Words cannot express one’s feelings of concern for the Shia population of the nation of Bahrain. The ruthlessness of the despot Hamad al-Khalifa didn’t come as a surprise when he ordered his force to exercise brute force against the sleeping children and women on the night of February 15th, 2011, at Pearl Square downtown Manama, killing five and injuring ninety-five innocent people.
What was their crime? Their crime is that no despot can tolerate a population that is energetic, liberated, and possesses the ability to think! If the heart of the population is throbbing with life, if the essence of freedom is in their conscience, and if the intellect is able to reflect and find the truth and adopt new ways to stand against falsehood and fight back tyranny, then that population is viewed as a criminal in the eyes of despots. The nation whose population is deep in the slumber of serving its own self, a population whose hearts are imprisoned in the confines of materialism, fear, and uncertainties, a population which cannot separate the truth from the falsehood is viewed as the progressive population abiding to every decision of its “leader”. Autocracy should have been uprooted in Bahrain in light of the post-modern struggle for democracy that the West and its allies have always propagated. But as it may appear under the jargon of free-elections and economic liberalization, the nation of Bahrain has remained a pure monarchist state operating with discrimination and decadence. The situation on the ground is far from the values of democracy, and the success to continue autocracy under the false banner of democracy is by designing a strategy where elections are not conducted but rigged and where the gates of free economy and privatization are opened but only to extend the tentacles of nepotism.
The result of privatization or economic liberalization has only benefited the few where the close circles of administration became extensively wealthier, while the population became weaker and isolated. If the privatization of the economy has opened the doors to trade and business, then we must ask the question: why is the unemployment rate growing high among the local population, and who is getting the work done in Bahrain? The primary cause behind such unemployment is the unjust policy of the government to employ foreign labor over the local population! But what is the benefit in doing so?
Such a policy serves two purposes. The most apparent purpose as any common person would think is to gain access to cheap labor, but the other facet of the same purpose is there being less liability of the administration towards the foreign workers. That means a foreign worker can work in tougher conditions with less salary and almost no labor law to defend his/her rights. The second, essential purpose behind the policy of hiring foreign labor is to deprive the local population from economical and social development through systematic deprivation of wealth, education and social benefits. According to a report from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, half of the Bahraini citizens are suffering from poverty and poor living standards. So if someone is under the impression that the administration is offering grants to half of its local poverty-stricken population a monthly payment of 18 Bahraini Dinars (according to the same report), then they must also know that the per capita GDP (which is the national output divided by the population) of the oil-rich country of Bahrain is 40,400 dollars. If there was a democratically elected administration with equal distribution of the wealth from the “natural resources”, then the poverty lines would have never extended to such an extent! The BCHR report has also stated that the poverty income threshold for a household of a Bahraini family is 309 BD per month, and the 18 BD grant from the Ministry of Labor as well as from the “Charity foundations” to the poor is clearly insufficient. Now the despot leader is propagating his cash offer of 1000 dollars (before the protest) in anticipation of dispersing the crowd that is seeking its rights, and a large 1000 dollar cash offer is the price in his mind to buy the freedom and the rights of the people?
There is another policy the administration of Bahrain adopted with the intention to further isolate the local population. The result of the housing policy, which allows foreign workers to own property, is the growing presence of the foreign workers in main cities, and since the local population is unemployed they cannot afford the rising real estate cost that is affected by the demand created by the well-off foreign workers. All of this results in isolation of the local population to remote areas.
It is very clear to any fair-minded person that such prejudice against the local population is real, the prevailing poverty among the ranks of the general population is also a fact, and the displacement of the local population to ghettos or to the remote areas is also real and existing.
So the question is: why such discriminative policies against one’s own people? The policy to replace the local population with the foreign workers and to move the local population out of cities is established to purposely inflict the people with the disease of poverty to the extent that their only concern of life would be to strive for a morsel of food. When a human being cannot free himself from the struggle of basic needs, then the possibility to ascend and recognize the higher truth and stand firm against the falsehood is relinquished. Even if the people of Bahrain gather some strength to raise their voice against such injustice, then they are so isolated that their voice against the tyrant administration is lost in the desert of silence, or the voice of the desperate man is lost in desolation.
