King Hamad bin Isa Al – Khalifa was interviewed by Harvard University website where he talked about the present and the future of Bahrain. He believes that despite all the problems that Bahrain has been through during the past three years, ‘things are going in the right direction’ politically and economically. As for the future, he saw that it depends on the reforms and on the collective efforts of all parties’ including members of the Royal Family’ in order to provide a better life in an open society which respects all people living in Bahrain.
The King also believes that the future of Bahrain will not be built by enthusiasm and slogans. He gave the Arab Spring as an example, where people had great hopes and now are disappointed as the lives of many ordinary citizens have been ruined due to the collapse of state institutions.
The King outlined Bahrain’s future as follows:
National dialogue between the various components of Bahraini society is ‘the only right way for Bahrain’ in order to reach a consensus on the main big issues.
Secondly, accepting the opinion of others and the freedom to be different are necessary in the development of societies. The King stated that ‘it is nice to disagree with the Government and try to develop the laws. The only way to achieve this is by dialogue and co-existence and not through the use of violence and the spread of fear and terrorism.’ In other words yes to the disagreements that are conducted in a peaceful and civilised manner.
Thirdly, the world is changing and societies are not static in their aspiration and positions, hence it is important to reappraise and accommodate. The King stressed that ‘I personally, want change perhaps more than anyone else’. He noted that the revolution in the information technology and social communication are basic factors in the formation of modern societies, and that the state’s media is no longer the dominant one as it once was. The King also discussed the importance of reforming the media sector in Bahrain and stressed on the vitality of the freedom of expression which should be guaranteed for, according to him ‘no one in Bahrain should be prosecuted for their opinion’. However, those who breach the law will not be protected even in human rights related cases, as in the case of protests in sensitive areas without permit. The king also mentioned the establishment of the High Authority for Media and Communication as an important step to develop the state media and guarantee its objectivity and professionalism.
The fourth aspect relates to the building of a society of citizenship and equality. The king stressed that ‘no one is going to have more rights because of their beliefs or sectarian affiliation. Here in Bahrain, what we know is that the majority are Muslims and that all other religious sects practice their beliefs freely and are respected. All have the same rights as citizens and have the right to demand change, but no one has the right to exclude the others, we stand at equal distance from everyone.
Human Rights represent a crucial element in shaping Bahrain’s future.The King noted ‘we have assigned an international independent commission which presented a report, and we have said that we accept the required change and eventual reforms in the country, but it is an ongoing process. Many changes took place since Bassiouni’s report, but some people think that nothing has changed. The king refuted this claim, and pointed to ‘reforms that took place in various sectors such as the police and the legal system’, and the amendment of 20 constitutional articles which would oblige the new cabinet to seek the endorsement of the elected council’.
Finally, the King stressed the importance of openness, cooperation and assistance from friends and allies within the principles of non-interference in internal affairs. He praised the EU countries and said that they can criticise us ‘When we make mistakes but they should help us in order to become better, we welcome the help of any party.’ The King specified the kind of help that Bahrain needs such as the police sector, health and judiciary. Since we are all allies and we all want to reform and become better, there should be more help offered.