A Public Role Needed to Confront Violence
|Hasan Moosa Shafaie
Hasan Moosa Shafaei
December 2009 and January 2010, witnessed an escalation of violence
and riots. Roads were blocked by burning tyres and rubbish bins,
electric generators and street lamps were vandalized and civilians
and human rights activists were assaulted including a Municipal
Council member whose car and house were set ablaze. Usually these
incidents take place during the night in villages and involved clashes
between rioters and the security forces, who in turn resorted to
the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and the detention of rioters.
It is notable that these incidents escalate whenever a delegation
of international human rights organizations visits Bahrain. Some
members of these delegations are taken to the sites where riots
break out in order to promote the idea that youth violence is justified,
since it represents a form of protest against governmental policies.
Public debate in the local media reveals three main reasons to
explain the rioting phenomena in the country:
Violence is primarily politically motivated, since advocates
of violence aim to achieve political goals. They do not have any
specific demands from the political system; on the contrary they
wish to abolish the whole political process and the reform project.
There are indications that some weak and unpopular political parties
attempt (despite their condemnation of the violence) to take advantage
of the situation by presenting irrelevant solutions in order to
strengthen their positions in the existing political process.
Most of those involved in the riots are unemployed youths with
social problems as a result of family disintegration. Many did not
have the opportunity to complete their education as well as the
failure to find a suitable role to channel the energy and enthusiasm
Government mistakes and shortcomings in dealing with public services
in villages where riots take place. Despite all efforts, these shortcomings
are still obvious, which makes the youth feel that they are being
treated unjustly, especially when their conditions are compared
to other areas. Therefore, the development and speedy completion
of public services will significantly contribute to the eradication
of the rioting phenomena.
All human rights and political activists, without exception,
agree on condemning rioting, violence and the financial and human
losses they cause. They also agree that the Government bears some
responsibility and that violence is not justified because of the
available margin of peaceful freedom of expression. In addition,
they agree that the security solution is important but is not a
solution in stopping violence and vandalism. It seems that the official
position also supports this idea, based on the Ministry of Interior’s
statement which was published on the 26th of January 2010. It stated
that there are those who want to lure the security forces into clashes
with rioters so that victims fall and then the incidents are exploited
Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa proposed complementing
the security solution when he said: ‘numerous procedures are needed
in order to contain anger of the street. What we have now is a group
who openly tampers with national security. On the other hand, those
who are concerned with the security of the country remain hesitant
in condemning the violence. This hesitation leaves matters open
and allows the free movement of anyone who wants to tamper with
the security of the country’.
The question which must be posed is why did affected villagers
refrain from protesting against the violent youth?
Obviously, there are those who support the rioters; however,
villagers feared retaliation from youth leaders who incite against
anyone who opposes them. Hence confronting the rioters might cost
the villagers both morally and financially. Secondly, any public
initiative which confronts the youth requires support from both
the Government and influential social forces. The Government’s only
initiative was to call upon the public to confront the rioters.
As for the influential Al Wifaq Society, it did not wish to be seen
as a cause for schism between the various social segments and preferred
condemnation as opposed to direct confrontation.
Any public initiative to stop the rioting can only be achieved
through both official actor, the Government, and unofficial actor
represented by Al Wifaq Society. There is a price which has to be
paid in order to eradicate violence and it seems that everyone is
hesitant because they do not wish to lose any of their public popularity