Bahrain is once again making the headlines for hosting the biggest event in racing history - and it is the number one race on the Grand Prix calendar.
While thousands of people are working behind the scenes to make the event a success, a smaller number of locals are openly rallying support for a demonstration to coincide with the race - to call for banning the newly drafted Family Law, which seems to be getting closer to reality by the day.
What is it they are calling for exactly? A race against time and a trip back to the dark ages?
Have we gone totally mad in Bahrain or it is just me getting negative vibes from everything happening back home?
What are the turbaned clerics against exactly? A written codified personal law which guarantees the rights, responsibilities and duties of every member of the family?
Or the fact that the carpet will be swept from under their feet and they will lose the unchallenged control they have over people's life and destinies?
The fact that we are in the year 2006 and there isn't a written law to safeguard family rights is a joke, especially when legislators are busy calling for covering up mannequins and segregating institutes of higher education.
They could have better used their time and our public funds on discussing more worthwhile issues.
Why is a family law such a threat to the clergy and men in general? What are the side effects they are so worried about? How will it upset the family unit in Bahrain?
What will outlining what the duties and rights of the husband, wife and children in line with Islamic Sharia upset the clergymen so much?
And what baffles me is why have so many women gone out on the streets to demonstrate against a law which will finally give them recognition as wives and mothers - and some standing in a court of law, which will have a written code of conduct and not depend entirely on the whims of one man?
Sigh! The future looks bleak indeed if we have reached crossroads where our people are actually rallying behind oppressing women and not giving mothers and children their legal rights, as ordained by the Holy Quran and Islamic Sharia.
*Amira Al Hussaini now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
It is great to see common sense prevailing at last and the Doulos being allowed to sell books!
But I still cannot bring myself to understand the rationale behind the decision to allow the world's largest floating bookshop to dock at Mina Salman, but ban it from selling its books!
It was like chopping someone's hand off and giving him a pen!
What have we got against the written word? Wasn't it the Holy Quran that ordered the believers to read? Wasn't it Prophet Mohammed who instructed his people to seek knowledge?
Why was the Doulos allowed to call on us, if we were to snub it and show the rest of the world our fangs and our "great sensitivity" towards books as if they were the plague?
Why were people who read in Bahrain herded like horses to water, but denied to drink from it? It's not like we are spoilt for choice when it comes to books in Bahrain so that the floating bookshop posed a threat to local businesses.
The sad fact is that if anything, we need more cultural activities and books to encourage people to learn, expand their horizons and fight intolerance and backwardness.
Revising the decision will not eradicate it overnight, but is a step in the right direction.
A quick search on the web exposes a sad reality, not only in Bahrain, but in the rest of the Arab world.
According to the 2002 Arab Human Development Report, Arab countries produced 6,500 books compared to 102,000 in North America and 42,000 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Citing Unesco figures, the report says that book production in Arab countries is only 1.1 per cent of world production, although Arabs make up 5pc of the world's population.
To add insult to injury, Arabs produced no more than 1,945 literary and artistic books, making up 0.8pc of international production.
This is less than a country such as Turkey produces - with a population about a quarter of that of Arab countries, according to the report.
What a shame!
I will never forget how, after every holiday abroad, my bags were searched at Bahrain International Airport - not because they contained contraband items, but because they were full of books that made custom officers jump up and down with excitement!
The fact that the books were in English and contained very little graphics made them ponder on them longer than they would with other items, until I intervened and told them they were for my studies.
And I wasn't lying, for it was from books that I have learned more than I have at school, university and my working experience - all put together.
*Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Once again, a newspaper report draws our attention to some of the injustices women in Bahrain - and much of the Arab and Islamic world - suffer when their rights and dignity are stripped away, for no other reason than that they are women.
I realise I keep repeating myself and I sometimes wonder whether my comments serve a purpose, or whether they all fall on deaf ears.
No woman deserves to suffer the indignity brought to our attention of a 38-year-old Muharraq widow, who is being threatened with becoming homeless overnight.
Whatever the reasons for the feud with her in-laws, she is a mother with children, whose destiny was to lose a husband at such a young age and face the dilemma of not having a roof over her head, where she can live in peace or do whatever she chooses to do with the rest of her life.
Instead of rallying behind her, for her circumstances are cruel, her in-laws are making her life a living hell, with beatings and abuse, not only for her but her daughter as well.
So what if she brought men to fix the pump at home?
Instead of attacking her, the incensed brother-in-law, who happens to live in the same house, should be asking himself why he had not been the one responsible for fixing the broken pump.
For him and his wife to gang up against the helpless family is unacceptable and for the police to turn the grieving widow away, without as much as investigating the case and showing the attackers that there still is some law and order, is appalling.
I am happy a lawyer has intervened in this particular case, but my heart bleeds for all the other women, whose voices and cries don't reach us because they suffer in silence in a society which is adamant in treating women as second or even third-class citizens.
Law-makers, the government and parliament should take a closer look at atrocities being committed against women every day and should ask themselves whether they are doing their jobs properly, when half the country's populated is wronged.
Ownership laws should change in Bahrain if we are to aspire to empower women and give them their rightful place in society.
A home should be jointly owned by the husband and wife, for it is paramount for the stability and security of the family as a whole.
For society to wash its hands of such atrocities being committed against helpless women and girls is ridiculous and for us all to watch injustice committed and keep our lips sealed is shameful.
*Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Nothing warms the heart this winter more than meeting former Bahrain residents and reminiscing about the Bahrain they knew until they left - the land of peace, calm and tranquillity and where the hospitality and friendliness of Bahrainis smothers you to death.
It fills me with pride and joy to know that Bahrain has carved a niche for itself in the hearts of all those who have passed by the Land of Dilmun and experienced life as it was in that magical oasis of peace.
"But what is happening in Bahrain now?" asked a man, who left Bahrain in 1995.
"What do you mean?" I answered, trying to sound as naïve as I possibly could without laughing.
"All the attacks on foreigners," he ventured to explain.
"It isn't that bad, just isolated incidents," I replied, trying to steer the conversation to another topic.
"And all the stabbings and armed robberies," he pressed.
"What stabbings?" I interrupted.
"You know. Locals stabbing expats!" he said.
"No, I don't. And no society is immune to crime."
All of a sudden the friendly Bahrainis have become knife-wielding vandals going about stabbing and attacking expatriates, as a part-time job or a form of recreation, I presume.
As much as such generalisations annoy me, what annoys me more is the fact that workers are being attacked and the incidents are brushed aside as if nothing had happened.
The perpetrators aren't punished simply because those victimised do not have the protection necessary to make them equal in front of the law.
Over the previous two weeks, two attacks were reported in the GDN. One involved a Nepali employee attacked by a Bahraini at Al Muntazah Supermarket in Hoora, for no reason.
The other was about an Indian driver dragged out of his minibus and punched by a local, following an accident in Salmaniya.
Would those two have been attacked had they been locals? Would the man involved in the accident punched the driver had he been a Bahraini, wearing a thobe and driving a Mercedes?
They would have thought twice, just as they should have done if they had any respect for themselves and understood the gravity of their actions and how they are interpreted by people around the world.
