Hi Keith I wrote a huge reply (as I promised on twitter) in the daily round-up and will copy it here as well. I thought I would post a small comment and save the rest for here but I spilled it all out, so for those that didn’t read that comment, here you go:
Before I start commenting first of all I’d like to say that I do respect all your views about my country, government, etc.. but I feel I have to say something because as a local who has been living through all this, I do have firsthand experience that should help clarify things..
You might have noticed that I’ve been quite quiet on the Bahrain situation on the blog simply because I realized that it is hard to compete with the media. Many articles have been exaggerating and highlighting certain aspects of the events to send out a certain message, while ignoring other events. So people end up mostly siding up with the rioters against the Government, and are mislead into the believing that we have a “dictatorship” like government – which just sounds ridiculous even typing it!
No matter how hard I try to explain my views, people just dismiss my opinion by saying that I’m just siding with the government, or fail to see the other side, or that I’m not impartial enough.. Well obviously if I’m a Bahraini my opinion isn’t like an outsider’s, and although I try to be as objective, it still is subjective. But if I can get one message across it would be that things in real are not like what you read in the media. Which is why I truly believe that the only way anyone can be convinced that Bahrain is ready to host the race is if they come down here and see for themselves. Which is kind of hard to do but one journalist did come over from Abu Dhabi, let me share my chat with him..
He came to attend the BIC’s press conference in February and when I asked him what does he think about the situation he said it looked like a “warzone” on TV, but he was surprised to see everything normal when he came to Bahrain. He went out for dinner, walked around Manama, and saw nothing at all.. He was surprised. I did tell him there are minor protests/clashes with the police in the villages but that’s basically it.
Those mini riots do happen, but they don’t have any legitimate causes except to cause disruption and are violence – which hugely undermines their cause (even Nick Kristof who is the opposition’s biggest supporter attended one of those riots and he had to take shelter from the molotov cocktails that were being hurled at the police and said on twitter that the violence undermines their cause). So I think we can all agree that any use of violence by either sides the police or the rioters is not acceptable. Deal?
Let me explain more how those small riots are like. It starts by a small group of 10-20 youngsters (and by youngsters I mean teenagers and younger! There are footage of kids as young as 5 year old being used by the opposition – which in any country is considered to be child abuse!). Where are the human rights organizations to stop the opposition from abusing these innocent children?! Nowhere to be seen of course because of people like Nabeel Rajab, who claims to be a human rights activist, is really nothing but a terrorist who controls the thugs and orders them around instigating violence. People outside of Bahrain don’t know that, we all do. He doesn’t even have an organization, his fake organization has been shut for years now, but who cares right? -.-
These youngsters start the riot by attacking the police mostly by hurling burning molotov cocktails towards them. What do the police do? Nothing.. Literally they just stand by trying to avoid being hit and burned. If the crowd is larger and needs to be dispersed or if they are blocking a main road and have to be stopped then first use stun grenades, which usually do nothing. Then next tool they have is tear gas, it’s their only way of dispersing or breaking up a riot. They are NOT allowed to use live ammunition. They are NOT shooting at anyone. They may use rubber bullets if the person attacks them closely and are threatening the police – which are all legal International standards.
What you all outside of Bahrain don’t know about is how violent these thugs are. And I am 500% sure that if the same thing happened anywhere else in the world, the police would have arrested thousands, and would have definitely used live bullets. Here in Bahrain the police are NOT allowed. Molotov cocktails may sound normal, but they are lethal. And when they are hurled at the police at close proximity they can kill and severely injure. Have you heard of the police who are severely injured on a weekly basis in the media?? NO because all you read is that the Bahraini police are brutal right? They are attacked daily, many have sustained severe injuries and burns.
Another weapon they use are those huge long metal rods that are projected towards the police and can kill instantly if it hits them anywhere close to the head. They have already killed a woman who was on her way back home and that rod hit her directly in the head and she died a few days after that. Who’s fault is that? Where are the human rights?
They also use smaller spears that look like darts and several policemen have been stabbed in their necks, legs, arms by them.
Let me ask you all a question? What happens if a cop in the US stops your car and asks you to step out of the car with your hands above your head. And you come out of the car and put your hands in your pockets. Do you know that the police man has the right to SHOOT you in the leg? Just because there’s a possibility that you may be reaching for a weapon in your pocket so he has the right to defend himself by shooting first. In the UK I’m not sure what the rules are, but we all remember the South American guy who was shot at simply because they thought he was the suspect. The recent riots in London had 3000+ arrested. (FYI I’m not comparing the riots to ours because it’s totally different, I’m just talking about the arrests). If we did the same in Bahrain we would’ve been attacked. I don’t see anyone attacking the Met police?
Do you know that Bahrain is the first country ever to call an Independent Committee to come judge and inquire about all the abuses by the Government. This is a very admirable and brave move by our King! Would a “dictator” ever do that? LOL And not only that but he accepted the result of the inquiry, believe me it was hard for us to watch Prof. give that speech accusing the government, but he took it bravely and showed sincere will to change things and has already begun to make the changes.
