Bahrain: Why are Women Playing a Marginal Role in Politics

We Need Your Help Bahrain.

A colleague of mine, Anne Koopman, and I are working on an analytical piece that looks in to the reasons why women in Bahrain are still marginalized in the political scene. Since 2002 when the electoral experience came back to life in Bahrain, both men and women had the right to vote and run for elections, yet the female presence was still low.

Despite a little bit of increase over the years, and we now see a few females in the House of Representatives (lower house of the parliament and the Shura Council (upper house of the parliament), many consider this to still be a low number given Bahrain’s history with women’s associations and the fight for rights.

We have talked to several women in the political scene, some parties, women’s associations, but we want to hear from the people. We want to know how the every day life is for a woman, and what are the challenges that hinders her participation and success in reaching senior executive positions.

We have put together a very short survey to get the perspectives of both Bahraini men and women. This will help reflect our research on the reality in Bahrain and confirm that we’re understanding the issues as they are.

This is the link, it will take you less than 2 minutes to complete it.

// Answer five questions on this link

Thank you and we appreciate your contribution.

Stay tuned for the final article

Faten & Anne

Hussain Jawad and human rights: A story that never ends

After five days of terror and hopeless waiting, Hussain Jawad, chairman of European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR) is still detained despite the order for his release. He was arrested from his home in Sitra on Monday, February 17th at 1:20 am. His wife Asma Darwish witnessed the incident, and was left with nothing but a typical short phone call a little over ten hours after his arrest, that left her heart pounding even more than it was before the call.

Darwish, who is also an active member of EBOHR said she had never heard his voice this weak before. She had the gut feeling that this time it won’t be alright. He told her he was okay, but when she asked him if they harmed him, he said yes and ended the phone call. Despite her great concert and worry, Darwish’s determination to speak up and voice her husband’s case is anything but weak:

Right around the fourth anniversary of the Bahraini uprising, it is unfortunate to see things haven’t really changed for the better. Jawad has been arrested for the second time since the uprising, and taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), leaving behind his wife with their two-year-old son Parweez who has just started to recognize his father again after a history of detention and exile.

He was with his wife, son, and mother, when masked civilian men and riot police stormed in and searched the house and the bedroom. An entourage of police cars, armored vehicles, a civilian car, and a mini bus came to arrest him. His phone and passport were confiscated, and he was not allowed to change his clothes before they took him.

Little Parweez stood in silence watching the theatrical operation of his father’s arrest, and didn’t say a word. He was nine months old when his father was arrested the first time. As young as he is, like his father, he has a calm sharp sense to him with a deeper understanding beyond his age. His mother carried him outside where Jawad was taken to the minibus, and asked him “where is baba going?” Little Parweez said “ to prison”. He had visited his grandfather in prison before; it’s not new to him. Darwish says, despite Parweez saying that his dad is going to prison, he still doesn’t understand whether his dad is traveling, or coming back soon, and when she asks him about his dad, he sometimes says he went to the gym.

Although it’s the second time her husband has been arrested, she says this time was different. His arrest came as a surprise to his family, and they are clueless as to what the new charges could be. She explained they usually send him a summon letter, and he always shows up at the police station.

“This time, the way they stormed in, searched the place, all within ten minutes and didn’t even give him a chance to change or hug his son to say goodbye. It hurt me to see them holding his head down between his knees, not allowing him to look up.”

Today, Jawad still faces trial for previous charges related to insulting the king and inciting hatred against the regime.

Since his brief phone call, Darwish says she has seen him online on the social network application “Whatsapp” several times.

“It is very frustrating to see him online every now and then, knowing that they have his phone and are reading through his private conversations with me and other people,” she said.

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She claims she tried to call him at least four times, but the phone call gets disconnected immediately after the first ring. During a recent family visit to Jawad’s father in prison, the prominent figure said he too tried calling his son from Jaw prison and got the same result.

Jawad is not a stranger to the human rights field in Bahrain. His father Parweez Mohammed, sentenced to fifteen years in prison, is one of the 13 prominent political figures locked up for taking part in the uprising in 2011. Following his father’s lead, Jawad spent his youth learning from his dad and other human rights defenders like Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. He always spoke about the great teachers he learned from as he embedded himself in the human rights field.

The idea of starting EBOHR came to Jawad while he was in Switzerland in 2012. With the help of Darwish, they brought the idea to life at a time when Bahrain lacked human rights NGOs, especially a European one. Slowly the organization attracted more Bahraini activists in Bahrain and outside.

