How Bahraini Citizens Became Potential Victims of the Regime’s Decisions since 1923

Baqer Darwish - 2019-04-10 - 4:08 am

On July 26, 2013, a Royal Decree was issued extending the powers of the Supreme Defense Council and granting it the authority to adopt strategies and programs for the development of national security. Upon reviewing the laws governing the performance of this Council, it will be clear that establishing the security doctrine and drawing the security policy is limited to members of this council, which consists of first and second-rank Al Khalifa figures and probably some individuals from families loyal to the ruling family exclusively.

The practices of the Bahraini Interior Ministry are based on the fundamental nucleus upon which the Bahraini Police was formed in 1869, 150 years ago, by an order of the deposed ruler, Sheikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa (1848-1932), to form a security organization called "Fedawiyah," which was later on changed to "Al-Nawateer" (the keepers). Thereafter, the police apparatus was formed and developed. Apart from this historic review, the authorities' insistence on considering the Fedawiyah to be the foundation of the security system is an implicit endorsement of the path of forming the security doctrine, which from the beginning until now has been based on protecting Al Khalifa's monopolization of power and wealth.

On March 6, 1999, 20 years ago, the current monarch took over. There has been no radical change in the security doctrine, making the protection of citizens a priority. On the contrary, citizens have become potential victims, techniques of repression have been developed, an open funding strategy has been adopted for military, intelligence and security spending, radical Salafis have been empowered at the Religious Guidance Directorate of the Bahrain Defense Force and some religious practices have been imported. Hence, it does not seem strange that the vocabulary used by security members includes vocabulary used by the Takfiri groups, such as terms like: "Safavids, Magis and sons of Mutah." These terms have been used by official figures during the madness of the "State of Emergency" in 2011, and some still use them. This means that the behavioral legacy of the Fedawiyah has been inherited by the composition of the security system, which has also developed some brutal practices in torture, intimidation and hate speech.

Contrary to the criticism by some observers of largely using the historical memory to assess the political situation in Bahrain, I see that when evaluating the composition of the security system, one cannot ignore the constant control of the first and second-rank members of Al Khalifa and families loyal to the ruling family on high-ranked security posts since the beginning of the formation of this system, or the frequent spread of terror, intimidation and torture, which have not stopped at any point. Since the onset of the Fedawiyah system to date, does it seem strange that Bahraini areas have witnessed 5,226 security raids in 2018 in a way intended to spread terror among citizens? Some of the most prominent statistics of raids are the following: 335 in Duraz, 380 in Sitra, 284 in al-Daih. When observing some of the slogans that the security members tell torture victims to chant, such as "long live Bou Salman" or the royal anthem or other methods, by which the security members deliberately cause humiliation, we find that the victim is forced to show loyalty to the ruling family instead of the country. Of course, this explains why the Bahraini flag became a cause of arrest, humiliation and torture if found in the trunk of your car in case you were stopped at a checkpoint in 2011. However, if the security member saw a picture of the king or the prime minister, for instance, posted on your car, he would immediately wave his hand to you signaling that you don't have to stop or be searched.

What we have pointed out is consistent with what sociological researcher Dr. Fuad Khuri said in his book "Tribe and State in Bahrain" that through the transformation of the system of authority from a tribal organization into a tribal rule, in which the tribe has become a form of social organization and a group of political parties in the state controls the government, Al Khalifa continues to govern through bureaucratic organizations rather than tribal organizations."

The Fedawiyah system was abolished on June 30, 1923, 19 years after the Fedawiyah members of Sheikh Ali bin Ahmed Al Khalifa attacked the staff of the German company, "Messrs Wonckhaus". In his book, "Who is the Bahraini?" researcher Dr. Ali Al-Dairi says that it happened by the transformation of the security force from the persons (sheikhs) into a legal personality (the state). Before this step, the British Political Agent, Francis Beville Prideaux, resorted in 1907 to forcing the then ruler of Bahrain, Isa bin Ali, to relinquish his jurisdiction over foreigners because of the attack on the staff of the German company by the Fedawiyah and the many abuses that preceded it and the absence of a justice system capable of redressing for the victims of these abuses.

However, the level of political and judicial immunity enjoyed by torturers today tells us that the attempts to address the violations of the Fedawiyah phenomenon have been manipulated by the authorities to adapt and surpass them through adjusting laws by arbitrarily interpreting legislations and providing  an organizational framework for the judiciary that forms, in structure and implementation, a protection zone for the violations of the security system, which is based on the behavioral legacy of the Fedawiyah. In addition, the doors of political naturalization have been widely open over the past two decades, the main component in the political majority has been excluded and prevented from being a real partner in managing the security system and planning its policies, and the members of that majority have been discriminately unintegrated within this system. The expenditure budget of the security system has been increased unlimitedly to the extent that tax and austerity policies, undermining the concept of Bahrainization, the spread of financial and administrative corruption and financial support of the Gulf allies became the updated alternative to fund the "updated Fedawiyah", after it relied 96 years ago on funding from collecting taxes without the consent of the people.

*President of the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights


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