Opportunity to Volunteer in Lesvos for Bahrainis (Or Arabic Speaking candidate)

This is a one time opportunity to encourage mainly Bahrainis to get involved in humanitarian work and help refugees.

About the opportunity:

  • Deadline is December 26th
  • This is a donation given by a Bahraini who wished to remain anonymous and will cover only flight ticket. You are expected to pay for your hotel, car rental, living expenses, and visa if you need one.
  • This is not part of a team, or an official organization that you will join. You are expected to work independently and be able to establish relationships and connections on the ground to collaborate with. We will put you in touch with some people, but there is no fixed schedule of activities and things to do that you would follow.

About you:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Fluent in both Arabic and English
  • Have funds to cover the other expenses
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Can be there for a minimum of 10 days
  • Can work under pressure and in intense situations
  • No health problems that requires special care
  • Submit a brief report (one page) about your experience after you come back

Things to know:

  • Mytelini and Lesvos is the same place. Two names for the island
  • There are rarely direct flights to Mytelini, you’d have to stop in Athens first
  • It is cold these days in Lesvos especially at night by the shores
  • The experience is mentally and emotionally and physically exhausting
  • There is a big Facebook group where all volunteers and NGOs are discussing all kinds of things, and there are files available to explain dynamics of the island and information
  • If you’re selected, you would get a general briefing of all the information you need to know.

If interested, email the following to fatenhbu@gmail.com:

Cover letter explaining:
  • Tell me about yourself and background (basic information: name, age, location, and who you are)
  • Why you’re interested in volunteering in Lesvos?
  • Why do you think you’re the perfect candidate to be chosen?
  • What is your previous experience in humanitarian aid, or any relevant experience?
  • This could be a very heavy experience, some days are slow and easy, others are traumatic for both refugees and volunteers. How do you usually handle emotional situations and shock (any relevant example?)
  • When is the earliest that you can be in Lesvos?

Priority goes to:

  • Bahrainis (and then all arabic speakers)
  • Volunteers who can leave as early as possible
  • Volunteers who already have a visa
  • Volunteers who live in Europe *for minimal flight expenses*

What is Bahrain Doing to Prevent a Terror Attack?

Following two attacks on Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia in earlier weeks, and the last attack in Kuwait two days ago, ISIS promises the next will be in Bahrain.

I wrote a much needed article on Global Voices wondering if safety measures are being taken in Bahrain to prevent potential attacks, and protect worshipers.

“Bahrain is politically a perfect hub for a terrorist attack. The country is already divided by sectarian tensions following the popular uprising in 2011, when people called for more political reforms. The government pitted the conflict as a Shia population trying to wrestle power from a Sunni leadership, a storyline often echoed in international media. Bahrain is also different from both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait because Shias are closer to being a majority in the small Gulf island and are easier to target as the government has been engaged in daily street battles with Shiite protesters on an almost daily basis since protests started four years ago.

However, it remains the responsibility of the government first and the people second to provide security for all citizens equally, and not based on sect or political loyalty. Failing to secure the lives of all Bahrainis, regardless of their sect, is a sectarian statement in itself.

The question is, how can a country like Bahrain where systematic approaches based on sect are deeply infested, fight a bigger battle against ISIS. How are people expected to stand united, when state media fuels hatred and sectarian tensions in the country? Are we even allowed to blame ISIS for their irrational extremism when Bahraini religious figures, media outlets, and laws do the same?”

Read more here.

Analytical Series: Why Women’s Political Presence in Bahrain is Still Marginal

My colleague Anne Koopman and I co-authored a series of three analytical articles to explore the problem of women’s marginal role in politics in the Gulf Island of Bahrain. We have talked to politicians, activists and regular people to get a better understanding of the situation.

Since the introduction of the National Action Charter ‘Al-Meethaq’ in 2002, women and men have equal political rights in Bahrain, giving both the right to vote and actively participate in politics. However, female presence in politics is considerably low. In this series we will address the issue of low political presence in Bahrain by dividing the problem into three articles. In “Bahraini Politics: Where Are The Women?”, we will look at the political background in Bahrain and the statistics of women serving in higher positions, as well as compare the country to other Gulf States. In the second part “The Triangle of Oppression: Challenging Women’s Political Presence” we explain how the male dominant society, religious influences and lack of endorsements by political societies cause women to experience pressure to withdraw from elections or stay away from the political scene, but also to feel hesitant towards participating to begin with. In “Is There Hope For Equal Political Representation?” we show how the popular uprising in 2011, has put women’s rights on a back shelf, and the challenges for both men and women have become more similar and equal, leading to an unclear future for women in politics in Bahrain. Experts and female activists propose some solutions that could gradually improve women’s political presence in Bahrain.

Read all three articles on The Bahrain Debate:

Part I: “Bahraini Politics: Where are the Women?”

Part II: “The Bahraini Society: Challenging Women’s Political Presence”

Part III: “Is There Hope for Equal Political Representation?”