Hussain Jawad with his wife Asma Darwish in Switzerland – 2012

His active role as a human rights defender has previously subjected him to harassment by the Bahraini authorities. The latest was his arrest in November 2013, when he went to file a complaint against the government claiming they were defaming him in a local newspaper. He was arrested on spot at the Central Province Police station and taken to the dry dock prison where he spent 47 days. His arrest came following a speech he delivered calling for peaceful struggle and democracy. During his imprisonment he managed to monitor and document many cases and violations against detainees, which he revealed following his release in January 2014 on bail pending trial.

Looking for a better future, Jawad decided that it was best to leave Bahrain and seek refuge in the United Kingdom, where he could practice his job safely. Little did he know that the next eight months would be nothing but a drag that led to a dead end in his asylum case. He was greeted by UK Border Agency officials at Heathrow airport, and taken to a medium security prison for illegal immigrants. His case was placed in a special program called DFT (Detained Fast Track), designed for uncomplicated cases that would eventually be returned to their home countries, despite his strong case for asylum.

Jawad spent his time in London at a youth center operated by a Bahraini community, quickly integrating and earning his peers’ respect. As the light at the end of the tunnel kept getting dimmer regarding his asylum case, Jawad started to feel homesick. Being away from his family was his weakest point. Behind that strong, calm, and fierce look, is a sensitive and family-oriented man. He often spoke about his wife and son and how much he missed them. He was in deep pain that he was away while his son grew up away from his father. He felt helpless when his son had to undergo an open-heart surgery and he couldn’t be there to support him and his wife. However his personal struggles and challenges did not keep him from focusing on the cause he believed in. Jawad is known for his positive optimistic attitude at all times. His work didn’t stop, he kept monitoring the situation in Bahrain, and speaking up against violations at events and meeting.

Jawad’s son, Parweez, following his open-heart surgery last year.

Eventually, Jawad decided to return to Bahrain and continue his fight for human rights on the ground. Darwish said he told her that international human rights organizations valued the testimonies of activists on the ground more than those abroad.

“He told me he feels his presence in Bahrain was better for the cause even if it was risky, he can do more from inside especially that many were in jail at the time, or in exile.”

She recalls the memory of his return and how happy he felt to be back. After his detention and exile abroad, he finally had the chance to spend time with his son who was a little over one year old at the time.

“He spent a great time with family, especially my family, which made them love him and respect him even more.”

Darwish says he spent every night working until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. When she told him to come to bed and get some rest, he answered her “how can I go to sleep when people are still in prison, depending on us to fight for their cause?”

He puts himself in other people’s shoes, says Darwish. When he stops everything and take a phone call from a victim’s mother, he tells his wife: “how would you feel if I got detained and you tried to reach out to an activist and they turned you down?”

His genuine care for the people and their needs defines him as a person and earned him admiration amongst not only family, but also strangers. That was evident during the first arrest. Darwish says the visits Jawad paid to the families of victims and prisoners, and the effort he put into working on their cases, showed in the amount of genuine messages she got from strangers, telling her how much they appreciate her husband’s effort.

As a wife, Darwish values the fact that her husband is a principled man, who does the right thing for the right reasons. She says his biggest role model in life is his father.

“I am very proud to be married to someone who is so attached to his dad as much as Hussain is. He is ready to do anything for him. He has been carrying his father’s case for four years, and that needs a lot of patience and effort.”

Hussain Jawad with his father Parweez Mohammed Jawad

His legacy affected his ability to find a job, because employers fear the consequences of hiring him. Jawad thought it may be for the best, so he can give his undivided attention to his true passion, human rights. Darwish says he told her he wants to be a human rights defender on an international level, and eventually work for the United Nations. His aspirations travel beyond prison bars, and beyond Bahrain.

* Original article on EBOHR’s website

Milan is mistakenly only famous for its fashion glamor, and wonderful shopping experience. But only a few know the hidden beauty in this Italian city. When in Milan you can’t miss the Duomo Terraces, one of the largest and oldest cathedrala in the world. A 600 year old Gothic building that enjoys incredible architectural details. The Duomo Terraces tells an Italian story through its walls and Pillars.

Lake Como is an hour away from Milan, and offers a perfect calm get away, a breath taking mountain view, and a nice walk through the village’s narrow alleys. On a good day with clear skies, you can see a view of the Alps.

The colors, architecture and art make for perfect camera snap shots, but doesn’t do it any justice.

Milano and Lake Como through my lenses.

