This Saturday, 200 representatives will vote on the future of The Gathering of National Unity (TGONU) or the more English friendly “National Unity Assembly” (NUA). They will listen to three presentations discussing how the movement will register themselves as a legitimate organisation under Bahraini law. The options on the table are:
- A charity/social society
- Political coalition between five societies (Al-Minbar Al-Islami, Al-Asalah, Al-Adala (Justice), Al-Shura Society and Al-Wasat Al-Arabi Al-Islami)
- New political society
Anatomy of TGONU
Before I go ahead and explain each of the options and my thoughts on them, we have to understand the make up of the current TGONU:
- Members and supporters of the five political societies
- Sunni Islamic social societies/charities
- Religious minorities (Jews, Christians, Buhra)
- Politically unactive Bahrainis (Average Mos and Fatimas) and military personnel
- Loyalist Shias
The most notable groups in TGONU are the religious minorities who traditionally were not politically represented on a social level despite having representation at Shura Council level. The predominately Sunni politically inactive groups are the largest and most vital group within TGONU. In addition to being the largest group, they are also the most colourful and varied group as it consists of military personnel, liberals, conservatives, Islamist hardliners, Al-Khalifa loyalists, moderates and technocrats from all walks of life. This group also represents a relatively young demographic 21-40 year olds.
As for the political societies in TGONU, these are their political stances in a nutshell:
- Al-Minbar Al-Islami: Muslim Brotherhood
- Al-Asala: Salafist party
- Al-Adala: Liberal with ties to Islamist movements
- Al-Shura Society: Islamic society with representations of different Sunni schools of thought
- Al-Wasat Al-Arabi Al-Islami: Arab Nationalist movement with Islamic influences
- Social Society/Charity
- Gathers all elements of TGONU under one umbrella lawfully i.e. military personnel cannot join political societies under Bahraini law.
- TGONU will push for social reforms as pressure group and express their demands to already established political societies represented in parliament.Cons:
- Has no direct political influence and cannot hold any political activities under Bahraini law.
- Possibility to be reduced to mere charity work without any true social influence in the Bahraini society.Supporters: Mainly members of Al-Asala Society (Salafis)
- Political Coalition
- Similar to current layout gaining a shared vision and goal between political societies.
- As these societies are already registered under Bahraini law, there is no need to gain registration to enter the National Dialogue in July.Cons
- Sunni society coalitions have failed in the past most notably Al-Asala and Al-Minbar Al-Islami’s fallout prior the 2010 elections.
- Politically inactive Bahrainis will be without representation as many do not trust Al-Asala and Al-Minbar Al-Islami after their poor showing in parliament from 2002-2010.Supporters: Mainly Al-Minbar Al-Islami and Al-Eslah Charity members.
- Political Society
- TGONU becomes a registered society to represent previously unrepresented groups and brings in the expertise of the other five societies in addition to new younger members and ideas.
- Becomes a truly legitimate force in the Bahraini political sphere as many criticisms from opposition supporters saying that TGONU are an unlawful group and being.
- Despite already receiving legitimacy from Bahrain’s leadership and guaranteed a say in the National Dialogue, registering as a political society shows good faith in Bahrain’s law and order and TGONU belief in lawful and peaceful political activity.Cons
- Dissolvement of several political societies or the weakening of other societies as leadership figures will need to hand in their resignations to officially join the newly established society.
- Losing the military personnel base as they are not allowed to join any political activity (with exception to voting in general elections).
- Being tied down within Bahrain’s Political Societies Law which at this moment of time is quite rigid and constraining.
Supporters: Mainly Al-Adala, Al-Shura and many politically inactive groups.
I personally don’t trust the big two Islamist groups Al-Minbar Al-Islami and Al-Asala as they approach political work with a “charity work” mentality – “Feed the hunger and give shelter to the poor” with a great neglect to Bahrainis’ other rights. Al-Minbar Al-Islami also has carried a pretty sectarian and elitist agenda which I find very damaging and I fear that under a political coalition, they will try to bully their way back in representing the Sunni masses.
The recent crisis has truly opened the eyes of many young Bahrainis and sparked the urge to become more politically active and a hunger to learn and understand their rights and the laws of Bahrain, where once upon a time those things were the worries of the government not the average Mo and Fatima.
I personally will accept whatever the 200 choose (Alayam newspaper believes 70% will choose to turn into a political society) and I hope that they will help balance the new political power triangle of Sunni+others and Shia+”liberal” and “democratic” oppostions with the government and the Al-Khalifa royal family and have a fruitful dialogue in July.