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

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


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

What lies beneath Bahrain’s parliamentary elections

It has been almost four years since Bahrainis took to the streets, calling for democracy and political reforms. However, with only three days left before the parliamentary elections take place in Bahrain, the country still shows no signs of change or improvement.

Bahrain’s constitution, introduced by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in 2002, created a bicameral legislative body consisting of an elected chamber, the Nuwab Council, and an appointed consultative chamber, the Shura Council. The last parliamentary and municipal elections held in 2010, which reached a 67 per cent voter turnout rate, granted Al Wefaq National Islamic Society (the largest political party in the country) 18 out of a total of 40 seats. This year, four main opposition groups including Al Wefaq have already announced they will be boycotting the elections set for 22 November 2014 in protest.

On 28 October, the Supreme Court decided to suspend the activities of Al Wefaq for a period of three months. The Ministry of Justice filed the lawsuit early this year in an attempt to “correct” the group’s legal status, claiming they have failed to comply with rules about holding their general meetings. Al Wefaq called the court’s decision an “uncalculated crazy adventure.” Hours later, Justice Minister and member of the ruling family Khaled Bin Ali issued a decree to stop the implementation of the court order. The signs and signals show no progress as the Bahraini regime continues to crack down on members of the opposition and harass human rights defender. It has also revealed the limits of its tolerance, filing the lawsuit weeks after senior U.S. State Department official Tom Malinowski met with leaders form Al Wefaq. Shortly after, Malinowski was ordered to leave Bahrain.

“The idea is to prevent society from communicating with the outside world, and to pressure us into giving in and abandon our demands,” says political assistant to the secretary general of Al Wefaq, Khalil Al-Marzooq. He says he suspects the minister of justice’s decision to block the suspension was a result of outside pressure, specifically from the United States. “The royal family is a political party in itself, where the justice minister who belongs to that family oversees the activities of political parties in Bahrain. This is against democracy,” says Al-Marzooq. “He has been given space to harass political parties and directly interfere in our political rights which are protected by the country’s constitution.” According to Al-Marzooq, Al Wefaq should be able to continue its political activities after the announcement of the justice minister.

Al-Marzooq says that Al Wefaq had informed the court it would hold its General Assembly on 4 December 2014, however the court disregarded this. In a press release issued on 29 October Al Wefaq said, “this raises questions on whether the lawsuit is meant to cripple Al Wefaq’s opinion to boycott the upcoming elections, or to correct its legal status.”

“If we join the elections and participate, it means we accept the situation and give up our demands, and the regime will have no incentive to sacrifice or implement change,” Al-Marzooq adds. “We do not want to legitimize the current corrupt situation that strips us from our rights. It is not an inclusive system that embraces all Bahrainis.”

Al-Marzooq continued to claim that most candidates running for election are mainly independent and do not represent a given party, arguing that if the percentage of independent candidates is higher than of those within a political group, there is an error in the political arrangement in Bahrain. In the 2010 elections, independent candidates won 11 seats out of 40 in the parliament’s lower chamber, according to the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

The split in the Bahraini society has gone beyond ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ democracy. Although the division between Sunnis and Shias in Bahrain was always more economic and political than religious, government officials were successful in splitting the society into opposition, and opposition to the opposition. The dispute between the two sects is based on unwritten policies and discriminatory and systematic practices that excludes the Shias, like forbidding them from joining the army in positions that allowed them access to weapons. The government favors Sunnis for certain positions, especially ones with the power to make tangible decisions. Geographically, Bahrain is designed in a way that segregates the Sunni from the Shia villages, excluding very few areas where a mix of both reside. This makes it easier for riot police and security forces to raid villages and target houses, without disrupting the peace of their supporters’ villages (mistakenly assuming that all Sunnis support the government, which is a myth).

Al Marzooq says he believes some government-supporting groups will participate in these upcoming elections, simply to feed into the sectarian game the regime is fueling amongst the people, and show disapproval of the opposition’s decisions, not necessarily because they believe in the election process or its outcome.

A female protester holding up a banner calling for the boycott of elections in Bahrain.

A female protester holding up a banner calling for the boycott of elections in Bahrain.

Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, a prominent human rights activist sentenced to life imprisonment wrote a letter from behind bars emphasizing the importance of boycotting the elections. He said elections in Bahrain lack fairness and equality because of what he called manipulation of demographics through political naturalization, and manipulation in the distribution of constituencies on the basis of sectarian affiliation and political orientation. However Alkhawaja says boycotting alone is enough to force the power to respond to the demands of reform and fulfill their obligations, and will not accommodate the anger and frustration building inside the people. Therefore, it is necessary, he says, for community leaders and the people to unite their efforts in order to escalate the peaceful popular movement actively and orderly, and earn more solidarity and international support.

On Social Media

The video above has been circulated on social media, showing Nayef Al-Jassem, a candidate from the Southern province delivering a speech in his campaign to win the votes of the people in his district. Al-Jassem decided to bring along an interpreter to translate his speech to “Urdu” urging the audience, consisting mainly of Asian nationalities, to vote for him. The person who shot this video can be heard saying “we don’t have racism, we’re all Bahrainis.”

