In light of the political, social, economic and human rights crisis in Bahrain, the BHRM collected views of the Government, political parties, and human rights organizations in this special edition of the Monitor. The aim is to revise the positions and policies and learn from past mistakes. The Bahraini crisis is complicated by the mixture of political, social and human rights factors, which we hope to clarify by interviewing prominent figures.

The BHRM contacted many political figures to reflect their opinions in this edition in order to enable human rights activists to gain a comprehensive picture of the political repercussions of the recent events. Also, interviews provide an opportunity to find middle solutions and prevent more losses.

The BHRM obtained initial consent for interviews from all parties, but unfortunately some were unable to respond to our questions. For example, the Secretary-General of Al Wefaq Society, Shaikh Ali Salman, and the Secretary-General of the Democratic Forum Society, Dr. Hasan Madan both apologized for not taking part in these interviews. We hope to interview them in the near future.

Sheikh Abdullateef Al Mohmoud:

“I support constitutional monarchy but decline to take the country to the unknown”.

The following is an interview with the President of the Gathering of National Unity (GNU), Sheikh Abdullateef Al Mahmoud on recent events.

Sheikh AbdullateeSf Al Mohmoud

Unlike the opposition, the GNU was late in presenting its demands to the government. What demands do you share with the opposition, and what demands do you reject, and why?

At the start of the protests on 14 February 2011, the demands of the opposition can be summed up as follow:

1/ implementing the concept of a constitutional monarchy

2/ amending the powers of the Shura Council, so that it becomes a mere consultative council

3/ naturalization

We supported the above demands but on 3 March 2011, the demands changed and the opposition presented the Government with a paper on its vision regarding dialogue, which includes:

1/ Annulling the 2002 Constitution

2/ Electing members of a constituent council to draft a new constitution

3/ Legislative powers should be confined to the House of Representatives

4/ People should have the right to elect their Government

The opposition also added the following pre-conditions for dialogue:

  • The resignation of the Government
  • Setting up a timetable between 2-3 weeks in order to reach a comprehensive settlement for the crisis. Protests should continue until the demands are met.

It was our opinion that the pre-conditions could lead the country to the unknown and result in chaos and violence.

We proposed many issues for dialogue discussion, which include:

A – Defining the concept of constitutional monarchy

B – Amending the 2002 Constitution

C – Views on the two-house system for the legislative authority, their powers, member numbers, and the relationship between the two houses, electoral constituencies, election supervision, and the body in charge of setting up the internal bylaws for the two houses.

D – Views on the executive authority, including powers, nomination and questioning of the Prime Minister and Minsters.

E – Views on the judicial authority and its relationship with the Ministry of Justice, the mechanisms for the formation of a higher court, conditions for appointing judges, financial and administrative independence, and the development of the judicial system.

F – Views on the relationship between the Royal Family and the State.

We also included the following issues for dialogue: financial and administrative control, naturalization, implementing the Financial Disclosure Law, civil freedoms and rule of law, the organization of State income and properties, protecting national wealth, the relationship between councils and districts and the relationship between councils and the executive apparatus of the Ministry of Municipalities Affairs. In addition, a number of issues relating to the standard of living, such as: raising wages, increasing pensions, housing provision and providing social security. Furthermore, combating sectarian polarization and moral, administrative and financial corruption. This clearly shows what demands we share with the opposition.

Why did the political problem in Bahrain turn into a sectarian crisis? Where is this sectarian crisis heading to? And what is the solution?

The political crises in Bahrain turned into a sectarian crisis because of the sectarian incitement of the Shia opposition, and its attempt to paralyse the economy. Once the opposition took control of the Sulaimaniya Hospital, sectarian feelings appeared, especially after doctors who do not belong to their sect were prevented from entering the hospital and patients were treated on a sectarian basis. Also, sectarian polarization in schools, the attacks on university students, residents assaulted by gangsters, which caused panic in society, cooperation with Iran who allocated more than four TV channels to convey the opposition’s views, spread lies and having connections with Hezbellah of Lebanon. All these factors turned the political problem into a sectarian problem, especially when the state of emergency was declared and a number of Shia judges and advisors for the King have resigned. These moves illustrated that the crisis was not about reform but about regime change, especially after several illegal opposition societies announced the establishment of an Islamic Republic and the removal of the monarchy.

