North Africa has greeted 2011 with a big banner with “CHANGE” written in blood and courage, with the martyr Mohammed Bouazizi manifesting the burning flames of frustration and rage in his heart all over his body, sparking a popular revolution and turning Ben Ali’s regime into ashes. Those winds of change carried the warmth of freedom to the Nile and Egypt since January 25th has erupted with massive unprecedented protests in their brave brave quest to “un-president” Husni Mubarak and dissolve the Emergency Law that has crippled Egypt over the last three decades.
People around the world are glued to Al-Jazeera on their TVs and Twitter and Facebook on their laptops and mobiles. Despite the clamping down of Twitter and Facebook from the 2nd day of protests and the unbelievable steps of closing down the internet and mobile phone networks entirely on Friday January 28th, social networks have been alight with second-by-second developments from people on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez via faxing and landline calls later tweeted on their behalf.
As we bid farewell to January, February also has dates set for Yemen (February 3rd) and Bahrain (February 14th). I would like to just focus on Bahrain in the rest of this post.
A few days ago, a Facebook Page and Twitter account popped up calling for a Bahraini Revolution on February 14th. The significance of the date is that it was the day when Bahrainis voted on the National Charter referendum in 2001 and only to find it “modified” a year later after Bahrain officially turned to a constituional monarchy. The Facebook Page has over 2,000 fans and is quite active at the time of writing. The Twitter account on the other hand has a modest 50 followers so far. Now the success of a Tunisia/Egypt-esque revolution is and never will be defined by the number of people joining a Facebook page but rather by the 100s of thousands who go out in the street and demand their rights without fear and do so peacefully.
As much as I admire these people’s urgency for change and justice to prevail, taking the sidibouzid route will not reap the rewards of Tunisia and Egypt as the situation in Bahrain is quite different on many levels.
- Both Tunisia and Egypt have great problems with growing unemployement and poverty within their peoples. Bahrainis, despite facing some unemployement woes, have not reached the point of widespread poverty which eventually lead to revolution.
- Tunisia and Egypt’s armies and police are of their own countrymen and we’ve all seen the images of Tunisians consoling crying policemen in Tunis and Egyptians taking photos with and kissing soldiers on the streets of Cairo. Bahrain, on the other hand have an influx of naturalized soldiers and policemen who at best do not have any connection or affection to the Bahraini people and that is quite evident by the almost weekly clashes with riot police since the mid 2000s.
- Despite branding itself as a country that’s tolerant and promotes inter-faith dialogues, Bahrain still finds itself in sectarian strife with mistrust and indifference towards eachothers causes turning into the norm whereas as we’ve seen in Egypt, with the Egyptian Muslims volunteering to be human shields around Copt churches after the Al-Qidiseen church was bombed on New Years and seeing Christians offering to ensure the safety of people praying Friday prayers in mosques on January 28th.
- Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrain is a relatively young country with a much younger democracy. Though influenced by the government, the shape of our parliament shows us where our loyalties and ideologies lie, and people need the courage and mentality to look at people not by sect and name but by skills and merit.
Amongst other factors such as the US Navy Fifth Fleet in Juffair etc may hinder a Tunisia/Egypt-esque popular revolution.
Reading through the Bahrain February 14th Revolution FB Page, some points are promising but the overall content sends too many mixed messages to be even considered to be serious as one update says “No Sunni, No Shia, Just Bahraini” yet the next uploaded video clearly shows Shia clerics and processions calling for “Thowra” (Revolution) over a Azza beat. Another example of mixed messages is this poster calling for peaceful protesting without burning or blocking streets yet is covered with what looks like dripping and splattered blood (WTF).
The poster also calls people not to carry any flags other the Bahrain flag, but on the other hand encourages people to confront with riot police in the case ‘They started it’ – though I’m sure the organizers don’t mean it in that way but it certainly can be read that way!
Yes, Bahrain needs change and our people must have a bigger say in how the country is run and have an elected Prime minister to whom can be held accounted for when corruption is found and not rectified.
But Bahrain needs not a revolution of regime change at this moment of time, rather a revolution to UNITE BAHRAIN’S PEOPLE and install a mentality of meritocracy and social harmony in them! Reminds me of Dr. Ali Fakhro’s speech during Waad’s 2010 election campaign when he said:
“We ask the people living in Jidhafs and Dimistan (shia villages) to come to Muharraq and support their brothers and sisters in causes that affect the people in Muharraq, and vice versa, we ask the people of Muharraq to go down to the villages of Dimistan and Jidhafs and support their families in the causes that affect those areas”.
