Interactions of Political and Legal Controversy:
"Al-Khawaja" Calling to Overthrow the Regime
The Public Prosecutor summoned human rights activist AbdulHadi
Al-Khawaja on 13/1/2009 to investigate the background of his speech
in a religious occasion of Ashura in the evening of 6/1/2009. Al-Khawaja
was charged with the promotion of the change of the political system,
the public incitement of hatred against the ruling regime, broadcasting
rumours and propaganda that cause disruption of public security
and damage public interest.
In his public speech Al-Khawaja called the public for (interest
and psychological disengagement with the unjust regime and not to
pledge allegiance to it). He said that the regime humiliates people.
He also described the royal family more than once as the (ruling
gang). He felt (the need for uprooting the ruling family from power
at any cost and sacrifices). He pointed fingers to top 14 persons
in the State as members of the (gang) including: the King, Crown
Prince, Prime Minister, a number of ministers and senior officials.
He named them and accused them of theft, the killing of innocent
people, the practice of sectarian and treason, lying, and other
He continued with what was understood as promoting the use of
violence by saying (it is political naivety to merely demand partial
reform, and pledge to continue political allegiance to this ruling
gang which lacks faith, principles and ethics. It is only possible
to confront sectarian and alienation policies by calling for the
overthrow of this unjust and sectarian gang). He also called for
what he termed a "revival" and for striving (to cut the roots of
the ruling gang from this purified land, for we are the generation
of anger and revival).
Despite the fact that Al-Khawaja has called for radical change
through the use of (peaceful protest), he sees the (legitimacy of
violence) as a justified reaction to government actions. According
to him, (the government has given all legitimacy and justification
to its opponents and victims to resort to violence). Al-Khawaja
said that the slogan (Death to Khalifa Family) is full of anger,
negative and unrealistic. He suggested replacing it with another
slogan: "let us overturn the ruling gang" because this slogan clearly
specifies the objective, i.e. their removal from power.
Al-Khawaja had pre-empted the investigation by saying in a press
statement that he will confirm the views expressed in his speech,
saying he would not answer to any question, and will not sign any
statement, accusing the Department of Public Prosecution of being
(bias and the Judiciary not independent). He added that the judicial
ruling will be (as a result of a political decision, and not the
result of judicial proceedings), and, therefore, (it is pointless
to reply) to the questions of the Public Prosecutor.
According to three lawyers, accompanied Al-Khawaja during the
investigation, he refused to answer most questions, and also refuted
his call for the use of violence. Based on the investigation, which
lasted for three hours whilst 20 people protested against the investigation
outside the Public Prosecutors' office, the prosecution released
Al-Khawaja on bail pending the filing of a lawsuit against him.
The case will be considered on 8/2/2009 before the High Criminal
Al-Khawaja's speech was embarrassing to many parties. But it
was most embarrassing to two fronts: Bahrain's political societies
(political parties), Bahraini, regional and international human
rights associations, as well as other civil society organizations.
The speech has raised the level of demands to its peak so far, surpassing
what has been regarded as national fundamentals as well as advocating
the demolition of the existing political process. Some political
societies regarded the speech a departure from the usual political
discourse with its inflammatory references to the use of violence.
For example, Khalil Marzooq, Vice-Chairman of the parliamentary
bloc al-Wifaq, referred to the fundamentals since Bahrain's independence
in 1971, and to the Constitution of 1973 by saying (we have never
called for overthrowing the regime but we have always demanded democratic
and political reforms). He added: (we call upon the authorities
to address the outstanding issues of discrimination and naturalization.
We do not demand the overturning of the regime. We are not interested
in this proposal or any other proposal apart from our declared objectives
and political actions through peaceful approach).
Sheikh Mohammed Ali Mahfouz, Secretary-General of the National
Islamic Action Society, commented on Al-Khawaja's speech by saying
that his society advocates genuine reform, and (that everyone bears
the responsibility of his opinion, and has to determine his direction
and options). While Hassan Al Aali, Assistant Secretary-General
of the Nationalist Democratic Alliance Society has said (the opposition
has made its final decision and has agreed on the legitimacy of
the ruling regime a long time). He added that any other suggestions
will only lead to the dispersal of the opposition’s efforts and
will create a schism between various components of the society and
will be (seditious). He continued by saying "calls for the overthrow
of the regime will give it the justification to take strict security
measures and implement restrictive laws", rejecting what he called
the (Bids), which he claims serves no one.
As for Jasim Al Mihza, Secretary General of the Arab Wasat Society,
he described Al-Khawaja's call for the use of violence as "odd"
and considered it as "rash political immaturity", and that it is
(a call to sedition). An independent Member of Parliament, Abdulaziz
Abel described Al-Khawaja's speech as "illogical and irresponsible".
Embarrassment of human rights organizations was also substantial.
Many of them in Bahrain and abroad kept silent so far about summoning
Al-Khawaja for interrogation.
Al-Khawaja is a well known human rights activist to local, regional
and international human rights organizations, and has just become
the Middle East coordinator for Front Line Organization – based
in Dublin. Perhaps this embarrassment was due to the bitter criticism
that the speech had provoked from journalists and from MPs in the
local media that it is hard to classify the speech within the framework
of defending human rights, and that it may have violated the basic
principles of the same rights it had intended to defend. One MP
- Hassan Al Dosary - has called upon human rights organizations
to denounce the speech because "it is not concerned with rights
and thus no human rights organization will be able to defend it"
(Al Ayam, 12/1/09).
Front Line has issued a statement on 10/1/09 regarding the Public
Prosecutor's interrogation of the activist Al-Khawaja and placed
the issue in the context of (oppression practiced by the authorities
against human rights defenders and their organizations in Bahrain).
The Front Line has called upon the authorities, in its ambiguous
statement (did not refer to the facts of the case), to guarantee
Al-Khawaja's safety, freedom of movement and his right to leave
the country considering his position in the organization.
The Front Line has demanded that the Bahraini authorities put
an end to all forms of discrimination and oppression against human
rights defenders and urged the Government to comply with the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of Human Rights