butcher of Bahrain” because of his alleged use of torture. A Jordanian official is currently described as the organisation’s “master torturer”. (Ian Black, “Bahrain Security Forces Accused of Deliberately Recruiting Foreign Nationals,” Guardian, 17 February 2011)
See, also, Frederic Wehrey, Dalia Dassa Kaye, Jessica Watkins, Jeffrey Martini, and Robert A. Guffey, The Iraq effect: the Middle East after the Iraq War (Rand Corporation, 2010), p. 79.
Unlike the case of the Libyan opposition, whose rumors of the Gaddafi regime’s use of “African mercenaries” have been contradicted by a Human Rights Watch researcher, the Bahraini opposition’s criticism appears to be not unfounded. Nevertheless, if the opposition puts undue emphasis on this point, it will play into the hands of the ruling family adept at using the old tactic of “divide and conquer.” Much better is to criticize the ruling family’s use of media to stoke sectarian tension, for instance. A good example of that is a 4 March 2011 protest against the Bahraini state television:
The above English translation of the statement of the Bahraini opposition is adapted from Mahmood N. Al Yousif’s translation. Cf. “Ciudadanos rechazan monarquía del Reino de Bahrein” (TeleSur, 4 March 2011).