Bahrain: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Bus moving released political prisoners under royal pardon - April 8, 2024
Bus moving released political prisoners under royal pardon - April 8, 2024

2024-05-08 - 4:28 p

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The Bahraini government has finally spoken its last word, with no further releases imminent. Everything that happened in the penultimate session of the House of Representatives was merely an event for expressing opinions and testing the waters, nothing more, as all the cards of power remain in the hands of the king.

However, what occurred today and yesterday is exactly what many had anticipated but dared not write about or express over the past month, fearing accusations of spreading an atmosphere of despair and pessimism among the people. Their rationale was logical nonetheless. The unilateral royal pardon caught everyone off guard; neither the opposition nor intermediaries were informed directly, and no one expected it. Its reasons and motives remain unknown.

Yesterday's Shura Council session and today's House of Representatives session, along with the statement by House Speaker Ahmed Al Muslim, in which he considered demands for the release of political prisoners as "a trespass by MPs on the judiciary's authority," are clear indications of the direction the king and his court are taking: no prisoners of conscience or political prisoners. It's as if they're telling everyone ‘if anyone is to be released, it will be of our own volition and without pressure from anyone, and we are not obligated to say anything to anyone'. It's safe to say that the words spoken over these past two days have returned us to square one, bringing us back to tense atmospheres, and undoing most of the effects and climate created by the recent royal pardon.

Perhaps within the opposition, there is a sense of conscience pricking, and some have taken a confrontational stance against the government since the release of the prisoners. However, even if some of what is being said is true, it remains that the government knows full well which group represents the vast majority of the opposition-the very same group that promptly welcomed and propagated "positive atmospheres" from the moment the royal pardon was issued.

It was more beneficial for the authorities than the opposition to close the file of political prisoners, removing it from the political bargaining table. However, the authorities prefer to hold onto as many strings as possible in this game, dealing with political prisoners as hostages that can be negotiated or used as a bargaining chip against opposition leaders from time to time, in addition to other pressure tactics at their disposal.

Here, it is necessary to pause and consider the state of the government, which possesses the state, its wealth, monopolizes the means of violence, and controls media, diplomacy, and so on, yet, on the other side of the coin, it experiences a sense of weakness and helplessness, compelling it to hold onto every card it has.

As for the opposition, it will deal with what has taken place with full responsibility. It will read these implicit messages directed at it and will not resort to unpredictable reactions or decide to escalate based on what transpired in the Shura Council and Parliament sessions. Instead, it will strive and demand, as always, to open channels of dialogue, cool down tensions, and create conditions for the release of the remaining political prisoners. At the same time, it will not raise the white flag and surrender. As Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim recently said, this movement, which he described as "rational, principled, peaceful, and patient," will continue until its demands are met. If there's one thing the people of Bahrain have proven to the world over the past thirteen years, it's that they are indeed a people who do not know despair and have extremely long endurance.

Arabic Version