Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Bahrain, again and again

From Angry Arab chief Bahrain correspondent:  "This is old - keep meaning to send it to you.

Did you read it? Its a good one. I agree with most of the criticisms in the article. However I do want to point out that I disagree with these two lines:

The opposition in Bahrain, to the detriment of its democratic credentials, has only managed to speak of enfranchisement in the most limited and unsophisticated manner, for Bahrainis and “citizens.” Such terms, typical of Gulf nationalist discourses that reek of this type of dated, and often chauvinist exclusivism, have been made thoroughly meaningless by the events of the last year.

There is no notion of muwatana in Bahrain like it exists in say the UAE or Qatar. I dunno if you've been to any khaleeji country but if you do you'll notice that the citizens always refer themselves to muwatineen with pride. Citizenship in there is something that is privileged - almost another type of classism (it even even crazier in Kuwait where they have different levels of citizenship but I've never been there so I can't comment). In Bahrain this pride doesn't exist - you won't hear any bahraini say with pride - I am a 'muwatin'/citizen (I use the arabic word because there's a specific way its used in the Gulf that I can't translate properly). You don't get any privileges for being a citizen so there's nothing to be stuck up about. In fact, the people who get the privilges are the western expats - free car, free house, free private schooling for their kids. We aren't really part of this Gulf nationalist discourse as she calls it.

I of course agree with her that the way the laborers are treated in Bahrain is horrible - it is not a political thing. But you can compound this with the problem that there is a lot of unemployment in Bahrain, and its not like qatar, kuwait and the Uae where they don't have enough people. The government wants to dilute the numbers of bahrainis in the workplace to weaken the labor movement (though expats have participated in the movement previously but as you can imagine, many are too scared to do anything).

And of course we have the problem of the government bringing in arabs from certain tribes in yemen, syria and jordan (latest is anbar province in Iraq) to change the demographics of the courtry. That being said the constant reference to mitjanseen always made me uncomfortable. When you talk to someone, they will say no we are only talking about those that the government brings in from outside and hands them bahraini citizenship without them having to go through the law as it is written. But still, this nuance is important and there's a fine line between what's right and racism. (Of course there are people who have lived in bahrain for god knows how many years and they still haven't gotten citizenship or just have, not to mention the children of bahraini women who are married to nonbahrainis but thats another issue all together) I do of course believe that the citizenship laws of bahrain should be relaxed - you shouldn't have to wait 20 years to finally be able to apply. What I think is important though is that the laws are fair and based on criteria that have nothing to do with your sect, religion, race or national origin.

Either way this article is great and I agree - blogger @chanadbh was the first one who said it: feb14 made a big mistake when they didn't join forces with the laborers. Yes of course there are differences - the protests focused on political change but there is a commonality between us when you speak of rights - esp. labor rights.

Anyways we live and we learn. Tell your jadaliyya friends to translate the article. I think its something everyone should be reading."