The police who were found to be at fault were already punished by the Ministry of Interior even before the BICI report finished, and Prof. Bassiouni said that the big officials in the Ministry issued no order of abuse, what happened were individual mistakes and they already are punished. After last year’s mistake, the army, police force, and government have become very wary and careful not to do anything that is illegal or use excessive force because it hurt the country badly last year – even though what happened wasn’t intentional but it was wrong and everyone condemned that.
Bahrain also went the extra length of asking the US and the UK for help in training our police forces to deal with riot control and they brought in 2 officials 1 from the US called John Timoney, who has worked in the police force for many years, and a former high ranking Met Police officer called John Yates. They both said that the police are not using excessive force and have agreed that the protesters are using violent and lethal weapons.
Another thing people don’t know Bahrainis, specially those who are “Pro-Govt” is that even they have changed their views towards the Government! How? Last year we had people who were either pro govt or anti-govt. This year it’s a bit more complicated as we now have extremists on both sides and several middle areas. However most people who were pro-govt are still pro in the sense that they support the King, but what has changed is that they have been more critical of the Government. You all would be surprised to know that most pro-gov Bahrainis criticize the Government for being too LENIENT! Yes you heard me right.. They have grown sick and tired of the situation and want the government to implement stricter laws to put an end to this ongoing chaos! They want the government to give the police the right to use weapons to face the rioters who are already using lethal weapons. So far the rioters escape freely after attacking the police, and the police go back home with their injuries. I see their point, as I don’t know anywhere in the world where we see police defenseless against the violent rioters. So the ball game has completely changed. I don’t blame the government that much because they are dealing with so much pressure from all sides!
It’s like a tug of war but with many more sides than 2, and the government is the rope. They’ve got the violent opposition on the extremists end, the pro-gov extremists on the other end, then the people who are anti-gov and pro-gov but are more moderate, then the International affairs and relations (mainly the US), then the GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Oman) who have their own concerns for their safety. So as you can all see the government are under a lot of pressure to please all these sides and all I can say is I’m lucky I’m not part of them because it’s a very tough job!
And I think they have been doing a great job so far in trying to calm the situation down. People have been criticizing them for being too lenient and not making swifter decisions but I can’t blame them. They have to think a billion times before doing anything. One thing I’d like to say is that I do believe that they are sincere in wanting to make the changes that the opposition are asking for. Our King has started the reform process 10 years ago and made huge changes towards making Bahrain more democratic. And they are continuing to do so step by step. The world needs to give Bahrain a chance because our rulers are good people and most International leaders know that. It’s just unfortunate (or wise from the opposition) that the unrest happened along with the Arab Spring so we were all grouped with them even though the situation here is not even comparable to countries like Libya, syria, egypt, etc…
Sorry for this humungous long post but I felt I had to explain my point of view. Now back to F1, I personally believe that it should transcend all politics. I’m against the view that holding the GP means that it is supporting the government. Well yes it kind of but it is supporting the country! By having the F1 it will help Bahrain recover the immense economic losses of last year, which in turn helps us the citizens! Last year I was for canceling it the first time, but when it announced again I was for it. In hindsight I still think we could have pulled it off in October because other International events happened shortly after in November with no problems at all. We had Jewellery Arabia which is an Annual International Exhibition that has the worlds biggest jewellery names. It was also high risk because of the amount of expensive jewellery that is normally brought in is. Then we had the International Boat show which was a huge success. Then we had the BIGS Annual Flower show, and the International Air Show which is also a huge event, maybe a bit smaller than F1, everyone had a great time. We recently had an International Animal show as well. So why can’t we hold the F1?
The opposition are obviously using the F1 to their benefit and are trying their best to escalate the situation and are working the media as they did last year to side against the government and cancel it. This was always expected, but this time around, they have no legitimacy at all. They have lost the respect of many here, even people from their own! Many from the opposition are now against them because they are taking them nowhere with their pointless use of violence. Nothing practical is being done, so they have lost thousands of supporters they had last year! Bahrain has changed, we have moved on. Our lives are back to normal and we will NOT allow them to drag us into the rut they did last year. This isn’t how we are used to live, this is not how we Bahrainis are. We are not sectarian people and we will not allow the opposition to spread their filth and hate anymore. We are looking towards progressing and aiming for unity to help build our country back regardless of what the govt does. The F1 is huge event that really affects the whole country, and we love it here when it’s around. Even people who are not into racing or motorsports enjoy Bahrain during the F1 because it becomes so lively and people really enjoy themselves. This year people are even more adamant on attending the F1 to make a point towards unity, reconciliation, and rebuilding our country and helping it move forward. It is such a beautiful feeling, the hype already started and the F1 fever is reaching it’s peak. Bahrainis are happy they have something to look forward to. Please I beg the F1 community, from team members, fans, drivers, and media, PLEASE DON’T take this away from us!! Give Bahrain a chance! I’m sure you all won’t be disappointed. We want the GP and we are ready for it!
(Thank you to anyone who read this from top to bottom!)