I know I was supposed to post my full write-up of the rally-gone-wrong in support of Al-Khawaja that happened last Thursday. But, for some reason I can't be bothered. Maybe I'll post it over the weekend. You may also have heard about the few isolated incidents of violence that have taken place since then. I'm glad to see that the leaders of the "Committee Supporting Al-Khawaja" have roundly condemned the violence and stated that their movement is a strictly peacefuly one. Moreover, they have decided to put a hold on all demonstrations until the end of Ramadan. I think that is a very wise move for several reasons.
First of all, the situation was gradually getting out of hand with both the demonstrators and the police losing their tempers at times. This break will hopefully allow both parties to calm down and maybe have some discussions in the background. Second, the demonstrations were being held so frequently (about three per week) that the impact of each was being diluted, since even the foreign press (who don't have govt restrictions on them) couldn't be bothered to report on some of them. Third, it's very difficult to keep a movement like this sustained for long without interval. People have lives to live, jobs to go to, children to take care of, etc, so its not feasible to expect them to remain in a state of flux for so long. Furthermore, the fact that it is Ramadan right now surely makes it more difficult for people to find the time to attend the demonstrations. So I think the Committee made a very smart decision to suspend their protests until the end of the Holy Month.
During this break here are a few suggestions from me about how to make the movement more effective. First, as I have said several times before, I think the Committee should drop (temporarily at least) their demand for the Prime Minister's resignation (read this post for the reasoning behind this).
Second, if they are planning on continuing the demonstrations after Ramadan I recommend that they reduce the frequency to, at most, one protest a week that should guarantee a decent turnout and decent press coverage. Third, it seems like the government is hostile to the idea of the car parade rallies, so drop it altogether. It's not worth it to get into a conflict like the one on Thursday if the government is tolerating regular protest marches on foot. Personally, I don't think that the car parade rallies are all that effective anyway.
Fourth, the Committee should think of some creative ideas, other than protests, to express their views. For example, I recall there was a plan for all the vehicles in the car parade rally to have a strip of blue material tied to their radio antennae. Well why not encourage people to do this at all times, rather than just for the purposes of a rally. I know there are many people who support the release of Al-Khawaja, but for certain reasons are not able to attend the protests. They are either busy with work, or other commitments, are they are concerned of violence erupting, so they don't show up. If these people were encouraged to tie a blue strip to their car antennae they would be able to express themselves even if they can't attend the protests. It seems like something such as this wouldn't really make a difference, but if there are as many supporters of Al-Khawaja as the Committee claims then the island's roads would turn blue. And I'm sure people can think of other simple, smart, maybe humurous, ways for people to express their support if they are not able to attend the protests.
Photo credit: Reuters/Hamad Mohammed
Let me end by saying that I hope that the "gang of 10" (described in my previous posts: 1, 2) that was arrested on Thursday stay in good health until they hopefully get released after 15 days. As I mentioned before, I got to enjoy about two hours of quality time with the group (which included Al-Shayeb) while I along with the gang were forced to remain at the same spot. When they found out that I was to be arrested with them they were very welcoming. Especially one very well spoken and cultured young fellow (pictured above) whose name I can't recall, but I do remember he was from Arad. When he found out that I was to be taken in with him, he welcomed me be saying something like "Don't worry, you'll get to spend a night with all of us and enjoy a free meal paid for by the cops." Their spirits were high throughout, and it gave me some time to sit-down with them and discuss the politics of what they were protesting about. I hope for their safety and swift release.