Violence is an unacceptable form of dialogue and as such should not be tolerated, if we are to protect the reputation of our country.
Whatever happened to reasoning, in a civilised manner?
* Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
The sheer arrogance of some people baffles me. It really gets to me, especially when it comes from people wearing a uniform.
Wearing a uniform should be a declaration of loyalty to a code of ethics and conduct, be it the white coat worn by doctors, school uniforms enforced upon students, the khaki worn by policemen or the fatigues donned by soldiers.
Each represents the duties and the code of ethics and conduct the person wearing them has sworn to adhere to and which they should live up to, in or out of uniform.
For instance, a doctor is still committed to saving life, with or without his white coat and a policeman is still responsible for upholding the law, in or out of uniform.
This is exactly why I find myself outraged at a Yemeni soldier in Bahrain, who stabbed a Moroccan woman after a scuffle at a hotel, then arrogantly boasted that since he was working at the BDF, he was above the law.
He reportedly stabbed the Moroccan woman several times, after a dispute over money, in a Manama hotel.
"The man was saying how proud he was for being Yemeni and working for the BDF and continued to say how he is not scared for doing what he did because he knows that he will be set free for being a soldier," the hotel's security manager told the GDN.
I am in shock over his remarks and also hurt to see an immigrant worker, who has come to my country to earn a decent living, utter such nonsense and flaunt all the things we really believe in like justice and right and wrong, just because he is wearing a uniform.
Is he really above the law for being a soldier? Will he be set free as he arrogantly boasts?
I certainly hope not and I really do hope that the ministries of Defence and Interior take those allegations seriously, to bring back some respect to the police and army.
Bringing back respect to men in uniform is a national duty and can only come about by more openness and a serious effort to punish those who think they are above the law.
This is imperative, if we are to put our trust in men and women in uniform.
Otherwise, all is lost in a country which upholds the doctrines of democracy and human rights and wants to show its sons and daughters that the law is applied equally to everyone.
* Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 323|
I am so annoyed and disgusted at the sheer ignorance of some parents, who would rather see their children die than allow medical intervention to save their lives.
I couldn't believe my eyes yesterday when I read the GDN's report of the Sitra parents who refused to let doctors operate on their five-year-old despite being diagnosed with appendicitis.
Doctors had to snatch her away from her parents and operate on her without her loving parents' approval, five days after she was first diagnosed and her parents refused to allow the doctors to do their work.
Had this happened in the West, there would have been a major outcry.
The police, social services, child rights groups and every Tom, Dick and Harry would be up in arms, calling for the rescue of this poor child.
But our civil organisations seem to be a tad too busy waging war against Denmark than looking into more pressing issues at home.
I really can't understand what was going on in her parent's head, but their excuse that operations were conducted unnecessarily is so lame, adding insult to injury.
This is a government hospital. Doctors don't get paid per patient. Doctors don't even get paid proper doctor wages, compared to other doctors in the region.
It is also a central hospital, where doctors don't perform surgeries as a recreational activity.
Had it been a private hospital, I would have been more sympathetic towards the parents.
But turning down free surgery that would have left a scar and meant immediate relief to a child in pain? This is really unbelievable.
I just feel like screaming. People like this baffle me and being of a poor background and from a village is no excuse.
A parent is a parent is a parent. How did they bear their daughter's screams and pain for so long without doing the right thing?
Why did they return to the same hospital again, if they knew deep in their heartless hearts that the operation was unnecessary?
How could they have sat back seeing their child in agony for so long, before budging and coming down from their lofty towers and seeking help from the same hospital they refused treatment at earlier? Why didn't they seek a second opinion?
And how do they feel now that their daughter, a young innocent child who had no say on what had fallen upon her, is lying in a critical condition in intensive care at Salmaniya Medical Complex.
Some people would do just anything to get children of their own, while to others it obviously means nothing to lose a child.
Or is it because she is just a girl? Had she been a boy, would the attitude of her parents been any different? Just wondering.
*Amira Al Hussaini now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 321|
It is no wonder that advertisers are shunning Bahrain satellite television and Channel 38, whenever Shura and parliament sessions are being broadcast.
Even though I haven't conducted any research, I am sure they are right in anticipating a low target audience.
Personally, I have never seen anyone rush home, the way they do here when yet another season of American Idol or Survivor starts, to tune into the latest discussions at Shura or parliament.
I can't help but laugh when I hear that MPs have actually spent their precious time drafting a request to have their sessions broadcast in full, which is customary in many countries around the world, where parliaments really debate and reflect society's woes, concerns, needs and worries.
Even then, the average Joe isn't very keen to know what legislators are going on about, but Bahrain's unique experience and the quality of some of our representatives could draw attention and make a few jaws drop and tickle some, should the MPs manage to make their long-cherished dream come true.
Having covered the sessions for years, I understand the concern of advertisers.
Even journalists were caught dozing off and trying hard to suppress their yawns, as one honourable member after the other repeated the same argument, using more or less the same words.
My biggest concern after covering each session was facing the music from the deputy editor, who would cross-examine me as if I had control over what they discussed and not.
"Is this all they had to say ?" he would ask.
"Yes," I would reply, not knowing what else to say to hide my complete disappointment and even embarrassment at the level of some of the discussions.
"Didn't anyone stand up and challenge this?" he would continue.
"No. Not really," I would tell him, fully understanding his exasperation at the childish amateurish exchanges we had to sometimes report.
I used to envy television reporters covering the sessions, because they just had to broadcast what they filmed and not try to decode some of the encrypted messages uttered by the members.
Giving television audiences 90 minutes of sessions, which sometimes exceeded five hours, is enough punishment I suppose, especially when many members echo each other and rarely come up with something new, outrageous or even ridiculous to say.
When this does happen, television officials censor it, protecting the public from some of the fun we journalists used to experience first hand.
A better programme, which would guarantee a full house, would be a two-hour show summing up four years of squabbles, fights and heated exchanges between the members, as well as all the juicy scenes censored by Bahrain Television! It could even be dubbed "Bahrain's Funniest Home Movie."
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 314|
It really is appalling to see what I presumed to be mature professionals resorting to name-calling in their bid to solve a gigantic problem, which touches the lives of the most vulnerable people when they are in genuine need of help.
People, at least most people, only go to the Salmaniya Medical Complex's Accident and Emergency Department, when they are in dire need of professional help.
The last thing they want to think about is whether the doctor is more concerned with their medical condition or with internal politics on the ward.
To think that doctors of all people are squabbling in the open and resorting to name-calling and tarnishing their reputations in public is sickening.
I am all for letting people know about all that concerns them, but to shake their trust in the medical system and the men and women who have dedicated their lives and energy to taking care of them, is really uncalled for.
I also don't understand why the Health Ministry did not intervene earlier and try and solve the issue before it escalated to this level, especially that it has been bubbling for a few months.
Personally, I turned down the opportunity to study medicine because I really didn't think I had the dedication and selflessness to be part of this noble profession.
I guess I was wrong in giving low grades to my character, as time and time again doctors are showing us that they aren't infallible and that they too can attack below the belt, with or without reason.
What is all this talk about some emergency doctors allegedly "bringing Arab women to the ward at night"?
