Saturday, July 2, 2011
Bahrain: The Investigation Committee Is Not Enough
By Husam Itani
The measures adopted by the Bahraini authorities to contain the crisis were neither sufficient nor successful. They appeared to be an attempt to place the incidents witnessed during the last few months in the context of the protesters’ violation of the law, a defiance that was responded to by the security apparatuses with excessive harshness.
Any perceptive person would realize that the crisis in Bahrain is much deeper and wider than this. It is related to the demographic structure and the way it is handled by the authorities, the confusing intertwinement between the local and regional situations and the escalation of the tensions in the Gulf.
One would say that the formation of an independent investigation commission into the February and March incidents, the improvement of the security situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the partial withdrawal of the Peninsula Shield Force, the release of some detainees and the annulment of the trials of the accused before military courts, are steps falling in line with the political and security appeasement undertaken by the rule to reintroduce the idea – which might be revised – of national dialogue that was obstructed three months ago when it was rejected by some opposition forces.
There is a series of obstacles which might reemerge in the face of any new dialogue in Bahrain. Some of them will be impossible to overcome or resolve by Manama, namely the Iranian role in the Gulf, the fears it is raising and Bahrain’s presence on the front lines of any military confrontation that might erupt between Iran and the American troops deployed in the Gulf. Moreover, we are in the presence of the media and promotional pressures exerted by Iran on the Bahraini government which are raising the level of sectarian tensions in the country.
Among these obstacles are also ones linked to the limits reached by the reform process that was launched ten years ago and heralded the instatement of an authority in which the citizens would be able to participate. Oppositionists and observers placed a lot of hope over the success of the constitutional and political reforms in Bahrain, following years of stalling that affected the handling of the reasons that pushed the country - during the first half of the nineties - toward a series of clashes and incidents and were not settled as they should have by the authorities.
And it was clear since the second half of last century, that the halting of the reforms was accompanied by the resumption of the protests and the disgruntlement among the Shiite population, vis-à-vis what was being said about the naturalization of foreigners among the Sunnis to secure sectarian balance in the country. At the same time, no serious solutions were reached to the problems of unemployment, poverty and the lack of opportunities to climb up the social ladder, although the state administrations and institutions – in addition to the public sector – are filled with foreign employees.
In light of this situation, the protests against segregation turned into political tensions with which the policy of the autonomous and neutral investigation committees (especially since this type of committees requires guarantees of neutrality) is no longer useful.
It is no secret that the demonstrations witnessed in some Bahraini regions during the last few weeks - although they failed to establish pits in the capital as it happened on Pearl Square last March - actually reflect the existence and continuation of the crisis without a political settlement to extinguish the acuteness of the tensions and prevent the voices of instigation from resonating throughout the country.
In other words, the promised investigation committee will not end the crisis. At best, it might be able to appease the feelings and bridge a few gaps. However, the handling should first and foremost be political.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 01/07/2011