As an expatriate, I am probably not expected to have, or give, an opinion on the current situation in Bahrain.
Some might say who am I to speak about it? And what authority do I have to talk on this matter?
Some might say, what do I know about how marginalized a section of people were? And how unreasonable the people of the other section had become? What do I know about the undercurrents of discontent here?
Some others might say, why are you even talking sectarian? Isn’t this all for just ONE Bahrain? Isn’t it all for a shared Bahrain that that we all love; A Bahrain, free, with greater reforms? What do you know of the progress Bahrain made? Or of this sudden pain it is going though now? What do you know?
Yes. Maybe, I don’t know.
At least, not everything I should know.
But, after having seen and experienced the hospitality of this lovely island country, over the last 10 years of my employment here, I am unable to contain myself from thinking aloud. After having made great friends from both sects of Islam - who themselves have been great friends with one another - I am unable to stop myself from voicing out.
How can I stay quiet? When the image of this beautiful country is being sullied in International media, and when I see best friends becoming bitter foes, just by their facebook status lines? How can I be silent? When I see an emotional venting of distrust and anger, instead of a rational understanding of truth and legitimacy?
In 1998, I knew very well that I was entering a country described as ‘monarchy’ and I had also read that there were riots here, a few years earlier. But soon, in 2002, I was happy to see Bahrain become a ‘constitutional monarchy’ after the new king announced the adoption of the National Action Charter. The world media then lauded it as a great move forward - towards Democracy. I heard BBC and CNN extol the country’s change. And this change in Bahrain was definitely a first among the region’s countries.
Since then, elections were held three times. Economic progress has been significant. Crime has been minimal. Order has been noteworthy. Educational services grew in number. Social freedom grew appreciably. Establishing businesses became easier. Arabic newspapers increased and private radio channels increased, thereby enabling people to air their opinions more freely. Business opportunities for entrepreneurs, and training opportunities for the unemployed, were on the rise. Simply put, progress was perceptible.
But the protests now, I understand, are for want of a 'real' constitutional monarchy. They ask, mainly, for a more equitable representation of people, for a fairer composition of the Parliament, and for a greater restriction on nationalisation of migrant workers. In other words, they are for greater 'power to the people'. Which I also believe is necessary.
But these issues could have been debated in the Parliament, public opinion swung in their favour, and changes made by constitutional amendments. After all, democratic inroads have already been made in this country. But the parallels drawn with the situations of Egypt and Tunisia are definitely unnecessary and completely flawed. Bahrain’s situation is entirely different.
Just as a peaceful protest should be allowed in a democracy, so should the government’s actions be allowed to protect security of its residents, property, and the functioning of its economy. Though, in this case, it is sad that the firing and deaths had not occurred.
But, ultimately, Reason should triumph. Rationale should win. Logic should pervade. Subconscious sectarian thinking should move aside. Blind passionate emotion should step away. Ill-founded rumours should be brushed aside.
Now that the Crown Prince has offered a dialogue, it should be taken up. Not with a high-handed attitude that the government has stooped and that protestors have won. But with a noble attitude that through these negotiations, Bahrain will win. That through openness on both sides, adjustments would be made. Accommodations and compromises are a part of conflict resolution. Especially because, unlike coups and military takeovers, democracies evolve.
Time is, therefore, a very important determinant in a country’s growth - from a monarchy to a democracy. It sometimes takes years, for some changes to manifest. But here we were, seeing visible changes. In fact, we were seeing them much faster than many had even imagined. But now, a continued state of political unrest can pull the economic progress backwards.
I feel the current situation is showing Bahrain in a negative light to the world, instead of the positivism towards which it was efficiently marching. Therefore, it must be handled with thought and caution. Not with emotion and anger. All sides can never be appeased.
But let us hope that the dialogue between the government and opposition parties is fruitful, and amicable, to all involved. And let us hope that Bahrain will show the world how political crisis can be resolved with talks.
God Bless Bahrain. Let Wisdom, Justice and Peace prevail.