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
|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
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
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
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
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
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.