- غياب (Absense)
- البشارة (The Good Omen)
- كناري (Canary)
I’ve had the the pleasure of seeing ‘Absense’ once before and loved the simplicity of the storyline and how a simple action of opening a door can convey such painful emotions of lonliness and yearning. Also from what I understand that the house used as the location of the film is the director’s old family house before it was torn down thus adding another depth to the yearning and lonliness.
(The Good Omen) and (Canary) were first times for me.
What I loved about The Good Omen is that it’s a very Bahraini storyline and can be considered an excellent introduction to what Bahrainis are all about; loving and loyal. I felt some of the editing was a bit off but the story flowed well.
Canary though when I first watched it didn’t really move me as the two previous movies but after leaving the theatre and sleeping on it made me realize a number of things about the Canary and her relations with all four characters in the film. It’s very interesting how one living thing can mean so many different things to different people. In the 10 minutes we saw the canary as a friend for a lonely soul, a means of selfish monetary gain, a dependant and finally a means to reach one’s love and heart.
I don’t know if it was intentional for screening purposes but all three films shared the theme of painful lonliness, and I use the word painful as we Bahrainis are very social people who without weekly family visits go crazy!
I thoroughly enjoy Mohammed’s work and wish him all the best in his future endevours.
You can find him across the web:
Once again this was a long tweet that became too long and decided to post it here:
Now I am all for peaceful protesting but ditching school to protest is a huge mixup of priorities in my eyes. All the big protests are held in the afternoon after people getting off work or leaving 1/2 hour early to join the protests which shows good organization, purpose and peacefulness, but having 16-18 year olds hitting the streets during school hours gives a bad image to the ongoing protests in general and loses support where protesters should be trying to win hearts and minds for their cause and not alienate those with different views.
Let’s take Egypt as an example, the protests started on a national holiday and was also during a school break, after that the govt decided to extend the break due to the ongoing protests therefore the students didn’t lose as many school days because schools were already shut for holidays.
If Bahraini schools truly want to protest peacefully and in an organized way,they should study as normal till at least noon (4 out of 6 periods/5 out of 7 periods) and then protest and march to the Ministry of Education peacefully giving them enough time to protest during the Ministry’s working hours.
Kids and especially teenagers have a lot of energy but rarely look at the big picture, they should be given advice and educated how effective protests should be done. What we’re seeing now is groups who just want to cause chaos and deprive their fellow classmates from their education simply because they don’t share the same views.
Dr. Majed Al-Noaimi must resign as he’s been mismanaging the ministry with tens of – although ambitious, but poorly executed and unfinished projects that have gone over budget such as the King’s Schools of the Future amongst many others.
And the same goes to every minister who hasn’t been able to stick to their budget, or corrupted by showing favouritism or creating sectarian tensions fester between staff and citizens alike.
This post was originally a long tweet but I saw that it was too long and decided to post it here:
My wife – a volunteer teacher, was not allowed to hand in her CV because by law an ad must be published in the papers from the Civil Service Bureau. She has not been hired in any shape or form, contrary to rumours flying around.
She volunteers in a school in Isa Town with a few other young women from both sects and from different nationalities (Iraqi, Jordanian and Egyptian) who are NOT naturalized yet have been hurled abuse by Teacher Society members.
I have always been against their recent strike because children’s education is sacred and should never be affected by any sort of turmoil in the country.
I do understand that the society did this to support peaceful protesting and our fallen martyrs but it was a very poor decision and has now led to terrible tension in schools across the country.
As they (the teachers’ society) went on strike to help the cause for a better Bahrain, the volunteers stepped up and filled in to help secure our children’s education who are the people we’re working for to give them a better Bahrain.
It’s very saddening to see Bahrainis especially those who are educated and responsible for educating our youth for a better Bahrain, become so aggressive towards fellow Bahrainis and labeling Arabs as Mojanaseen forgetting the fact that 52% of Bahrain’s population are foreigners INCLUDING Arabs. Such hateful behaviours shouldn’t be the traits of educators let alone decent human beings.
The members of the Teachers’ Society should really reconsider their structure and weed out the extremely sectarian elements in leadership positions who are basically doing their bidding through SMS and emails.
I’d imagine that most members will reply “but the ministry is also sectarian!”, my answer to you is you don’t beat a sectarian system by being sectarian