This certainly is a far cry from the days when a doctor refused to treat my sister about three years ago, when a wok full of oil tipped on her, giving her second and third degree burns all over her thighs and legs.
I immediately rushed her to the SMC's emergency, where a bearded male doctor reluctantly glanced at the injury and sent her to the dressing room for further treatment.
He didn't even take a second look at the scalded thighs, which made me mad, especially when the wounds got infected the next day and another doctor said that she should have been hospitalised there and then for a skin graft operation.
My sister still carries the gruesome marks on her thighs, a daily reminder of how a modest doctor could damage a girl's self-esteem.
Now parliament is debating whether to discuss the issue of the squabbling doctors at SMC or not.
Let the doctors solve their own problems and get back to doing their jobs.
Parliament too has a full agenda and issues to discuss, as their days are numbered.
l Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 300|| |
Hurray! With 10 months to go for the parliamentary elections, a woman has already voiced her plans to run the race - against an Islamic fundamentalist, that is. As much as I adore the courage shown by women's rights activist Mariam Al Rowaie, the last election has proved to us without doubt that bearded men fared better than those who prefer a clean shave.
And women? Well, out of the eight women candidates, not all are blessed with facial hair and not a single one won a seat, making me wonder whether we as a Bahraini nation are more prejudiced towards body hair.
While the constitution gives men and women equal political rights, society has seriously undermined the democratic reforms by unilaterally deciding that only men get the votes and the right to join the legislative branch of governance.
It has automatically alienated half of society, leaving issues of concern to women and families away from the debating floor.
Yes, some people may argue that women have made some hard-won gains, thanks to the direct intervention of parliament.
We now have veiled women driving cars on our roads and this was only possible because the issue was raised and rubber-stamped by the 40-man strong parliament.
Too bad, women cannot go to women-only classes at Bahrain University, female patients cannot be seen by women doctors only and girls cannot shop in women-only malls.
But there is always hope that these issues can still be debated and approved by parliament, if hardliners get their way again and the silent majority continues in its hibernation.
If you want a blunt opinion, the truth is that parliament does not reflect society and doesn't give outsiders or even Bahrainis for that matter a true picture of the real Bahrain.
But the fact also remains that it is our own doing. Not enough women stood for the last elections for many reasons - the very same reasons why some competent men shied away from ridiculing themselves and standing for an election they knew before hand they would not win.
If you are a believer in the theory of probability, then you know as much as I do, that if enough women join the race, there are likely to be some who will make it to the finish line. Let's see how many women play their cards right this year.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 288|
What a way to usher in the New Year. For one Bahraini family, the year 2005 has been blackened forever in their memories.
I don't know the full story, but what I know from newspaper reports is that a 16-year-old boy was handed over to the police by his own father for raping his 13-year-old brother and sister, 14, on the same day.
According to sources, it is one of the worst incest-rape cases police have ever had to deal with.
And it should be, for the very son who was entrusted with caring for his siblings, while his parents were outside the house, turned out to be the person who should have been least trusted - yet another one of life's shocking ironies.
I don't know what was going on in this young man's head, but to brutally attack his younger brother and sister and rob them of their innocence and shock an entire society in the process, is something I cannot comprehend.
What gave this 16-year-old monster the right to ruin the lives of both his brother and sister and bring shame and heartbreak to his parents and society?
Did he think his siblings would stomach the pain and humiliation?
Did he think his parents would cover up his criminal act?
Did he really believe his gruesome act would go undetected and unpunished?
Who is to blame for such a tragedy?
Should we blame it on his upbringing, or point the finger at society?
Do we blame our clergymen, who have become too involved in politics and have put the serious job of shaping the characters of youngsters on the back burner? Should we blame an education system which has failed to teach young people - especially boys - the simple principle of respect?
I am so disgusted by this sheer act of violence against everything all the decent people out there hold dear, that they are working hard day in, day out for - a dignified and better tomorrow for each and every Bahraini.
I am extremely annoyed that this act has come to shame our society at such a critical time, at the end of an already bumpy year.
Even the pessimist in me did not expect it to plummet to this level. Even I was looking forward to a fresh start for the year ahead. I hope this menace, though he may be only 16, rots in jail for a long time to come.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 286|
Can someone, anyone, explain to me why plans for a shelter for battered women are still on the shelf when mothers, wives and daughters are still being abused by husbands and fathers, even as I write?
I don't buy the excuse from the Social Development Ministry - which is headed by a woman minister - that a permit is being denied because the group (Al Sharaka Amnesty International) which has applied for it is not registered with the ministry.
I think there are more sinister forces out there who do not want to see women given a choice, a safe haven to turn to when life becomes too miserable to bear and the walls of a horror house they are forced to live within become too suffocating.
In our society, a woman has no other place than her father's or her husband's house - or her grave.
Any woman living outside the parental or marital home is seen as a source of shame and an object of suspicion.
Women are continuously monitored, least they decide to take charge of their own affairs and bend some already twisted rules.
It is sad that in a country which has gone a long way to give women equal rights, including free access to education and the right to vote or stand in parliamentary or municipal elections, women still lack so much when it comes to protection from domestic abuse within their own homes.
It is the norm for families and friends not to get involved in family disputes, even when they turn violent - even when bones are broken and spirits are crushed.
With family and friends turning away and refusing to interfere, the problem is compounded by the lack of a written family law and penalties to punish those involved in domestic abuse, though parliament has at last taken up the cause.
Even doctors say they can't do much when women are admitted to hospital with broken bones and bruises, when the women themselves are too afraid to press charges because they know it won't get them anywhere and may bring them more trouble when they go back to the hell called home.
What is better, a temporary shelter for abused women, which gives them a chance to clear their heads and seek a permanent solution to their suffering away from threats, or continued abuse simply because they have nowhere to turn for protection?
The choice is simple and is obviously in the hands of the Social Development Ministry, which should come up with a solution matter quickly, since family affairs come its umbrella.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 279|
Finally, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. According to Works and Housing Minister Fahmi Al Jowder, 35 per cent of the 1,175 families who will benefit from housing loans worth BD31 million are headed by women.
This is a sizeable proportion, considering that traditionally a woman cannot be seen to live on her own in our society.
Should her marriage fail or her husband die, God forbid, she should automatically return to her parental home.
Shelter is one of the fundamental human rights in the Human Rights Charter, a right many women were denied in the past, simply because they were women.
The fact that they are mothers, with children, parents and other relatives to care for, meant nothing to many decision-makers who believed that a Utopia existed where all men were responsible and provided for their families and ensured that there was a shelter over their heads.
The fact that there are single women out there who are not destined to be married and who have no homes of their own, did not make a difference.
When marriages turn sour, women and their children are usually the first and only victims, with some cruel men actually throwing their families on the street.
With archaic property and housing laws which stipulated that government homes must be in the name of the male head of the family, some women found themselves on the streets with their children.
I have seen with my own eyes what has happened to women turned away from their families' homes and told to fend for themselves, in a world which is not and has never been charitable to divorced and widowed women.
I know of a woman who has been moving apartments every few months for at least 18 years, because every time she applied to the Housing Ministry for a home, her application was turned down because she was not married!