 

 

The beauty of Milan & Lake Como

ISIS shocks the world with another sick video – Burning Muath Al-Kaseasbeh alive

The Islamic State (ISIS) released a video of yet another of their brutal practices today, showing the captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burnt alive. Al-Kaseasbeh took part in a bombing mission in Syria, and was captured when his plane crashed on Dec. 24. The 22-minute video appears to show the 26-year-old pilot locked in a cage, wearing an orange suit, and then set on fire.

The video, called “Healing of the Believers’ Chests,” is the longest of all beheading videos previously released by ISIS. It is reported that it’s highly produced and graphically enhanced. It starts with the pilot speaking to the camera, a regular ISIS propaganda style. It then shows the pilot – who appears to be doused in a flammable liquid- walking in front of a line of masked men carrying guns in matching military uniform. The footage then cuts to show the pilot in a locked cage, as an ISIS member holds up a flame, and lights a line of flammable liquid that leads to the man in the cage. You can hear the screams of the man and see him lit on fire, and then collapsing on his back.

The video ends with ISIS announcing a reward of 100 gold dinars to whoever kills a “crusade pilot” and provides a list of wanted Jordanian pilots with their pictures and ranks.

because of the graphic content of the video it is difficult to find, and most of the videos have been removed from YoutTube.

screenshot

A Jordanian army spokesman spoke on State TV confirming the death of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, and vowed “revenge”. Jordanian State TV reported the pilot had been killed one month ago, which explains the deadlock in negotiations to trade him for Iraqi suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi detained in a Jordanian Prison for her role in a 2005 attack that killed 60 people in Amman. ISIS demanded her release in a previous video in exchange for captive Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who was recently reported to have been beheaded.

Thousands of Jordanians have took to the streets of the capital Amman, expressing anger over the fate of Al Keseasbeh, and demanding the immediate executions of six Islamic State prisoners who are locked up behind Jordanian bars.

Right before cutting his trip to Washington short, Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with president Obama and they both confirmed they would continue to fight ISIS and not give in. The Jordanian king vowed an “earth-shattering response” when he addressed his people. This decision alongside the decision to execute all six prisoners with links to terrorists groups came in response to the sickening footage of Al-Keseasbeh’s murder. Jordan carried out the executions of two Iraqi jihadists at dawn on Wednesday by hanging them, including Iraqi would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi.

Prior to his meeting with King Abdullah II, President Obama spoke on Tuesday about the released video saying that should the video be authenticated it will only re-double the determination of a global coalition to degrade and defeat ISIS. “It also indicates the degree to which whatever ideology their operating of… it’s bankrupt.”

Journalists and citizen journalists on twitter have been using #MuathalKaseasbeh #Jordanianpilot and #Jordan to post updates, pictures from protests, and reactions in Jordan expressing support and grievances.

Tweets on the story:

Others used the hashtags to advocate for the stop of sharing and watching pictures of AlKaseasbeh, and not encourage such barbaric behaviors.

Following the initiative of “JeSuisCharlie” after the attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, people also started using the hashtag #IamMuath, to show solidarity in the fight against terrorism regardless of religion and location.

The “Bahrain Debate” on social media

The “Bahrain Debate: Rethinking the conflict” took place yesterday in London. An independent initiative by Bahraini students to bridge the gap between different political backgrounds and discuss issues the island is facing.

The two hour event was live streamed on YouTube, and received interactions and comments on social media.

This is the link of the whole debate:

Some comments and questions from the people posted to the panelists on Twitter:

Bahrain Debate Tweets (Quotes form panelists):

Reflections and opinions of the debate:

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The Bahrain Debate – a glimpse of hope?

Amidst failed attempts at reform, and the struggle to come up with effective strategies to dig Bahrain out of the political hole it has been in for four years has prompted some Bahrainis living in London to push for a debate to “rethink the conflict.”

Independent from any political affiliation, “The Bahrain Debate: Rethinking the conflict” is an initiative to be held by a group of Bahrainis at University of London’s SOAS Middle East and North Africa Society on the 3rd of December.

The event is somewhat a second session of the initial Bahrain Debate that took place in the capital of Manama in 2012, where

Mohammed Al-Daaysi,

Mohammed Al-Daaysi, “Bahrain Debate” organizer

“different political stripes faced off in a rare forum,” according to Reuters. Besides drastic changes in the structure and organizing team, the difference between the former and the upcoming event is the vibe. In 2012, the uprising was still fresh and the people were emotional, according to Mohamed Al-Daaysi, the only member from the old team organizing this year’s debate. This time, the objective is to focus on portraying different views of the conflict and tackle the issues Bahrain witnessed over the past few years since the 2011 uprising, targeting a more international audience.

