Abbas Al-Murshid: Why I Didn’t Trust the King?

2019-03-15 - 1:11 am

*Abbas Al-Murshid

On July 8, 1999, the state security court issued a verdict sentencing the late leading dissident Sheikh Abulamir Al-Jamri to 10 years in prison, also fining him 5.7 million BD. He was surprisingly aired on television apologizing to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa amongst his family members. The king seemed at that time to be searching for a moment to gloat, noting that he had only been in power for a few weeks. On the same day, security forces were besieging our home in Bilad Al-Qadeem village to arrest me. I decided not to hand myself in and rebel against the desires of vengeance and brutality.

This formed the first image of my relation with the king later on and made me take a doubtful stance regarding everything that comes out of the king's institutions which he headed after his father's death. Since then, I realized that the new ruler has projects and visions that were easy to fall for and believe, but at the same time have poisonous goals; i.e. desires of vengeance and obsessions of control. I realized that the law which the king will adopt during his long-lasting rule will be totally different, but will be deceitful and that the best way to deal with this issue is not to trust any of the projects he proposes.

After about a year of this bitter image, and particularly on November 22, 2000, the outlines of the "National Action Charter" started to appear as a political project aimed at ending the endeavors of the 1990s constitutional uprising (1994-2001). That period was marked with anticipation and caution among political leaders. The predictions at the time were that the project would either lead to a political reconciliation which people aspire to or perpetuate the tyranny crisis for a longer period of time. Hence, the political options were limited and fully outlined by the purposes of political reconciliation, or what he insisted on being termed as "political compromise" as well as security détente.

In January 2001, King Hamad announced proposing the National Action Charter for popular referendum. And because he knew what the result of the referendum would be, he had to rearrange the political scene to guarantee being in the lead and portraying himself as a savior or national leader. During that period, the king went and used all the means available to achieve his project, and this is what happened indeed. The fresh Emir managed to pass his project with his big political and social empty promises, which made political leaders show approval and support, not only for the conciliatory project, but also in a larger and more dangerous way... for the prince himself.

It was not long before the king revealed some of what was hidden of his secret project by breaking all his promises he had made to the opposition to persuade them to vote in favor of the National Action Charter. On February 14, 2002, the National Action Charter was adopted as a legal document. On this very date- which is perhaps a paradox- the haziness of this stage completely ended and a new stage of covert confrontation with the secret project led by the king began.

The opposition realized that there was a trick and that the slogans raised and marketed were nothing but adulterated honey that were not suitable for human beings. Then, the opposition forces entered into a sort of challenge with the King's will in an attempt to reclaim their political projects and broad democratic ambitions that were stolen from them. On the other hand, the King had to show great ingenuity in postponing the moment of clash and the total exposure of the secret project that was being prepared behind the facade of the reformist project.

It is the habit of people with vindictive tendencies and controlling figures to be inclined to resort to intimidating victims by reminding them of the extreme power. The leak of the Al-Bandar report (2006) was a reminder of such: of the extreme power and cunning implementation. Therefore, Al-Bandar report was the beginning of the actual announcement of the end of the first stages of the secret project covered up by the National Charter and what was known as the political reform project.

The political position of the palace was not to make any concessions in favor of providing the minimum levels of political participation in governance, which the ruling family believed they inherited from their ancient ancestors and could not be compromised. This is in line with the political history of the rule of the Al Khalifa family, who since taking over Bahrain have worked on excluding even its allies who participated in the takeover. This explains why the other tribes have not been able to continue their alliance with them or why their influence was eliminated in service of the principle of inheritance of governance.

Hence, practically, the King's mission was not to deal with the political problems or the outputs of the formal nominal institutions that were created for other purposes, namely the completion of the secret project of governance, which is to create a new identity for Bahrain that suits the identity and ambitions of the world's empires in the region.

It is clear that the Shiite issue is what concerned the King who has read Bahrain's history very well and realized that this issue is what is behind the ongoing protests against the family's rule. That is why the identity replacement project, or at least the elimination of its political effects, was a key pillar in Al-Bandar report. The most striking event was the gathering of the King and a group of Shiite clerics when Al-Bandar report was leaked. The King showed that he was unaware of the report and its contents. The war on identity was not confined to the local level; as the demands of the region and the interests of world powers were also strongly present in preparation for major political projects such as the new Middle East, normalization with the Zionist entity and other projects the king had to engage and play a prominent role in to prove his eligibility compared to others.

All these issues came to my mind with their cultural not political aspects, and my stance towards these issues was that of a committed intellectual who should stand up against deception and nonsense.

The political paths do not necessarily correspond to cultural paths; each track has its own customary field and mechanisms. The political track looks for successful or profitable gains and deals, while the cultural path is a course of enlightenment in its essence and appearance, and is concerned with facts and formations, the erosion of illusions and the resistance to tampering, nonsense and deception. That is why the choice of rebellious culture has been an costly option. Taking the decision to belong to a certain cultural space is not easy under the control and dominance of politics.

The boundaries of the battle opened by concept of "rebellious culture" are longer than the boundaries of politics,; this means that the battles of culture are often without allies due to the absence of intersection of interests between the intellectual and the politician. Exposing the reformist project, stripping it of illusions and trying to uncover the secret project are acts at the heart of the rebellious culture.

This is my testimony on 20 years of experience in the rebellious culture, a testimony that sums all what I have studied well about how authorities operate, extend their hegemony, constantly remind of force and intimidate, force other to submit, and then take away their identity so that they would become subjects who have lost their connection with their dreams of citizenship and democracy.

*Bahraini Researcher Residing in London

Arabic Version



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