The Bahraini Resistance

Scenes like these are commonplace in some parts in the Bahrain burbs and even, at times, in the heart of Manama. Happening almost everyday, and more notably in certain parts, these so-called riots have become sort of a daily occurrence, a natural day-to-day disturbance of the otherwise dreary existence of this sandy gulf island.

I hear the most stupid remarks, supposals of people around me, mostly from big-mouthed Pinoy ignoramuses, brushing these issues as such and such, blah-blah-blah, blaming the rioters basically - that I didn't buy a bit. I mean there must be serious reasons for all these anti-establishment, anti-government actions and for them to just downplay it, belittle it even, that's BS.

And so I set out to learn what these protests are for. And there's serious stuff that I found. I knew that Bahrain has a Shia majority. But the thing is, it's rulers are Sunni, a powerful family whose government supposedly has instituted a systematic discrimination to Shia citizens especially in civil service. A case of class struggle. But then there are other issues. And there's more to learn. Makes for a better understanding for this kingdom-country and its people.

This is a clip from a Reuters news article Bahrain: Socio-Political Issues, dated 14th Oct 2008:

If left unresolved, discriminatory practices in Bahrain could threaten local harmony, with repercussions felt throughout the region and beyond. The U.S., which has a naval base in Bahrain, cannot afford overlooking challenges facing an allied nation.

On Sunday, October 19th, King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa inaugurates the third session of 2006-2010 parliament. However, the country faces numerous challenges and opportunities that require contributions from members of parliament, local civil societies and international establishments supporting democracy and justice.

The biggest challenge relates to systematic discriminatory practices against the majority Shia population. As of mid-October 2008, Shia merely assumed 10 percent of cabinet-level ministers. According to a study conducted by Al Wefaq (the largest opposition group in terms of members and parliamentary representation), Shia control 13 percent of decision-making positions in governmental departments. Worse, the authorities largely deny Shia entry at security establishments, in turn regarded as key sources of employment by virtue of receiving about 30 percent of budgetary recurrent expenditures.

Denial of jobs at security apparatuses is a primary reason behind unemployment amongst Shia. True unemployment rate is not an exact science in Bahrain, but believed to be running anywhere between 4 to 8 percent. The utmost majority of unemployed happen to be Shia, reflecting either a careless or a carefully planned governmental policy.

Reforming election districts is another priority. Now, election districts do not reflect population density, echoing a determined governmental policy to influence parliamentary voting. For instance, the southern governorate boosted about 6 per cent of total electorate but granted 15 per cent of parliamentary seats. Unfair representation is deterring the legislative branch from fulfilling its duties towards the citizens.

Yet, Bahrain encounters serious economic challenges that require contributions from all concerned parties. The petroleum sector continues to play a dominant role in the economy despite all talks of economic diversification. The sector contributed 80 percent of real treasury income in 2007. Concurrently, Bahrain is facing growing rivalry from regional economies, with Dubai, Doha and Riyadh and more recently Kuwait vying to become regional hub for financial services.

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