I am delighted to see that women are finally being treated with a little bit of justice and that they will be given nearly a third of housing loans approved by the government.
This will give those women and their children safety, security and peace of mind.
It will go a long way towards ensuring that justice, government support, human rights, independence and dignity are not restricted to men alone.
Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 258|
Excuse my ignorance but I really don't understand all the fuss over the personal status law. Why is it taking this long to pass a law which is aimed at safeguarding the cornerstone of society, the family unit, stipulating the rights and responsibilities of every member of the family (be it man, woman or child)?
What is wrong with unifying a code of conduct which helps deal with domestic issues in a civilised and organised manner?
Why are some people so opposed to the idea of giving men, women and children their social, legal and religious rights in the form of a written law, which could give people an idea of what their rights and responsibilities are - even if it is only on paper?
We all agree that there are problems in some homes which cannot be solved amicably and which should be taken to another level and we all know how long it takes for our courts to process cases, from petty thefts to gruesome murders.
Divorce, abuse and custody battles take their toll on family life and should be resolved in a systematic manner - not according to the whims of certain individuals.
Why are clergymen so against having a unified written family law in a country like Bahrain, where the population doesn't exceed 700,000 and where the majority of people are Muslim?
And why is the government, which had no reservations in passing the controversial societies and demonstrations and public gathering laws, playing the waiting game and allowing this issue to be blown out of proportion?
It is in the interest of all parties to ensure that families are stable and that people know what their rights and obligations are within the family unit.
I realise the issue isn't as simple as I make it sound. I also understand that there are a few subtle differences in the way clergymen interpret family law in Islam.
But what I can't accept is how can a problem, which has remained unsolved for so long, be blown out of proportion when its declared purpose is to ensure the rights of men, women and children in a state of law.
To all those squabbling factions out there, stop fretting and get down to work. The more time wasted on issuing a law of this magnitude, the more women, children and even men will suffer. Injustice isn't a good feeling to grow up with, not when the next generation is at its receiving end.
Let's set our differences aside and try and settle scores on bigger issues - issues which don't involve breaking homes, slamming of doors and social stigma and scars that the victims of divorce and domestic abuse have to cope with for the rest of their lives.
I am delighted that someone out there has finally woken up to the fact that what our labour market seriously lacks is WORK ETHICS.
It doesn't matter how many more millions - or even billions of dinars - we pump into training and rehabilitating our 20,000 unemployed people for jobs on the market if we don't focus on infusing this into those programmes.
The Labour Ministry has said that it will spend at least BD30 million on training Bahrainis next year and an undisclosed "lesser" amount the following year.
So far so good, because if we really want to find a solution to this mounting problem, which could grow out of proportion and cause chaos overnight, we really need to spend money.
But wasn't it only in recent history that BD25m was siphoned off for what was supposed to have been the magical solution for our unemployment problems?
The deal was that the Labour Ministry would be restructured, the unemployed trained for the jobs market and we would live happily ever after.
Whatever happened to our BD25m? I know this isn't the issue and I don't want to probe too deeply. What concerns me today is how much more do we need to spend to teach people that work is an essential part of life, that people work to live and live to work and that without something meaningful to do, a person's life is worthless?
How many more strategies do we need to draw up to teach people to wake up early, show up at work on time, take fewer days off sick and spend their hours at work doing what they are supposed to be doing - working, perhaps?
It doesn't matter if it's your first job or you have a PhD in the field you are working in; it means nothing if you have been merely keeping that chair warm for 30 years; and no one cares if you are the only one in your specialisation to have ever set foot in Bahrain.
What really matters is how professional you are in doing your job; how dedicated you are in serving your community; and how much you respect yourself and your job.
Introducing work ethics into training programmes is a sound policy, which I hope would be followed through to the end.
Let's start with the work ethics of those implementing training programmes. Their mission should be to serve Bahrain and only Bahrain. There should be no hidden agendas, no favouritism and no abusing the system for personal gain!
I hope I have made myself clear. Now get back to work!
TWO policemen are behind bars for bribery. They were caught in an undercover operation following a tip-off from a man who claimed that they had promised him a job as a policeman in exchange for money.
On the one hand, I am over the moon that the Interior Ministry has provided us with this scoop. We didn't ask them for the information. We had no inside knowledge. They supplied it voluntarily!
I don't know if this is a one-off, or whether we will get to hear about more horror stories from their closed quarters in this era of open speech and democracy.
I don't even know whether we will be given access to information and be able to tell our readers what the fate of those who abused their responsibilities towards their profession and their nation would be.
On the other hand, I am scared. Scared because we put our trust in our police force and the last thing we want to hear is that some are corrupt, take bribes and abuse the very principles of the system they are being paid to uphold.
I realise that not all people are the same. I understand that if one policeman is corrupt, it doesn't mean that all policemen are. But I also know that if there is one rotten apple in the barrel, we need to empty it, and weed all the bad ones out before we end up with a stinky mess.
While I applaud the Interior Ministry for having the courage to make this announcement in black and white, telling the whole world that it is cleaning up its own backyard, I would want to see more openness.
By this I mean, I would want them to tell us what is going to happen to those who have abused the trust placed in them.
Like any other citizen, I want to know what the punishment of those who have let the system down would be.
For it would really be a shame to announce that we do have corrupt policemen and then do nothing to show what was done to them to serve as a deterrent to others and build back some trust the system urgently needs.
It's back to school again. Tell-tale signs are all over the roads in terms of cars packed with bouncing children; parents driving with their offspring hanging out of the windows; responsible parents driving with them on the front seat and even more responsible parents zig-zagging through traffic at breakneck speeds - without their seatbelts.
And we all know how annoying it is to drive along congested streets every day.
With the road planners we have in this country, I am surprised anyone gets anywhere he wants on time.
To get from Isa Town to Manama, for instance, one has to set off a good 45 minutes in advance to reach one's destination in time.
But this isn't what annoys me the most in bottlenecks. What really rattles me is the fact that I can see other drivers up close and sometimes personal.
Have you noticed how many have given up wearing seat-belts? Do the morons know that those car "accessories" are there for their protection and aren't decorative ornaments.
I was unlucky enough to be stopped by a policeman at the roundabout. Since I was the first car, I had a bird's eye view of all those driving past me. Out of the 50 plus drivers who drove past, only SIX were wearing their seatbelts.
This made me cringe. This is 12 per cent of the drivers I studied in a little over three minutes. And the policeman waving at them to move, didn't even wink. I guess he has given up.
Why am I annoyed? I wear my seatbelt and ensure that everyone who rides with me is safely fastened up in his seat.
But there is a national responsibility and a role each one of us has to play to ensure that people are aware of the dangers such reckless behaviour causes.
The police should also be tough and impose strict laws to force those careless drivers to buckle up.
If they aren't concerned for their own safety and that of their passengers, then I am sure they wouldn't mind parting with their hard-earned cash for fines.
Fine them please and fill up the Traffic Directorate's coffers. The money could go towards a fund to purchase artificial limbs for those maimed in accidents and pay bonuses to traffic policemen to encourage them to fine more drivers who have made it a hobby to break the law.