The priority now is to impose law and order so that Bahrain regains its stability. I believe that the crisis will be contained within the next six months. The State will implement many social and economic reforms following a dialogue on constitutional amendments.

The opposition wants constitutional monarchy, which has different definitions. How would you define constitutional monarchy, and which form do you think is most suitable for Bahrain?

Constitutional monarchy has many definitions and is applied differently in more than one country around the world. We believe that an agreement will be reached with regards to the best form for Bahrain. Undoubtedly, the two basic pillars for constitutional monarchy are both constitution and laws, which are passed by the legislative council.

You have been criticised for siding with the Government and for not having a Sunni opposition, on the other hand the Shia have been criticized for siding with the opposition, what’s your opinion?

The GNU has protected the largest segment of Bahraini society, which includes most Sunnis, moderate Shia, Christians, Jews and the Bohra. The Sunni community did not feel that there was a need for opposing the government because Parliament can solve most of the problems. Once the opposition threatened our existence, we decided to be an independent player on the scene, which is made up of three main players: the regime, Sunnis and Shia. Hence, the GNU is non-governmental and sides with the country’s interests as well as serving all citizens.

There are mutual accusations regarding the mismanagement of the political crisis between the Government and the opposition. Each party is criticising the performance of the other How do you assess the Government and GNU’s performance?

If there were any failures in managing the crisis, it would definitely be from the opposition, which started with demands for reform and ended with calls for regime change. It missed a golden opportunity to enter into dialogue and introduce reforms that the regime would accept. As for the Government, it managed the crisis in a manner that showed the opposition’s true colours in the eyes of Bahrainis and the people of the Gulf. This resulted in wide support from the GCC countries, which supported the opposition in the beginning.

The GNU was born during the crisis and was able to restore balance between the national parties. Before, only the Shia opposition and the State were the main actors in the scene. The GNU was clear, explicit and specific about its demands.

What is your position with regards to dialogue with the Government? What is the way out of the current crisis in your opinion?

We continue to demand political, constitutional and administrative reforms, but the opposition’s rigidity and failure have changed our priorities. While the GNU was backing constitutional amendments in the past, it is now supporting imposing law and order.

The way out for this crisis would be to enact reforms without delay so that a strong state can be built, which unites all parties and prevents schisms in the country.

The sectarian crisis in Bahrain is now an international problem. To what extent has regional interference deepened the current crisis?

Without a doubt the political crisis revealed sectarian attitudes, which aimed to dismiss the other party and imitate the events that took place in Iraq including the sectarian massacres that killed thousands of Sunnis and Shia. This turned the crisis into a regional and international affair and showed Iran and Hezbollah’s interference. Once all parties revise their positions, everything will return to normal, co-existence will prevail in Bahrain and regional relationships will be maintained.

What are your personal efforts as the leader of the GNU in bringing about unity and defending the rights of citizens?

In my speech on Friday 15 April 2011, I called for studying the crisis on all levels: the ruling leadership, the public, political, religious and professional institutions. We need to conduct comprehensive studies and openly discuss the reasons for the crisis in order to avoid its reoccurrence in the future. Bahrain has never witnessed these sorts of events in its history. Each party should study the situation and highlight its own mistakes before pointing the finger at anyone else.

In my speech, I attributed the reasons behind this crisis to many factors including us, the Government, the advocates of violence and the silent few who could have played a role in defusing the tension. Currently, we want law and order to be restored and those responsible to be held accountable. We support legal and criminal accountability, but we openly announced that we will not allow any law breaching. We also warned against revenge during investigations and blaming the innocents. I especially emphasize this point, especially after the recent death of a number of detainees during their interrogations. We need impartial investigations to the reasons behind their death, and we call upon officials to allow the National Institution for Human Rights and other impartial parties to look into the cases and bring those responsible to justice.

It is unfair to stereotype and blame all the Shia community, and it is also unfair to send them letters threatening them to leave their houses without committing any crimes. We do not accept these acts and we urge our brothers who are responsible for this to seize such acts, and not to be driven by emotions and make the same mistakes of those who refused co-existence.