Bahrain: The Inevitability of Confronting Violence Advocates
Hasan Moosa Shafaei
|Hasan Moosa Shafaie
The recent events in Bahrain are a natural and logical result
of the political and security path that the country has been taking
for nearly a decade. The arrests which took place in the context
of violence, riots and vandalism of properties were also expectable.
These arrests represent a turning point in the confrontation with
some parties that the Government accuse of instigating violence
The Government’s decision to take tough measures came late for
some observers, and came on time for other observers because violence
had escalated and commercial streets, touristic and social sites,
which have never been targeted before, were targeted this time.
This pushed the Government to interfere firmly in order to stop
the deterioration of the security situation in Bahrain.
It is difficult for violence and riots to become part of a newly
established democratic process. It seems that the Government’s attempt
to separate security from politics in order to protect the new political
process from any harm has failed. It also seems that the attempt
to control extremists by letting them participate in the political
process has also failed.
The political process has been harmed in a way or another due
to violence, or at least has lost some of its vitality due to violence
escalation. The development projects have also been damaged in the
areas that witnessed continuous rioting for several years.
What distinguishes the current confrontation is the fact that
the arrests in the past involved teenagers in general who were detained
for a limited period of time then released. However, the recent
arrests targeted political leaders and prominent figures who reject
the political system and believe that the law does not apply to
them. For instance, they refuse to register themselves as a political
society or obtain a licence for organizing protests or demonstrations.
These groups believe that it is not necessary to adhere to peaceful
political action and that setting fires, using Molotov and cutting
electricity off are peaceful activities. These leaders were hoping
that the situation would escalate due to the response of the security
forces to violence. They had hoped that clashes would take place
injuring some people and result in the arrest of rioters and that
the situation would finally develop and ruin the political process
The regime in Bahrain was hesitant about taking tough measures
knowing that this is not in the country’s interest. But the extremists
misunderstood this hesitation as weakness and used violence and
insulting language to extent that there was no room for reconciliation.
The advocates of violence always wished to escalate the situation
thinking that they could achieve their objectives, however this
turned out to be contrary to their expectations.
Now that the Government has decided to carry out a comprehensive
confrontation with the advocates of violence, it is legitimate to
ask whether the Government will adhere to human rights standards
with regards to detention, investigations and trial. It is clear
that violations have taken place such as the failure to provide
lawyers for the detainees, preventing their families from meeting
them, failure of revealing the exact location of their detention
and failure to identify the law according to which they have been
detained. Some of these issues have been dealt with but others have
been delayed. This situation has caused some concern to international
human rights organizations, which issued statements in this regard.
There is no objection to the Bahraini Government’s right to impose
law and order, confront riots and advocates of violence or detain
and investigate with anyone who threatens the security of the country.
The problem is how far the Government is willing to respect the
legal and natural rights of the detainees as stated in the domestic
legislations and international conventions. Failing to do so would
be regarded as a human rights violation.
On the ground, there are many security procedures that prevent
the continuation of violence, vandalism and rioting. Based on the
large number of security forces on the street and the fact that
internal instigation has almost stopped, violence should decrease.
There is also political consensus between the different parties
to condemn violence and riots and support the Government’s right
to impose law and order.
On the legal level, unlike previous situations, which ended with
royal pardon, the detainees could be imprisoned this time. Most
importantly, the trials should be public and fair and in the presence
of human rights organisations.
On the political level, all confrontations and their repercussions
should end before the elections on the 23rd of next October. Some
people believe that the elections will be less exciting due to the
security situation and the existence of detainees. Others believe
that the Government is going to provide sufficient incentives for
the elections. On the other hand, Al- Wifaq Society, which is the
largest Bahraini society, said that the incidents will not affect
its participation in the next election. However, it seems that Al
–Wifaq needs to put more effort in order to convince its voters
to participate in the election. This is if it really wants to win
the same number of seats it won in the 2006 elections.
Some people, including both Sunnis and Shias, view the situation
from a sectarian perspective and describe the recent confrontations
as a conflict between the ‘Sunni Government’ and the Shia citizens
in Bahrain. Others emphasised this sectarian perspective for their
own political interests and mobilisation. The extremist wing does
not represent the Shia majority who are participating in the political
process and have their own institutions, figures and interests.
This Shia majority does not view itself as being in conflict with
the Government and does not feel that it is targeted in the confrontation
with violence advocates. The President of Al- Wifaq Society, Sheikh
Ali Salman, stated during a Friday prayer that the majority of Shia
are harmed and unhappy about the riots.
Also, there are some people who perceive the recent events as
being part of an Iranian conspiracy. For example, on 21 August Al
Qabas newspaper published an article based on Bahraini intelligence
information. The newspaper stated that a network of 250 individuals
were arrested in Bahrain a few days ago and that the network has
strong links to a military body in Iran and planned to act as soon
as Iran is attacked. On 23 August 2010, the Bahraini national security
denied the news and said that the detainees have no connections
to Iran and also denied ‘the existence of any connection between
the detainees and the Islamic Republic of Iran’.
This does not mean that violence will end or that the political
process is safe. There will always be some people who are against
the political system in principle and not only the political process.
However, the measures taken so far should prevent violence from
occurring and stop those who instigate it.
After the situation calms down, the political process needs a
new start in order to bring life back into politics, which has lost
its vitality. This can be achieved through strengthening the relations
between the legislative and executive authorities. This is in addition
to a better performance by the House of Representatives and passing
new laws that expand the margin of freedom including the new Press
Law and the NGOs law etc.