Sunni, Shia, Holi, Arabi, Bahrani, Hasawi and Ajami, to name a few, aren't the names of local exotic dishes you can find in traditional restaurants.
They are what we call each other to describe the ethnic and religious background we come from in our small Bahraini society. And I am using the word small on purpose, to belittle the sickening state of mind many have plummeted to in this age of modernity, reform and national reconciliation.
I find this name-calling business repulsive to say the least. It makes my blood boil because I can't find a reason why such a small society should be torn up and shredded by so many differences and allegiances, when the suffering is one; the happiness is one; and the destiny is one.
At the end of the day, we are all Bahrainis - the good and the bad; the 'original' and the 'not so original'; the ones from a pure Arab descent and the ones whose ancestors came from Iran or wherever; and those who claim to be have lived the land from time immemorial, those who came to Bahrain 200 years ago and those who were granted Bahraini nationality yesterday.
I personally am not ashamed of my background - and like many Bahrainis have a mosaic of traditions, cultures, cuisines and arts to enjoy and appreciate.
In my family alone, we have the Baharna (Shia Bahrainis) and the Arabs (Sunni Bahrainis) and the Ajams (Bahrainis of Persian descent), all living under one roof, eating the same food and laughing at the same jokes.
It isn't heaven on earth all the time as sometimes individuals may become childish and pick on someone else's accent, pronounce a word wrongly or do something which is culturally not acceptable from the collage of civilisation we have picked things from as we progressed.
But there is never mayhem, name-calling and back-stabbing because of one's ethnic and religious background. And no one is ever accused of treason against the state because he prays at this time and breaks his fast at that.
Like our ethnic background, we have inherited our religions and sects. Whether it is the wrong or the right type, is between us and Allah and not for Man to judge.
Bahrainis have lived together, embracing people of all kinds and faiths, and treating them equally over generations.
And now is not the time to create rifts for no other reason than to satisfy the whims of a few children who think that politics is a game they can try their hands at.
To those I say: Grow up and don't meddle in things which could backfire on you and society. This is not the way to show appreciation of one's homeland!
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Here's a small lesson in mathematics and a big lesson in life. There is no need to put your thinking caps on because I will take through the problem step-by-step.
Apparently, resident doctors working at the main government hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex, are being paid BD800 a month for putting up with workloads of up to 120 hours a week.
This means that they work for a phenomenal 480 hours a month on an average - for peanuts.
I am saying peanuts because if you divide BD800 by 480, the result is BD1.600 per hour - or a packet of those salted roasted peanuts. In comparison, the person who washes your car makes BD1 for roughly 20 minutes of work and a part-time houseboy may earn BD1 an hour for dusting the house and watering the garden.
People look at to doctors wherever they go and say: "Wow ! It must be great being a doctor!"
Please don't get me wrong, for those I know in the profession - my husband included - tell me it is great being a doctor.
I am saying this not because it is a noble profession, but because many of those selfless people are doing it because they believe in the cause and are putting their lives on the line to spend more time with patients and ease their pain.
What is not great about being a doctor is the meagre pay cheque at the end of the month, for no-one can ever be satisfied with not getting what he is worth.
Discussing the plight of the over-worked and under-paid doctors is timely today, when you consider the demands being made by the jobless, along with the calls for social aid for those earning less than BD300 a month.
Everyone deserves to live a decent life. Everyone deserves an opportunity to improve his/her standard of living, but to do that, they have to be equipped with the essential skills necessary to ensure a place in the job market.
If qualified doctors are putting up with a demeaning situation and accepting it with a pinch of salt, while working in silence to improve their situation and redress the balance, why are others making so much noise?
Whoever said empty vessels make the most noise was right on the mark when it comes to the current situation in Bahrain.
Instead of dealing with the jobless protests with batons and teargas, it would be ideal to sit those people down and see exactly what they want.
A detailed study of their experience, education, training and work ethics would call their bluff.
For people who want to work are more systematic, organised and patient while working towards a long-term solution.
By Amira Al Hussaini
Would you do a 90 to 120 hour week for between BD600 to BD800 a month?
I know I wouldn’t, especially if my job description sets a normal working week of 37 hours and the rest is unpaid overtime.
But for hundreds of resident doctors in Bahrain, this is a fact of life.
Imagine that’s all you are worth slogging through school for 12 years, finishing the top of your class; six to seven years of intensive study at university and a year of training at Salmaniya Medical Complex for NO PAY.
Add to this five years of being rotated from one department to another, working 36 hour shifts with no sleep or time for a decent meal and seeing up to 50 patients a day – all for a pay cheque of a maximum BD800 a month.
There is only one word to describe a situation like that - demeaning.
To add insult to injury, those doctors are not even registered as medical doctors at the Civil Service Bureau and are treated as other Health Ministry employees.
There isn’t a cadre for them, there are no hazard allowances, there is no work insurance and because of the enormous workload, many don’t even get a thank you from many of their disgruntled patients.
To rub salt into an open wound, doctors in Bahrain are actually being paid only a third of what their counterparts in other GCC countries get !
I am happy to see that the Bahrain Medical Society (BMS) is finally taking a serious interest in the situation of doctors in the country, instead of paying lip-service to their plight.
Comments made by BMS president Dr Abdulla Al Ajmi is yesterday’s GDN are encouraging and should be followed through to the end.
Although it would not redress the balance, a 30 per cent increase in salaries would be a step in the right direction.
All the doctors I know have entered the profession with one goal, to serve their nation and their people and ease the pain of patients in their hour of need.
According to Dr Al Ajmi, at least 25 consultants and other doctors have already left Bahrain looking for a better future elsewhere.
It would really be a shame to lose more, especially in a country which counts its own people as its only real asset.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 114|
By Amira Al Hussaini
I have always thought that something is better than nothing ... but perhaps I was mistaken.
The hundreds of Bahraini boys and girls who are shunning jobs in the hotel sector are obviously seeing something I fail to comprehend.
For them, it is much better to sit at home, get bored, create trouble in their otherwise harmonious households and live off their parents, older brothers or old rich uncles, than wake up in the morning and go to work - a thing people the world over do without a second thought.
Those youngsters are giving up the opportunity to embark on careers which could open a whole new world for them, just because they don't want to work.
We are not talking about jobs for people with masters and PhD degrees here. I am referring to the jobs available in hotels, resorts and restaurants.
These are jobs suitable for school dropouts, who have made the wrong choices in life and who could now be rehabilitated and trained at the expense of others, to ensure that they do something useful with their lives which are going to waste anyway.
But they will not have that, for it really is a hassle to wake up at the crack of dawn and go to work for BD200, especially when you have had an easy ride through school, refused to do your homework, had total disrespect for your teachers and had zero aspirations to go to university and do something useful for yourself and society.
Statistics released by the Specific Council for Training in Hotel and Catering in yesterday's GDN show that out of the nearly BD300,000 allocated for training Bahrainis in the hotel industry last year, only BD163,000 was utilised.
To add insult to injury, in a country where the unemployment figure looms around 20,000, jobless people are actually snubbing opportunities offered to them on a silver platter.
