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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

Note: This page has moved to a new address. Please click on the following URL to get there: http://chanad.weblogs.us/index.php?s=Peaceful protest makes the point. Sorry for the trouble.

Peaceful protest makes the point

Friday, October 22, 2004

Continuing my coverage of events related to the Al-Khawaja affair, here is my report on the protest march held last night (Thursday) in Manama. (Sorry for taking so long to post this, I've been busy). There was a relatively large turnout; somewhere between 2000 and 2500 demonstrators, including many women, children and old folks. Still though, I was expecting far more people to show up. I suspect that Ramadan probably had something it. The march route started from Ras Rumman mosque and went up Palace Avenue to the junction with King Faisal Highway. From here the marchers hung a left and walked down until the turning for the Prime Minister's office, but they didn't actually go the office. Instead they took a U-turn and marched back to Ras Rumman.

There was, thankfully, no violence or any sort of trouble whatsoever. Before the march started Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, gave specific instructions, repeatedly telling the demostrators to remain peaceful under any circumstances and not to resort to violence at all. The march was very well organized and the demonstrators behaved according to the instructions they were given. The police also did a good job by staying out of sight entirely. I think everyone involved (the protesters, the organizers and the police) can be pleased about themselves for holding this peaceful demonstration and redeeming the damage done to the cause by the hooligans of Wednesday's protest.

The slogans that were on their signboards and that were being chanted demanded the release of Al-Khawaja, and the resignation of the Prime Minister. As I have said before, I fully support the right of the people to express their point of view, however extreme it may be, in a peaceful manner as was done last night. However from a strategic viewpoint I do not think it was wise for the protest organizers to continue insisting on the PM's resignation. In my opinion they should have focused specifically on the violations of human rights, and therefore should be demanding (i) the release of Al-Khawaja, (ii) the annulment of the ban on the BCHR, and (iii) scrapping, or a review, of the archaic Society laws under which the BCHR was banned. I don't think that anyone with a conscience can disagree with those demands. However it is possible for someone (such as myself) to support the cause of human rights, but not be concerned with the political demand for the resignation of the Prime Minister. In my opinion, if we stress that ultimate goal is the implementation of the principles of human rights, then whatever political changes that are necessary (be it the resignation of the PM, or of the King himself) will naturally fall into place. But since it is disputable whether that the PM's resignation is necessarily the only way to secure the implementation of human rights, I think it would be better leave out that demand right now, so as to get as much public support as possible.

Anyhow, I am just extremely relieved to see that the protesters have gone back to their usual ways of peaceful protest.

To see all of my pictures from the event click here. A note about the pictures: I am neither a good photographer, nor is my camera very good, so it wasn't that easy for me to take decent pictures at night time. I was constantly fooling around with the different flash and exposure settings to get the right effect (which is why many of the photos are repeated). Since I was far away from the subject(s), most of the time I opted to turn off the flash and go with the over-exposure, to get better colours. This is why most of the pictures are blurred somewhat since all the people were moving around (as was my hand). However taking overexposed is always fun and interesting because it allows you to also capture the motion of the subjects, rather than capture just a single moment in time.

If you want to see photos by someone else check out the coverage by montadayat.org. To see video of the march click here (wmv 2.95MB) to see the report from Al-Jazeera News, or click here(wmv 1.88MB) for a video edited with 'Braveheart-esque' music playing in the background.

The next event will be a demonstration near Pearl Roundabout on Sunday at 8pm, where they will be screening a video about poverty (I think). Then on Monday there will be a demonstration in front of the Justice Ministry at 9am during the third session of Al-Khawaja's trial. And Thursday evening at 8pm will be a car rally demonstration, but I'm not sure what the venue is.

Finally of course, here are some pictures of activist kids from last night:

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7 Responses to 'Peaceful protest makes the point'

Blogger Scorpio says:

Disappointing turn out? What Khawaja should have been involved in was planning some terrorist atrocity – then he could have guaranteed the vociferous support of leading Islamist MPs. Mohammed Khaled would have led the demo.    