On the other hand, the foreign workers who are living in Bahrain for many years are established members of the Bahraini society, where they are given decision-making positions to demonstrate nepotism in their own ranks. Some own businesses and hire only a foreign worker, some support his countryman to purchase a house in the city, and so on – in every aspect of social and economic arenas, there is a tightly-knit circle of foreigners in Bahrain that reaps a significant chunk of benefits from the nation. The policy of privatization of the infrastructure sector has opened the doors wide open for foreign workers to further firm their grip on the economical benefits of Bahrain.
So what is the administration’s policy of foreign worker agreement? There is no foreign labor regulation of any kind! Hence the foreign workers face conditions of forced labor after arriving in Bahrain, through use of such practices as unlawful withholding of passports, restriction on movement, contract substitution, non-payment of wages, threats and physical. In short, the non-regulation and unrestricted freedom to deal with foreign workers has made it clear that the administration bears no liability for the foreign workers, and the foreign workers have no right as a resident of the nation or as a long running member of society. But the most significant of benefits for the administration is the total lack of ability among the foreign workers to criticize the injustices of the despot king! The foreign workers are well aware of their limited freedom and they are also aware of the consequences if they step over the boundaries and voice their opinion regarding the administration, because the result would be their immediate expulsion from the nation.
So what is the real story? The local population that is strategically weakened and pushed to isolation is a majority Shia population! The two-headed snake of the administration on one side economically supports the foreign population who has neither any right nor the ability to speak against falsehood and who can be removed by the administration anytime – yet all the benefits of a slave worker can be reaped by the administration. On the other side, the majority Shias who have the right and ability to speak and stand against the falsehood are isolated from economical and social benefits of their own nation. Why? Because the administration knows that if the Shia population is treated fairly, then they will be strong enough to fight the injustice and move towards their fundamental ideology of equality and justice!
In the end, it is a struggle to suppress the Shias by a Sunni autocrat, by the army and by the secret police of the king that murdered, injured and detained many Shias and Sunnis – this is the reality on the ground. The interest of the neighboring nation, Saudi Arabia, in the politics of Bahrain will be disrupted if the majority Shia population takes over the affairs of the nation. This, because the concern that Shias would support Iran and form a geographically extended alliance that will shift the balance of power and will influence the region is a concern that cannot be ignored by the Saudi kingdom.
Political correctness aside, the fact about the region is that the Shia population has been suppressed by Sunni leaders directly or indirectly. It is important for every person to know the history of Shias and the oppression that has come to pass in every century against this minority. There has never been a ruler, a dictator or a King who was not concerned by the Shia ideology or by the Shias, because no autocracy or power-centric leadership can be established unless there is injustice and tyranny involved against the people. The idea of sole and absolute leadership with complete justice is only divine in nature, and man can never ascend to that stage of perfection unless he abandons this world and completely submits to Allah, which is not possible by the kings and rulers. The Shia ideology dictates no tolerance against tyranny. It is a fire that strongly burns in the hearts of the Shias and the fuel to this fire is poured every time the event of Karbala comes to mind. This is the fire that the world is concerned about, this is the fire that will engulf all the tyrants and this is the fire that will never burn out until justice is established. The heart burns with the fire of exasperation towards tyranny because the grandson of the Prophet (peace be upon them both) did not tolerate tyranny and died fighting against it, while the fire burns constantly in the hearts of the Shias looking forward to prove to the master that we also shall not tolerate disgrace and tyranny. It is a manifestation of our relation and association to the axis of Wilayah that the plight of the Shia of Bahrain is a matter of deep concern to us. As much as we are able to support the voice against the despot leader of Bahrain, we must do so and remind those international organizations that rush to humanitarian crises without hesitation in case of natural disaster, to take the situation in Bahrain seriously and to rush to support the humanitarian crises against the local population of Bahrain.
In these crucial moments for the Shias of Bahrain, we remind each to pray and invoke the mercy, protection and refuge of Allah in the words of the Infallibles in the supplication of Yastasheer: “(O’ Lord you are) a shield for him who seeks refuge with You, the help of him who looks up to You for help, the stronghold for every refugee, security for everyone who is terror-stricken, a shield for the weak, a treasure for the indigent, the destroyer of grief, the helper of the virtuous.”