No matter what excuse they give for their reluctance to work in hotels (low salaries, problems with transportation, working shifts, mixing with expatriates, etc), the real reason is that they don't want to work.
Jobs offered in hotels are varied, ranging from reception and office jobs to those in housekeeping and the kitchen and there really is no shame in working for a living.
I fully realise that there are miraculous employment initiatives and labour reforms in the offing, but the truth is that if those people are not ready to get out of their beds and start somewhere, all these efforts are going to waste.
Hopefully, it isn't too late and youngsters will realise that they do have a choice and that their lives and futures are really what they make of them.
Vol XXVIII NO. 97 Saturday 25th June 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
It is a time of national celebration as thousands of graduates take a bow, with girls outsmarting boys once again in the secondary school examinations and showing the world the true mettle of Bahraini women. This year, 375 girls scored over 95 per cent, compared to 94 boys, showing that girls are at least four times better than the 'superior' male sub-species.
You can't imagine the size of the smile on my face when the results were announced.
They have even managed to bring tears to my eyes - for I am both happy and sad that more girls are realising the importance of being a step ahead of boys, who take a lot for granted in this society just because of their gender.
To be fair though, almost twice as many girls sat the exams - 3,990 girls compared to 2,178 boys - and although the reason for this beats me, it still makes me feel uneasy.
Without going deep into the figures, which I am not in a position to decode, they make me shudder every time I wonder that if there are really more smart girls and even fewer less-than-average boys around, what will the Bahrain of tomorrow be like?
Will we have less than average bozos bossing smarter women around? Will women accept a situation like this? And because there are fewer boys than girls, will girls accept sharing their better halves with other women?
The truth is, we don't have to look into the future to answer those questions.
A look at our present gives us the picture, for less-than-average bozos are already bossing smarter women around.
Women are accepting the situation because there isn't a legal framework nor a family law to protect them from abuse.
And, like it or not, smart women are forced to share the same men because they feel that such a rare species as "acceptable" men are getting fewer and harder to find by the day.
I really don't want to dampen the spirit of the celebrations in almost every home I know of, with young bright women making a mark and planning for a future where they know they should be superior.
I don't want to sound like Dr Doom, but the truth is that those figures mean nothing in a society still shackled by age-old traditions,which discriminate against girls just because they are smarter and more dedicated to their chores.
Unless things change drastically over the next few years and legislation is imposed from above to protect women's and family rights, I am afraid all our collective efforts to improve our lot as women and ensure that we serve our families and society in a befitting manner, will go to waste.
Vol XXVIII NO. 83 Saturday 11 June 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
Why is it that we have to keep up with the Jones' in everything we do?
Can someone explain to me why Bahrain is a nation in debt, with BD1 billion outstanding in personal bank loans?
The question here is how much of this money is the size of the actual debt and how much is interest incurred by unscrupulous banks, who try to sell poor people castles in the clouds?
Also, how much of this money actually went on necessities and how much more was spent on luxuries, from cars to expensive, sprawling homes, honeymoons and holidays to exotic locations, lavish weddings and education and treatment abroad?
I personally hang up on salesmen who call asking me if I want yet another credit card, or up to 20 times my salary in personal loans, with no questions asked.
I don't need to even think about it because I know that I don't want to get sucked into a vicious circle which will tighten a noose around my neck and make me regret every fil I borrowed, once the creditors come knocking on my door.
If I regret anything, it may be the rude way I attack those salesmen, who are probably working to pay off loans themselves.
People have the right to dream and fulfil their aspirations, but taking loans to make those dreams come true is like sinking into an abyss.
I know people who are scraping the floor to make ends meet and to pay those parasitical banks their loans, topped by an interest very close to the amount they borrowed, just because they wanted to show off with a flashy car and enjoy the perks of a first-class holiday.
My heart breaks every time I see a young couple borrowing money to start their lives and I wonder who really is behind this debt culture, which is reducing people to slaves, who work and toil all day just to pay off ridiculous interest rates.
I know that waiting to achieve a dream is difficult and not many people have patience, especially when advertisements for personal loans are so tempting and are now seen on billboards in the streets.
They even intrude into your privacy in the form of SMS messages on your mobile, whetting your appetite and making you drool for what you can have instantly in exchange for a cut of your income forever after.
Loans may be an easy solution for a sticky problem which is available over the counter without the need for a prescription.
But they are a hard pill to swallow and will impose dire consequences on a young nation, which will be shackled for years paying the price of what they enjoyed for only a few hours, days or months at the most.
Vol XXVIII NO. 51 Tuesday 10 May 2005
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
"Amira, hasn't the GDN gone a bit overboard with stories about pimps, brothels and general prostitution?"
This is an SMS message I got on my mobile from a friend the other day.
In addition to being a dear friend, the sender is also a distinguished businessman and someone whose opinions I value and take to heart.
Instead of answering him in person, I chose to respond to it here, as I am fully aware that many readers find such stories disturbing.
As a Bahraini, I am shocked every time we hear about such incidents, even though they have become recurrent themes.
It hurts every time I hear about yet another woman being terrorised by thugs or a young boy or girl's innocence smeared by some human monster who thinks he can get away with his horrible act just because nobody is watching.
I am sorry we cannot change reality and the reality is that such things occur - even in our close-knit Muslim society.
Whether we like it or not, there are children being sexually abused, women raped and young boys sodomised and keeping quiet about it will not solve the problem overnight.
The latest story we carried in the GDN is about a muezzin, the very man who calls for prayer, who made sexual advances to a nine-year-old Bahraini boy at a Hamad Town mosque.
The case was heard in court and the judge jailed the 24-year-old muezzin for two years as a punishment for his hideous crime.
Did the GDN make up this story?
The answer is NO. We did not fabricate this story. In fact, it is not the first time that such a thing has happened in a place of worship and I am sad to say that it may not be the last time because there are hypocrites everywhere - even in mosques, churches, temples and government offices.
Instead of asking a newspaper to cover up on corruption in society, let's face reality and learn how to deal with it.
Maybe then we can come up with solutions and try and educate people about their rights and their responsibilities.
Covering up horror stories happening behind closed doors is not the solution. Sticking our heads in the sand won't take us anywhere and will definitely not take such problems away.
Not reporting those stories in newspapers will not mean that such ugly crimes are not happening in Bahrain.
Instead of blaming the GDN for carrying such stories, let's take a serious look at our society and see what it is that those perverts find sexually exciting in little girls and boys who should be left alone playing with their toys rather than be subjected to such life-damaging experiences.
Vol XXVIII NO. 50 Monday 9 May 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
I would like to applaud Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa for having the courage to call a spade a spade.
In an unprecedented move, he has called for a full and thorough investigation of misconduct and criminal activity at the General Directorate of Traffic.
Now the allegations are not the usual ones we hear about, like someone having influence over someone else to change traffic accident reports, or cancel violations before they are entered into the computer system, or even to pass someone who should have failed the driving test.
No, they are much more calculated crimes, involving heavyweights with the influence and means to abuse their power and look like the innocent flower, while they are the serpents under it.
Shaikh Rashid has ordered a probe to investigate a string of car thefts, involving traffic officials and other influential people.