Blogger Don Quay says:

Thanks Chan'ad, GDN could learn a few things about being a responsible newspaper (Ugh! A tabloid is always a dirty piece of paper)    

Anonymous Anonymous says:

I would certainly have turned up, on principle I believe we here in bahrain should ALL turn up, this is too serious an issue NOT to! But how do I finf out WHERE the next march is and I would prefer it to be peaceful but perhaps this is not something anyone could garuntee me, I shall risk it, where do I get info?    

Blogger Scorpio says:
10/24/2004 10:56:00 pm

Going back to an earlier post by Chan'ad about media coverage – I’ve been disappointed with the GDN over the Al Khawaja issue. Okay, you might ask why I should have any expectations at all, but last time round during the imprisonment of the petitioners I remember the GDN carrying a detailed interview with Amnesty International’s Middle East head, reporting the guy’s criticism of the move and call for their release. This was an important step in this part of the world.

At a stretch I can just about understand the logic for banning the BCHR. The fact that it has Al Wefaq Islamic Action on its board doesn’t bother me at all – if it weren’t for the fact that whenever Islamists abuse human rights the Centre said absolutely nothing: Nancy Ajram – silence; Big Brother – silence; race riots in Manama – silence; call for vice and virtue squads to enforce morality – silence; Al Wefaq leader’s call for racial segregation – silence.

These are all crucial human rights issues, and the Centre’s reaction is a testament to its failure to address the issue in an objective way which brings us back to its links with Al Wefaq again – and the politicisation of the issue of human rights for specific purposes. This is a typical example of Islamists across the Middle East (or for that matter France) – they claim human rights principles for themselves that they have absolutely no commitment to uphold for others.

If Al Khawaja’s main objective was human rights I think he’d have just raised human rights issues at his seminar – he had no business calling for the PM’s resignation. Having said that his detention is wrong and would defend his right to make his remarks – its just that I don’t think he can make them while claiming the mantle of being a human rights activist.    

Blogger Chanad says:
10/25/2004 01:07:00 am

Les: Glad to see you're alive! Keep blogging this time, and don't go dormant!

Anon: If you understand Arabic, then the best places to find out the latest about planned demonstrations are at montadayat.org, or the BCHR website. If you don't read Arabic then keep checking my blog. I usually announce the date and place for the next demonstration at the end of a post about Al-Khawaja (as I have done in this post). To repeat, the next demostration will be at the Ministry of Justice tomorrow (Monday) morning at 9am. And then on Thursday at 8pm will be a car protest rally (basically everyone will stick signs on their cars and fill the road) at a venue still to be decided. I will post details as they are announced.

Scorpio: Yes, the BCHR and Al-Khawaja don't come close to being able to call themselves upholders of human rights in the true sense. And their associations with political organizations (al-Wefaq) are too deep for comfort. But I don't think the BCHR should be banned, or Al-Khawaja arrested for this. (I think we are in agreement on this, anyways).    

Anonymous Anonymous says:
10/25/2004 05:00:00 pm

chanad and scorpio ~ i'm sure you don't mean it this way, but when you say the BCHR has ignored many islamist's rights violations please excelude the MWG from those statements because as u all know they had nothing to do with these 'political stances'.

Good news: MWG is finally becoming an independent body under the government's authorisation, they will receive full support for building their shelter and the gov't will support them i'm sure.

Why couldn't this be done under the wings of the bchr, simply because, everytime the mwg had some sort of funding campaigns or awareness campaigns about abuse to foreign workers the whole political agenda of the bchr's linkage ot al wefaq comes up, something that has been an obstacle for the shelter for quite some time in certain individual's eyes.

Anywayz, next court trial for A.Hadi is on November 3rd, he was refused bail again today.

~yo source from inside the ongoing events ~    

Blogger Scorpio says:
10/26/2004 06:49:00 pm

Thanks for posting the above – its v. interesting getting confirmation from the inside of what is obvious from the outside.    

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