This video reveals the level of political naturalization reached in Bahrain, which the opposition says is about “100 thousand naturalized” added to the population of Bahrain within the previous ten years. That adds up to about a quarter of the total population. Although it is unclear whether the Asian workers in the audience hold Bahraini citizenship, it is safe to conclude that if they are expected to vote for Al-Jassem, they must hold the Bahraini citizenship.

While this video has triggered mixed feelings amongst people on social media, the reactions were mostly negative. Critics say that this is merely a tactic whereby the government favors politically naturalized citizens over its own people, whose demands and needs are being ignored. There are two kinds of naturalized citizens, the first kind are those who were born and raised in Bahrain, or immigrated a while ago, and are now integrated in the society. The second are those who are politically naturalized, brought from other countries to serve in police forces. As the percentage of the politically naturalized rises, there is a concern whether the votes will represent the original Bahraini population, or just a large portion of people who were brought to the country for political purposes. On the other hand, some might welcome the idea of approaching migrant workers and naturalized citizens and argue that the opposition should take on a similar measure and reach out to the minorities within the society to include them in the development process of the country.

Crackdown on Human Rights Activists

Meanwhile, two prominent human rights activists were put behind bars, less than six weeks before the elections. On October 14, activist Zainab Alkhawaja, who is eight months pregnant, was arrested on charges of insulting the king after ripping a photo of him earlier in 2012. During her trial, Alkhawaja asked to speak and is reported to have said, “I am the daughter of a proud and free man. My mother brought me into this world free, and I will give birth to a free baby boy even if it is inside our prisons. It is my right, and my responsibility as a free person, to protest against oppression and oppressors.” Alkhawaja was arrested in court for once again tearing up a photo of the king and setting it in front of the judge. She has been released on 19 November 19, but is still facing sentencing on December 4 and 9 in four cases.

Early in October, Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was arrested for tweeting about a group of his countrymen allegedly cooperating with the Islamic State (ISIS). The Bahraini interior ministry said in a statement that Rajab was summoned because his derogatory tweets “denigrated government institutions.”

“The government wants to create an image of people participating and that everything is back to normal, even if only 5-10 percent of voters take part,” Nabeel Rajab told the Guardian in September , “But we will have another four years of problems if we don’t solve them before elections.” Rajab was released on November 2 pending a court verdict, and his next hearing will be held on January 20.

Several NGOs and human rights organizations including Human Rights First issued statements condemning the detention of both Nabeel and Zainab, decrying Bahrain’s negative approach in an attempt to calm the unrest. The government has been ignoring calls for their release, including statements by officials at the United Nations and the European Parliament.

“Attempts to asphyxiate the peaceful opposition and silence civil society figures like Nabeel Rajab and Zainab al Khawaja will only backfire on the Bahrain government,” says Brian Dooley of Human Rights First. “The regime has tried harassment, torture, jail and intimidation to end its political unrest. Eventually it will have to try reform.”

Continuing on Shaky Ground

Matar Matar, former MP

Matar Matar, former MP

Actions of the Bahraini government are making it hard for opposition members to believe and trust in the election process and its intention to implement change in the country. The regime has been somewhat obvious, where it prosecutes Bahraini subjects to set an example, sometimes acquitting those deemed guilty in order to highlight their benevolence, as well as to avoid international embarrassment. These actions are demonstrations of the arbitrariness of unregulated monarchical power.

Former member of the parliament Matar Matar, now based in Washington D.C., says the current election process lacks legitimacy as the king refuses to share any part of his absolute power. “Still he appoints senior judges, the executive cabinet and the Upper House. And the gerrymandering in the lower house is hiding the will of the wide majority of Shia and Sunnis who are calling for reform.”

With no clear alternative for political reform in Bahrain, Matar says Bahrainis will continue to protest and call for change through peaceful manners. “We are sure the regime cannot control the marginalization of the wide majority the population.” Expecting a wide commitment to boycott the election Matar says, “any outcome of the coming election will not represent the Bahrainis.”

The lack of seriousness in working with the opposition to implement change and reform, and the continued harassment of opposition groups and activists, make the path for democratic change unclear.

“While we have elections, Bahrain is considered to be an authoritarian regime with an absolute monarch, King Hamad, who controls all powers. The election has nothing to do with the process of Executive Cabinet formation. The king can choose who ever he likes. We are fine to participate in an imperfect process if it can survive but the parliament, under this context, is not functioning,” says Matar.

The government is still cracking down on opposition groups and human rights defenders. More strategically than before, the government now slowly moves away from direct contact between police and people, and more towards systematic oppression through a legal framework. Although protests still break out intermittently, and riot police still shoot at people leaving injured behind, the bigger danger now are the laws recently created to legally prosecute citizens and activist. An example is a new law that sentences anyone who publicly insults the king up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 dinars ($26,500 USD).

With no clear destination for the country, it seems as though the compass is lost, and a concrete strategic plan is absent from the scene. The government and the opposition can’t agree on terms to move forward. The regime is not willing to sacrifice and the opposition is not prepared to give up their demands and move backwards, leaving Bahrain in an ongoing political limbo.