They have allegedly created a web to steal cars, change their number plates and chassis numbers in traffic records, register them in the names of foreigners who are living here or have left Bahrain and then resell them in the market!
Wow! That's a cracking plan - a great one had it been masterminded by the Mafia and not by the very people employed to safeguard people's rights and protect them from such criminal activities.
It is the fact that those people were entrusted with the responsibility to protect law and order that hurts most.
Who are we to turn to next time our car vanishes from outside our home? You see, not everyone is privileged enough to have a garage with a top-of-the-range security system.
Personally, I wasn't the least bit surprised when I heard about the scandal.
What has surprised me is that the Interior Ministry has actually announced it and is taking steps to stamp such practices out once and for all.
This is a step in the correct direction and corruption should be exposed to set an example for others that such unscrupulous behaviour will not be tolerated in our new democracy.
Just as the crime was announced in public, I hope that the results of the probe will also see light in order to bring respect to a ministry whose main job is to protect law and order.
There will always be certain individuals who are corrupt and who will abuse their positions no matter where you place them, just as there are people who respect themselves, their jobs and their uniforms.
I hope that the purge against corruption at the Traffic Directorate will be extended to cover other directorates at the Interior Ministry which have not moved with the times and are not ready to embrace the doctrines of this new era!
I also wish other officials would show such resolve to stamp out corruption in their ministries.
Vol XXVIII NO. 44 Tuesday 3 May 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
I had promised myself not to lash out at MPs again too soon ... but they are not making it easy!
For our honourable MPs are now working towards getting yet another concert banned.
After fulfilling all their promises to the nation, MPs from Al Asala and Al Menbar blocs are putting up yet another fight to halt Star Academy's concert, scheduled to be held in Bahrain later this month.
Just like the infamous Nancy Ajram concert (staged on October 23, 2003), which was given the go ahead by the Information Ministry, organisers of the May 19 show say they also have official approval.
However, our MPs, who have been elected to uphold laws, seem bent on breaking them every step of the way when it comes to any type of entertainment - because they have appointed themselves the nation's vice squad.
After all, Bahrainis cannot behave themselves and need MPs to tell them right from wrong.
Whether we agree with the concert, or its content, or whether we believe it poses a moral threat, the fact is that its organisers have got official approval to go ahead.
This means that in a country with dwindling resources, someone has sat back and thought of a money-making scheme, to bring in revenue in a legitimate way, in line with all the regulations.
But this is not to be.
I am worried that this concert will take the same path as the Nancy Ajram concert and again make my country the butt of jokes in the region and further afield.
In my opinion, calls to ban the Ajram concert brought more harm to Bahrain's reputation and its security than allowing it to simply go ahead.
People are still talking about the concert and the troubles a group of anarchists, who thought they could stop it, caused.
Had the concert gone ahead without trouble, no one would be mentioning it again.
I really don't see what a concert can do to create moral decay in a country where, according to official statistics, almost 26 per cent of people aged 15 to 30 years, have experimented with illegal drugs!
Instead of wasting public resources discussing petty issues, it is high time our honourable MPs came up with better ways to attack this cancer which is slowly eating up our flesh and destroying our only asset - our youth.
Vol XXVII NO. 219 Monday 25 October 2004
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Why am I not surprised at all that the majority of those against having a written family law to protect the rights of women and children are men?
According to a study commissioned by the Supreme Council for Women and conducted by the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research, 64.38 per cent of those who turned down the proposal to have a family law were men.
The sticky question here is: WHY?
Why does the looming family law seem to be a threat to them? Is it because it may, in a way, curtail the unlimited freedom they have on the fate of children and women who fall under their wing? Would it perhaps give those women and children rights and privileges, which will be protected by law and give law-makers the right to intervene and make decisions in 'family affairs'.
Would it maybe, as the study suggests, curb some of the malpractices against women and children, practised mostly by men who feel that their only way of proving their manhood is through terrorising their helpless families?
I am also equally surprised that there were women against the proposal to draft the law. Once again, why? Why are women their own enemies?
I don't see a single reason why women would object to having a law, any law, which may draw a line under what they are entitled to, what their rights are and what their duties and obligations should be.
Over the centuries, I feel women have struggled mostly because of man-made laws which are totally devoid of the message of equality and humanity found in Divine Law. Men made their own rules and interpreted religious doctrines to suit their own selfish needs. They have continued to oppress women and in turn their entire families, even in this modern day and age.
There should be a law to define relations within the family for each and every single person, man or woman, to know what is expected of them and what they would get in return.
It is a shame that the time has come for everything to be set in black and white, even within a family. One would think people get married and start families for peace, stability and tranquillity, for achieving a sense of fulfilment and bringing unlimited joy to their own lives and that of people around them and not the contrary.
Vol XXVII NO. 155 Sunday 22 August 2004
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Figures speak volumes... or so they say. The fact that Bahrain University has accepted 2,039 girls and just 971 boys only for the new academic year makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I am wrong and it was a good idea to segregate our national institution of higher education after all.
In fact, it seems to be a matter of time before this futuristic vision sees light.
Imagine a university full of smart girls only. Never mind that they will all graduate one day and work in 'mixed' environments with men who couldn't make it to university because their grades were too low.
At least then girls will be able to compete against ambitious girls of their stature, who have nothing else on their mind other than to graduate with top grades, and then marry their knights in shining armour.
Now that is a very noble cause. Every girl, no matter how smart she is and at least each and every girl I know, has only one thing on her mind - and that is to ultimately get married one day.
If the mothers of our future generations are graduates from a women-only university with tip-top grades, then there is no harm in that, is there?
They will all be educated in an environment which protects them from men and shelters them from some of the perverse reactions, such as - God forbid - friendship and admiration, they might share with members of the opposite sex.
The fact those girls can focus on their studies, earn high grades and beat all the other boys to places at the university, while at the same time being totally obsessed with the idea of marriage, is amazing to say the least.
That they can work and fantasise at the same time shows that they are a gender to reckon with and show some admiration to, even if they are only girls, who will end up being mothers and grandmothers one day.
I have met girls of all ages and backgrounds and no matter how smart they are and how high their grades at high school and university were, conversations with them always end up with discussions of how their lavish wedding ceremonies would be and of their choice of future husbands.
This is only natural and for as long as there are women and men, people will continue to fall in love, get married and perhaps even have sex - to keep the human race going.
Now this is a frightening thought. How can we trust girls with such morbid thoughts? A woman thinking of marriage, sex and children? It must be the end of the world, for such 'feelings' are reserved for men only.
Thank God, boys are not faring so well at high school and hopefully one day the number of boys accepted at Bahrain University will drop so low that it will not be feasible to have a co-ed university anymore.
I feel that it is a natural process and one which could see light soon. Then our girls will grow up pure and chaste in a women-only environment.
Until then, I hope a smart man comes up with a potion which inhibits girls from thinking the way they do because it would be really dangerous then to have so many educated women with pent-up emotions and dreams and nowhere to realise them, because it has become unnatural for them to aspire to do what God has created them for.