The call to rethink the conflict comes at an appropriate time, at least according to Al-Daaysi who is on of the organizers of this event.

“In a sense we’re at a challenging point. The Crown Prince saying that dialogue should go through parliament, and you have the opposition, boycotting the parliamentary elections.”

Al-Daaysi says the whole idea is to provide a new platform for political economical analysis to kick in, revisit the current colonial and neocolonial legacy in Bahrain, and rub off on the discourse of the political actors themselves.

“Rethinking in itself provides a way for change. We don’t need to act so much these days, we need to think before we do act and mobilize political actions,” he says.

Looking at the current situation in Bahrain, and the attempts by different parties to construct a strategy, Al Daaysi says it’s not working. He suggests the Crown Prince initiatives failed, and the Manama Document put forward by the opposition groups is inadequate to solve political and socioeconomic issues in Bahrain.

Marc Owens - Panelist in the

Marc Owens – Panelist in the “Bahrain Debate”

Marc Owens, sitting on the panel, will be offering a critical account of government repression, both historical and economical. He will also present his concerns of democracy in Bahrain’s divided societies, and says he will argue for the need to “respect a strong and secular constitution that does not privilege any belief system over another.”

I asked Owens about this event and the purpose behind it, here’s what he had to say:

What does “rethinking the conflict” mean?

“I think ‘rethinking the conflict’ simply is a concept that highlights the ongoing nature of the problem. There is a tendency to believe that ‘the conflict’ is what happened in 2011, and 2011 alone. I think it is important to position as part of an ongoing historical struggle against a kleptocratic and illegitimate state. That’s does not imply an acceptance of all opposition demands, but merely disturbs the dichotomous narrative that implies those who support the government support dictatorship, and those who oppose wish for some sort of religious dystopia.”

Why Now?

“I think it is important to keep discussing the conflict as it is an evolving and dynamic thing, one that constantly needs to be evaluated and analyzed. Perhaps most importantly, while Bahrain must move forward, those who have suffered must not be forgotten, and those who have escaped justice, must be sought.”

Abdulla Abdulaal, organizer and chair of the Bahrain Debate explains the purpose is to try and break down walls and build bridges between

Abdulla Abdulaal, PHD candidate in economics at SOAS and chair of the Bahrain Debate

Abdulla Abdulaal, PHD candidate in economics at SOAS and chair of the Bahrain Debate

different political, economic and social players both internally and internationally. He says they will try to find commonality across the spectrum, encourage fruitful debate and laying the grounds for creative solutions in rethinking the conflict.

“Our aim is to reignite interest in political economy discussions in crucial areas such as fiscal policy, history lessons from the 1950s nationalist movement for example, and shaking up civil society which once at the frontier of change.”

Abdulaal says with the way things are going now, he fears the longer the cycle drags on, the more likely violence will escalate. Four years later, and a new parliament in place, he says the outlook seems bleak as business goes on as usual.

“We’re not promising solutions but we’re trying to get people thinking about common problems like unemployment and the national identity, and find common grounds in a shared history and shared destiny,” he says.

However, panelists don’t seem to be representing a wider spectrum of Bahraini society, but rather a very limited picture of the different players in the country.

Abdulaal says organizers reached out to several institutions and individuals with a variety of backgrounds, however logistics and practically prevailed in many ways.

The panelists will talk about a variety of topics from human rights and the rule of law, to the history of the nationalist movement in the 50s and 60s. They will be shedding light on the role of the opposition and expatriate workers in Bahraini society, as well as exploring unemployment challenges.

List of panelists:

– Ali Al-Aswad – Ex MP for Alwefaq

– Anna Hagberg – Activist with a focus on Bahrain, MA in Gender Studies at SOAS

– Hasan Alhasan – research analyst at the office of the First Deputy Prime Minister

– Marc Owen Jones: PHD candidate in Durham and Senior researcher at Bahrain Watch

William Morris is the Secretary General of the Next Century Foundation

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The whole event will be recorded and streamed on YouTube. The video of the whole debate will be screened with Arabic subtitles at an event held in Bahrain (Information and updates o be announced).

People can participate and voice their thoughts on social media using the following Information:

On twitter, follow @Bahrain_debate

On Facebook, find the Bahrain Debate page.

Or via email: thebahraindebate@gmail.com