Bahrain: What Does "Security Checkup" on Administrators of Civil Society Organizations Mean?

2020-02-18 - 6:49 p

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): In a notice circulated and addressed to civil society organizations, Bahrain's Ministry of Development said it would subject civil society organization candidates to a "security check up". "In the framework of prior cooperation and coordination with the Ministry of Interior, security checks will be carried out on candidates of the Board of Directors before the regular general assembly meeting is held," Civil Society Organizations Support Director Najwa Abdullatif Janahi said on January 15, 2020.

For years, the boards of civil society organizations have already been subjected to this. Article 43 of the Law of Social, Cultural Societies and Clubs, which has been in force since 1989, stipulates that "an executive officer should fulfill the condition of enjoying his civil rights." It's quite apparent that there is no need to remind everyone of what is already in effect.

This means that new circular has an obvious purpose behind it. It is dedicated to excluding anyone, who belongs to a political society that has been shut down and dissolved by the government, from becoming members of boards of civil society organizations, after being denied the right to run and vote in parliamentary and municipal elections. This was implemented to an extreme extent in the 2018 elections, targeting thousands. It was not limited to members registered in dissolved societies or committed to paying annual membership fees, as it even affected those who resigned from these societies before the decision to dissolve them was issued.

"I fear that one day the authorities will issue a decision or a law that will prevent us from breathing because we were members in a dissolved political society," said Shawki Al-Alawi, a former member of the dissolved Wa'ad Society.

The circular refers to the term "security checkup" which is not mentioned in the Law of Social, Cultural Societies and Clubs. It also gives the Ministry of Interior the power to decide on the eligibility of the candidate, which is not mentioned in the law as well. This was usually supervised by the Ministry of Development itself.

This draws a blurry line allowing this condition to affect anyone, not just members of dissolved political societies. Thousands who have been in prison or have been interrogated since 2011 or have been detained for a day or two are qualified to fail in the "security checkup" test which will be supervised by the Interior Ministry. What does this mean? It means keeping the board of directors of civil society organizations free of a huge social group that the Interior Ministry is not fond of.

"In short, whoever the Interior Ministry is not pleased with is not entitled to run for civil society organization boards of directors! Another example of the ‘reform project'" commented Jawad Fairooz, a former Al-Wefaq MP, on the issue.

Those who warned against driving the country in the path of militarization were not wrong. Years ago, we used to hear terms like "security checkups" in failed totalitarian states like Iraq and Syria. Bahrain is now one of these countries. Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa began his reign with launching political freedoms. Two decades later, it seems that he became tired of playing this role and wants to turn into a Bashar Assad or Saddam Hussein.

Arabic Version