Although our government doesn’t really like the idea of unity between Sunnis and Shias, with the blocking of the anti-sectarian campaign site for “Just Bahraini” we need to re-ignite a similar campaign and may Allah help us in succeeding in doing so (maybe with the help of social networks )
Several weeks ago, The trial of 25 Bahrainis including bloggers Ali Abdulemam and Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace in what has been called the “Terror Network” accused of instigating violence against the state and broadcasting “false news about the situation in Bahrain”, started with a blanket ban over Bahrain’s news outlets covering the trial.
The media blackout came in the shape of local journalists complying to the Public Prosecution requests, in addition to foreign news agencies not being able to film the trials because all their equipment was held at customs such as the BBC.
The only means of getting any information or insights came from citizen journalism.
Nabeel Rajab, Head of the now dissolved Bahrain Centre of Human Rights (BCHR), has been turned from human rights activist and observer into a news coverage reporter by force and necessity. He has been using social media such as Twitter (@Nabeelrajab), Facebook and Bahrainonline.com as platforms to spread the word.
The most impressive and effective use of technology is bambuser.com, a web broadcasting service. Rajab uses his mobile phone to record short interviews with MPs, the defendants’ lawyers and family members whilst sitting outside the Ministry of Justice where the trial is being held. Such coverage has helped clear many issues and focused on the allegations of torture towards the defendants.
We are in need of more tech savvy and courageous people to cover these trials and give a bigger, better and impartial picture of what is going on. The tools are out there for the picking, we just need YOU!
- The next hearing will be on December 9th..
A number of people have asked me to upload my TEDxBahrainona talk onto YouTube especially those who couldn’t attend the event and couldn’t see the live webcast.
People who did attend the event told me that they couldn’t read the slides as they were either too fast or had a red watermark on the middle of the slide which was covering some of the text. Others told me that the audio wasn’t so great.
I tried to rectify these problems by making my own edit of the talk where the slides last longer on the screen and don’t carry any watermarks. Because YouTube only allows 15 minutes of video in one file, I had to split the video into two halves.
I am looking for help in typing up a manuscript of the talk in Arabic, then translating it into English and Japanese. If you would like to help, please reply in the comments section or by mentioning me on Twitter @yslaise
Without further ado, here is my TEDxBahrainona talk and I hope you enjoy it and please leave any ideas, comments or questions you might have about my talk!
Last night, 10th Nov was TEDxBahrainona – The Future We Make as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates sponsored TEDxChange. It was originally penned for Sept 30th but at the last minutes some speakers pulled out including Bahrain Foreign Minister Sh. Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa. I myself couldn’t attend the event in person, but I was lucky to have been able to record my talk beforehand.
The event was held at the Sh. Ebrahim Centre in Muharraq, which is a lovely venue. The program was divided into two parts, the first being a screening of the TEDxChange event held in New York on Sept 20th the the second part was the live presentations (and my pre-recorded one). Live speakers included:
- Leena Al-Olaimy (@LAlOlaimy): co-Founder and Managing Director of 3BL ‘Triple Bottom Line’ Associates
- Hamad Al-Malki (@HamadAlmalki): Projects Manager at Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB)
- Mr. Sayed Aqa: United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Kingdom of Bahrain
- Dr. Abdul Waheed Khan: President of Talal Abu Ghazaleh Business University, Bahrain and Senior Adviser to Arab Open University
Japanarabia Social Platform
My talk was the only talk in Arabic during the event, simply because I’ve never given a presentation in Arabic before and wanted to take up the challenge! At the same time, the organizers felt the event needed to have some local influence by having at least one presentation in Arabic.
I’d just like to summarize some of the points I talked about in the presentations and add some extra updates and notes on the topic.
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Comments on the event:
I firstly would like to thank the organizers especially Tariq Al-Olaimy for organizing the event and making it through despite the many problems and setbacks the team faced. Another big thank you for all the volunteers who helped out during the event and for the audience who have been very patient before the event and during the gruelling three hour plus event.
The event was quite long with the first TEDxChange talks made the event more of a film screening. This really couldn’t have been helped much due to the theme of the event. I hope in future TEDx events we have a live-recorded-live sort of sequence so that the audience doesn’t get tired.
The live streaming of the event was of very good quality although I wished there were stage lights to light up the speakers more. Some of my friends also complained of the audio of my talk being too low. There were a couple of technical glitches but it’s never an event without such glitches!
The quality of the live talks were good although I’m disappointed with Sayed Aqa as he was ill-prepared and was clearly winging the talk with a handful of printouts and no visuals whatsoever.
As a whole, the event was a success in building a TED community and I’m sure it will grow bigger and better in the future – The Future WE Make