April 14, 2007

brick over blood

It was the penultimate insult. It took six years to spew out but it was finally hurled, for and behalf of the ruling circles of the land, by Khalifa al-Dhahrani, their favourite chum. The head of the minority-takes-more-seats-than-majority House of Deputies is proposing to compensate proprietors for properties affected during the Trouble years of the 90’s.

It was a strong enough jolt to spring a thus far sedated al-Wefaq into upright consciousness, with Mohammed al-Mez’el leading the charge. After all, this is a government about to set a milestone. A government rushing to make amends for damaged and burnt bricks but not for damaged and burnt lives. They couldn’t have managed a greater insult. A nation of families of the fallen, survivors of torture and returnees from long and dark years of exile was reduced to arsonists. A struggle era was reduced to a burnt tire.

Rhodesian MP’s rushed to back al-Dhahrani, and so did Rhodesian columnists. One of the latter revealed the motive behind the motion. “Criminals and terrorists” (of the other sect)were unduly rewarded by gaining their freedom in 2001. What did (Sunni) landlords who were on the side of law and unmitigated order gain in exchange?

Yet it was a high office first to use the C word. About five years ago, a group of former exiles met with an adviser to the King. One of them uttered the word compensation in passing. The adviser bristled. He won’t hear any of it. The higher-ups won’t entertain it for a moment. He wants the end of it. Victims of torture were repeatedly told the official line: that that was bygone era. Case closed. But here is Mr. Al-Dhahran, the government favourite chum and beneficiary, opening the books and gates again. Will Al-Wefaq and other civil rights groups capitalize on this official blunder?

Something never changes, House in or out.

Speaking of what appears to be less sedated al-Wefaq, here is another story worthy of a question period. Now that the PM has announced an increase in workers pension premiums to 18%. And to ensure that pension funds are there for their retirement time and ours, would any of their honourable MP’s care to ask Minister of Finance about why did the Undersecretary of Finance instruct Bahrain Development Bank (whose funds come in part from the two schemes of pension funds) to grant unsecured loan of BD 200,000 (two hundred thousands dinars) as urgent cash injection to Al-Watan newspaper two months ago? Why was the mandatory BDB Board approval of this transaction only secured after the fact?

At least to prove that they, unlike the BDB board, do make a difference.

April 11, 2007

موت الفتى عباس

يمه ما أريدك تونين أو تعتبين

يمه كل أعمارنا فدوة للحسين

تظل معلوقة بحزن شمعة شبابي

أبد ما تطفى وتظل تضوي بغيابي

صبري يايمة على لوعة مصابي

ولا تلكمين القلب لما تونين

Abbas is not a hapless victim

of an ill-fated incident.

Abbas is the name of the rose

of the poignant cause

of a vanquished nation.

which, like every vanquished nation,

fails to see itself as one.

Abbas is a requiem for a people on the cross

pinned down and disarmed.

(no one of Abbas people know much about bullets or triggers

much less see one, hold one, or be intimate with one

unless it’s the intimacy of the bullet and the skull).

Abbas is a nation's open wound

as deep as the distance

between a budding officer under arm,

and an uninsured security guard

at a club of revelers night.

(And on the tenth day,

on Easter’s Monday

Abbas rose from the dead

to Martyrdom).

April 01, 2007

we are all Abbas

Whatever the exact circumstance which triggered the bullet which rendered young Abbas brain-dead, that fateful bullet was anything but ill-fated.

A rural Egyptian killed under Khidevi Egypt, or a black man murdered in Rhodesian times, are not called incidents. These are a logical, bullet proof conclusion of systemic state's policy.

Ill fate didn't corner and take aim at young Abbas that fateful morning. Rhodesian policies did. Abbas was their rightly intended victim. The right scull, at the rightly intended corner, at the right time.

How else can we explain the route of a young man good with electronics, from a a deeply religious family, a devoutly conservative but suffering village, to a night guard at a revelers night spot?

Newly-wed Abbas was compelled to work the extra night job to eke out perhaps no more than a monthly BD 160 -180 on top of his day job as a temporary driver with a contractor at the oil refinery, itself paying less than 200, in order to to break even with the poverty line point for a family. By virtue of his place of birth and sectarian affiliation, these were the only Rhodesian doors open to him. Had young Abbas been Baluchistan-born, he would have slept easy with that double sum made in fewer month weeks and far shorter shift time as a new guard recruit at the Ministry of Interior. But that's not a Rhodesian door open to him

These are the same doors that consign young Shia girls to work in textiles sweatshops for less than BD 90 a month. The same doors that consign Shia young men from less than notable families (the Coloured class) to drivers, sweepers, security guards and other indentured jobs, while their peers on the other sectarian divide go on to at minimum trigger-wielding jobs and ministries.

Born in 1980, Abbas belonged to this country's X Generation. The X was the official state reactive policy to the country's Shia young and not so young. Applied gradually post Dec. 81 and in full blown swing after Dec. 94, Abbas generation borne the full brunt of a policy of near total exclusion and economic siege. No educational opportunities. No job opportunities. No upward mobility. Total neglect and near complete socio-economic disinvestment. Shia young had to fend for themselves. When and if they can.

Abbas was certainly one of those who tried hard. And it wasn't easy. At 18, he was first detained for three months in the midst of the 90's Troubles. He was detained another time and received a Ministry of “Justice” sentence for three years until he was released by the general “amnesty” of 2001. The Ministry of “Education” for her part, did not allow him a return to finish his high school diploma. He had to work in various temporary jobs. He was married three months ago, only when he seemed to have a started a semblance of stable living.

As we speak, the Ministry of Interior is turning the other cheek and only saying that it is still investigating. The victim is not one of their blue-blooded folk after all. Had the trigger been pulled by the other sectarian hand, we would have went to sleep early Friday evening under curfew, Shia areas under siege and search orders. Saturday morning would have seen Rhodesian al-Watan with red-blooded headlines and war-declaring quotes by uniformed high offices, as well as paid statements by Rhodesian societies from back to back. But as the scull involved was for a Shia, the paper saw fit to relegate the story to the bare minimum of 5 column centimeters at the very bottom of its first page and a muddied-water short story inside. It completely disappeared from its first page of Sunday. Abbas is obviously not a blue-blooded name. The killer is likely one.