Vol XXVII NO. 115 Tuesday 13 July 2004
By Amira Al Hussaini
The clock is running backwards. Bahrain, the Garden of Eden, will finally become the land of peace and tranquillity it always was. The land of the great Dilmun civilisation, where the crows don't croak and people live in eternal bliss.
There will be no vice, no prostitution, no daylight bank robberies, no drug peddling, smuggling or sniffing, no rape, no incest, no adulterous wives and husbands and no cold-blooded murders and stabbings.
In this utopia, policed by the Mullas, there will be no bribery and no one above the law (except the Mullas themselves).
More important, there will be no women in public office, no women in universities, no women in schools, no women on television, no women on the radio, no women on the street, no women. Full stop.
Instead, there will be men and boys. Little boys, who will have more authority and respect than any woman, just because of their gender.
The righteous will take the rule in their hands and go about bullying ordinary people, mostly women and expatriates, who are down-trodden and lack many of their basic civil rights anyway.
A religious police in Bahrain? What are we talking about exactly? Are those pushing for the idea telling Bahraini authorities that they have failed to uphold security and justice and that a bunch of bearded men can now tell people how to behave, what to wear, when to go to pray, where to go and what to do in their spare time?
Where is this taking us to? Extremist parliamentarians have already managed to alienate many real people from the real Bahrain and what real Bahrainis want. They have already told the world that Bahrain is not looking forward to a brighter tomorrow and that investors are better to take their money elsewhere.
Among their few triumphs have been blocking Big Brother, allowing veiled women to drive and squabbling amongst themselves on who got the biggest share of the limelight in the media.
To all those who want to take us back to the Stone Age, the message is loud and clear. We, the real Bahrainis, want to move forward with the times. We, the real Bahrainis, are the future generation and want to have a better Bahrain for our children. We, the real Bahrainis, are proud that our mothers drove cars, travelled to Europe, can speak English, are working and have brought us up with the freedom of choice. We, the real Bahrainis, have also learned to adapt with this freedom and have never let our families or country down. We too insist on handing this freedom of choice to our children. Parents, society and schools taught us right from wrong and the rest was up to us.
Most of us grew up in homes where there are people with religious inclinations and those with none at all. We all considered ourselves Muslim because it is Allah who judges us on the Last Day of Judgment and not men who have decided to terrorise people and tell them they are implementing Allah's law. We all celebrate Ramadan, Eid and Muharram, and all the religious occasions which fall in between, together as one big family - even those of us who don't wake up early enough for the dawn prayers.
Religion is a personal choice and not that instilled in others through terror and the rule of force. It comes from within and for the virtuous, it remains within. It is not something to show off and it is not a reason to show spite towards others, simply because they have not yet seen the'light.'
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Published: 17 May 2004
It really is a national disgrace that an MP can literally walk away from serious criminal charges - thanks to a law which grants him immunity.
How long will this farce go on? What do we tell all those women out there about democracy and upholding the civil rights of individuals, when women cannot speak up about being harassed by men in power.
A Syrian woman has been wronged - just because she did not have the backing of the law. Perhaps, if it was another woman with a social standing and the backing of an influential family, the case may have differed.
Her case against an MP, accused of pestering her for sex and making lewd suggestions was thrown out of the Lower Criminal Court - because he has immunity.
Do you know how difficult it is for a woman - any woman - to stand up for her rights in this society, which is controlled by men who indulge in their own petty, selfish, embarrassing pleasures?
I am sure that this woman thought a million times before speaking to anyone about the harassment she has allegedly endured from this respectable MP. She then had to go through the humiliation of explaining to one man after the other about how he fondled himself in front of her. She had to re-tell the story and re-live the horror and shame over and over again.
When the case went to court, she finally took a breath of relief. Justice will be seen to be done at last. But she sure was wrong.
Let's just look at the hundreds of cases in court involving women for a proper definition of the word justice.
Back to our respectable MP. How could a 47-year-old man be elected to public office despite being accused of fondling himself in front of a woman, repeatedly pestering her for sex and making lewd suggestions on a number of occasions.
How could he be let off the hook, just because he has become an MP since it all allegedly happened in 2001.
Why hasn't Parliament met and discussed lifting his immunity in a session and passed a decision on it?
Isn't this part of the democratic process we have been churning out front page after front page on?
Or is the role of MPs, who promised their constituents 101 things before their election, restricted today to flexing their muscles at the government?
Next time I am in parliament, I wouldn't want to cross paths with this MP nor with all the others who covered up for him and brushed away this woman's complaints, just because she was a woman.
Had he not been an MP, what would the punishment have been like?
I will recount to you a personal horror story which happened to me and my sister one night not in the too far past.
We were chased by five Saudi thugs, who pulled my sister out of the car and started hitting and biting her. When passers-by stopped to rescue her, they escaped. We filed a case at the Hoora Police Station, the culprits were arrested, rushed through court on a Thursday and released on BD 40bail each.
The follow-up to the case? My lawyer cannot do anything because the case papers have disappeared.
Will anyone respond to my queries and complaints for justice? No.
Me, my sister, the Syrian woman and all the other women out there should just swallow their humiliation and accept the fact that if they want to live, go out, drive, go to college or go shopping, they have to put up with harassment and shut up.
There is no one to hear their complaints and no one to stand up for them. Bravo, Bahrain. Welcome to the new era of democracy and reform.
Vol XXVI NO. 326 Monday 9 February 2004
By Amira Al Hussaini
THE manners of Bahraini men or rather boys whose bodies have grown faster than their mentalities have certainly gone down the drain.
Our bad luck took us to the Autumn Fair on its last day (Jan 30).
Two of my sisters, my aunt, a cousin and I decided to brave the masses and spend the evening shopping there. It was a nightmare.
Forget about the traffic and the fact that there weren't sufficient parking lots. We were ready for it all when taking last-minute bargains into consideration.
What really got to me is the number of boys and in many cases grown men who were loitering around with the idea that any woman - however conservatively dressed - was game.
Don't those people have sisters, mothers and wives? What benefit do they get from rubbing their bodies against 12 and 14-year-olds?
Shouldn't there be security cameras and police on hand to see what these ill- mannered specimens do in crowds?
Such harassment is unacceptable, particularly in a Muslim country. It was a Friday and many of these little pests were just a few hours from performing their noon prayers.
Each and every one of us was harassed in one way or another. I really felt disgusted.
When my 15-year-old sister, who wears the Abaya and Hijab, turned around and asked one youth behind her to stop touching her, he simply laughed and tried touching her again.
Who rescued us? A Pakistani porter who walked us all the way to the car, carried the things we bought and also apologised for the manner in which the Bahraini boys were behaving.
On top of all this, he refused to take any tip.
Why didn't I report the incident to the police? Because I know it will be a futile exercise.
More than a year ago, me and my sister were attacked by a gang of five drunken Saudis, who pulled my sister out of the car and bit her.
The thugs were caught, taken to court, fined BD40 each and released. That was justice in the eyes of the law.
At the Autumn Fair, I took action. I turned around and hit one of the pests following us with a copper artefact I had bought from the Iranians. Now I wish I had bought a heavy marble ornament from one of the Pakistani traders. It would have been really handy and more effective.
I would have felt much better - whatever the consequences were.
At least I would have taken justice with my own hands.