This article deals with the Formula 1 success and what can be drawn from it. The writer observes how everyone was startled by the way the government was able to accomplish the $150 million dollar project in only 18 months, and with huge success. This leads one to wonder about the other sport venues and projects that have stalled in Bahrain. Our national stadium is a shambles and a disgrace. Talks of rennovating it have been around for ten years and longer, but nothing seems to have happened. I remember when Southamption came to play Bahrain a few years ago, the one thing their manager pointed out was how bad the pitch was and how difficult to play on it is. Even more humiliating, the stadium has been closed for the past year now, and teams had to settle to play on the less equipped Isa Town stadium. The issue has become, as my friend commented, an "Area 51", where no one talks about it. No one exactly knows what's going on with it. How come we have been able to finish a huge race track in 18 months to world standards, and we can't get our National Football Stadium, the stadium of the most popular sport in the country, up to Djibouti standards in 10 years?
Does anyone remember the whole National Stadium debacle in the first place? Well, this was a long time ago, in the eighties, but here is the story: Saudi Arabia apparently donated a huge sum of money for a WHOLE SPORTS VILLAGE to be built. The amount of money we are talking about here are vast, but no one unfortunately knows. What we ended up with however, is one single stadium; more like a chabra than a sports village. Someone laughed the whole way to the bank, but no one knows who it is, or how much he got.
One could also rant on and on about the "pitches" local clubs have. How a lot of them are not even grass pitches, and have taken forever to build and rennovate(unlike the formula 1), but let us not delve there.
This second article is very interesting. It takes a look at the internal politics struggle that gave rise to reform in Bahrain, both within the opposition and the royal family. We do not get many articles like these in Bahrain, as the focus is usually on the theoritical arguments and principles such as democracy, human rights, etc. that supposedly gave rise to the reform. The author here actually analyzes the "hawks" and "doves" in the opposition and particular the government. Boy, this guy has guts. Discussing how the government has opposers and supporters to reform within it is a big No-No in Bahrain. But then again, he's a former socialist activist who had to live in extreme caution and fear for the last 30 years, so what's writing an article to him.
This third article, I think, is extremely well done. It replies back to all the critics who've accused the opposition of being the ones who keep asking for trouble, causing conflict and escalation, and how they are always termed "unpatriotic" and "seeking outside support." It's funny how when the government looks for outside acclaim for its policies, and lines up Western apologists for its actions, such as when Professor Fred Halliday of LSE was brought to talk about the great achievement Bahrain has made, while at the same time chastizing the opposition for trying to bring in (they were not allowed in Bahrain, and were sent back at the borders to where they came from) Gulf Nationals and others to discuss the constitutional matter in Bahrain.
And then the opposition is accused of escalating and "heating up" the situation, not stepping down, and causing havoc. All the opposition did was to host a meeting to discuss the constitution problem, and then organize a petition (a piece of paper!) to send to the king about the issue. On the other hand, guest delegates for the confereence were prevented from entering the country, the hotel (Gulf Hotel) where the conference was supposed to take place was ordered not to allow it, and when the venue was changed to a club, that club was threatened with closure if it allowed it. Then when the petition started, the political parties-oops, sorry "societies", we don't have political parties in Bahrain- were threatened with closure if any of the signatories were not members of the parties. After that, even when the signatories were all from the political parties, the government decided to arrest about 24 of them and throw them in jail on accusations of wanting to change the political system and method of rules in Bahrain, and some of these charges carry a life-sentence. When the opposition met with officials to try to get them released, they were told that they will be released only if the opposition restricts the petition signatures to pre April 21 members (the date the opposition opened up its membership doors). The detainees were turned into hostages and made part of a bargaining process! Plus, there are reports of a sudden increase in the amount of riot police and "Baloshis" patroling the streets. Now isn't that escalation?
What did the opposition do in return? When they were threatened with closure if signatories were not members, they worked around that by openeing membership doors wide open and making people joing first and then signing, in an effort to accomodate the government. After people were arrested, they asked people not to go on mass demonstrations and riots. If Al Wefaq wanted, it could've easily asked its huge base of supporters to go on massive demonstrations that would've stalled the country. Instead, they asked only the families of those detained to protest. Now does that seem like escalation?
Speaking of the petition and the detainees, this I consider is a litmus paper for the development freedom of speech and political rights in Bahrain. I know many people who say we agree with what the petition says, but no way in hell would I sign it. Why? Because people are afraid it will reflect badly on them and they would not be able to get a job afterwards and might be segregated against. Hell, I feel the same way as well. I completely agree with what is in the petition, but I do not have the guts to sign it. Why? I'm a person with no job experience whatsoever, and I hope to be able to work in Bahrain one day. I also do not want to one day decide to go Saudi Arabia, and suddenly find my name blacklisted and banned from entering any GCC country. Now this may be not true. Maybe that stuff does not happen any more, but the point is people are still afraid that it might happen, and hence would never sign anything that the government opposes. Thus, we have kind of a one sided democracy. You can have whichever political viewpoints you like, but if they are not that of the government, you wouldn't dare put it officially down on paper.
Just look at what happened to those who were out to gather signatures for the petition. They're now in jail. I, if I was in Bahrain, could've been one of them. I'm sure the government is going to produce evidence of "anti-government" documents they found in their homes or on their computers, such as maybe a leaflet or a cookie showing they visited the Voice of Bahrain website. Hell, I've visited that website. Most of the Bahrainis I know have visited that website. That doesn't mean I agree with what they say (I most defnitely do not), but I still like to hear the other point of view. I'm even scared for myself now because of what I'm writing in this blog! And you think I'm ever going to sign a petition?
Until I can sign a piece of paper without fear, I will continue to believe we do not have a proper democracy in Bahrain.