By Luma E. Bashmi
I am writing in response to the analysis by Jean-Francois Seznec entitled “Is Reconciliation in Bahrain Possible?” (22 March 2012). Professor Seznec has presented a lengthy opinion piece on Bahrain’s future that is deeply flawed and skewed against the Government of Bahrain and its citizens who are committing every effort to resolving the conflicts of the last year, while working for societal reunification.
To begin with, expressions like “the worst dictatorship” are ridiculously heavy-handed and wouldn’t be recognized by many as representative of Bahrain. We are firmly on the path to democracy, with a bicameral Parliament established in the last decade. Recent Constitutional changes have granted the Lower House more powers of oversight with regard to the Government, so that constituents’ concerns are effectively communicated by their elected representatives. Surely, Professor Seznec would not consider this the action of “the worst dictator”.
Moreover, to suggest that Bahrain’s divisions are the result of a struggle between “tribal” dictators and “original Bahrainis”. As a country with a history of diversity and embracing people from everywhere, both as guest workers and those pursuing a path to citizenship, it is offensive to suggest that some Bahrainis are somehow more entitled to be Bahraini, than others. We embrace our multicultural past and hope to continue to promote our ideals of diversity, openness and tolerance. Endorsing the idea that some are more entitled or “original” than others would lead to a more polarized society, which we certainly don’t want.
The notion that HM King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa took the historic step as an Arab head of state to invite an independent commission of Human Rights and International Law experts to scrutinize the government’s role in last year’s unrest with complete access and cooperation as a propaganda exercise is ludicrous. To go beyond that and commit to enacting all the BICI recommendations in an expeditious manner – again as propaganda – beggars belief. We invite Professor Seznec to actually read the BICI Report (www.bici.org.bh) and the government’s response monitored by the National Commission (www.biciactions.bh).
Professor Seznec also overstates the involvement of Saudi Arabia in Bahrain’s internal affairs. As a member of the GCC that we actually are connected to by the causeway, we have a long history of cooperation and shared interests. This is true of all our brotherly nations in the GCC. But to imply that our sovereignty is under threat or even non-existent is so far off the mark as to be insulting. Worse, it shows how utterly misinformed Professor Seznec is in understanding the dynamics of our region.
Lastly, I must call attention to one of the most misguided thread that runs through Seznec’s entire analysis: one that sees Bahrain only in terms of sectarian dynamics. By looking at a clear and obvious secular party like Waad as “Sunni” or implying that its leaders represent a Sunni moderate voice, is in complete opposition to their own party affiliation as secular. On the other hand, Al Wefaq National Islamic Society is indeed identify as a party with religious affiliation (in this case Shia) and in fact is led by a religious leader (Sheikh Ali Salman under the spiritual guidance of Ayatollah Isa Qassim). In the inclusive, multi-cultural Bahrain that we seek through reconciliation there is room for all of these elements to co-exist peacefully and participate in building a better Bahrain.
Luma E. Bashmi
Acting Director – International Media Affairs
Information Affairs Authority
P.O. Box 253
Isa Town, Kingdom of Bahrain