Nicolas Vitalamanca, Secretary-General of the international organization No Peace Without Justice, criticized the Bahraini regime’s treatment of its people as private property, including its monopoly with all powers and privileges.
Vitalamanca said during a panel discussion, “Bahrain is a special case as a family for life leads it. They have the power to do so, and they occupied all positions in the country without accountability or supervision.”
He stated that when talking about political reforms and moving towards democracy, it is necessary to know the appropriate way to deal with Bahrain. Therefore no person has the right to express his opinion as there is no state structure, but rather it is part of their private property.
Vitalamanca warned that the Bahraini regime takes its repression sharply to the point of considering that anyone who demands civil rights is encroaching on their private property for them.
The Richardson Institute, the Project to Eliminate Sectarianism (CIPAD), and the Salam Organization for Democracy and Human Rights organized a panel discussion entitled “Political Reform in Bahrain since the 90s: Political Parties and the Constitution.”
During the discussion, political activist Saeed Al-Shihabi spoke, evaluating Bahrain’s vision for the elections to be held next year and whether there is an opportunity for opposition associations to participate.
Shihabi said that “the system, under pressure from the United Kingdom, may allow the participation of some opposition members who may challenge the views of their leaders in the elections. However, this will not change the basic facts, which are the presence of nearly five thousand political detainees and other human rights violations.”
Shihabi pointed out that it is unclear what will happen in next year’s elections, wishing all parties not to participate unless their political demands are met.
In his intervention, the former representative of Al-Wefaq Society, Engineer Ali Al-Aswad, said that “the political demands are still the same,” questioning the presence of the will of the Bahraini government and the royal family to carry out reforms in Bahrain, regardless of where the opposition is.
Al-Aswad considered that “the regime does not want to grant any of these powers or authorities to the people,” noting that “the government does not want to conduct any dialogue with the opposition, and the Bahraini people of all sects are suffering.” He also called for the release of political detainees, stressing that this is their right in the first class.
Al-Aswad indicated that the Bahraini regime enjoys the support of its strategic allies, including the United Kingdom and the United States.
He pointed out a constitutional problem that is difficult to overcome in Bahrain due to this type of movement, with the international community not implementing its beliefs. He emphasized that one of the most critical demands of the 2011 uprising was to rewrite the constitution.
Al-Aswad reported an incident when the constitution was written in 2002 when an expert named Ramzi al-Sha’er asked the king what he would like to obtain through this constitution. The king’s answer was: “authority.” He pointed out that the Bahraini people do not own any of them, noting that all files, even economic ones, are in the royal family’s hands.
Al-Aswad highlighted that Bahrain is dependent on aid from the Gulf Cooperation Council, pointing out that there will be no future or any promising programs in the economic field in Bahrain. However, the ruling family does not leave any room for the people, and it must be “the final word for them.”
In turn, activist Tara O’Grady said that she does not believe that fair elections will take place in Bahrain unless political detainees of different backgrounds are released, who should participate in these elections in the first place, just as Kuwait did.
However, she highlighted that “the King of Bahrain does not want to see any of these opponents in the elections” and that the government is not interested in conducting any political reforms.
The researcher Sana Al-Sarghaly pointed out that “she found in her work on Bahrain that the Bahraini constitution grants a lot of powers to the ruling family, and the protector of the constitution is the king, and this is one of the ways for the ruling family to do what they want to do.”
She stressed that “before holding the elections, the constitutional system must be changed,” adding that they had always avoided involving the people in Bahrain, especially concerning the National Charter, who played the role of a cosmetic image. Still, the Bahraini people were not allowed actually to engage in government.
Al-Sarghaly cautioned that the upcoming elections are not important if the constitution is not changed, as there will be no actual change, pointing out that the first step in this context is to “conduct constitutional reforms” advocated by activists human rights organizations and international associations.
For his part, Ibrahim Sharif said that “talking about the constitution or the discriminatory system may lead to people being imprisoned in Bahrain,” mentioning what happened to him because of his tweet about Omar al-Bashir, as well as his recent ban on organizing an economic lecture.
Sharif stressed that the pressure Bahrain is witnessing at this stage is the most that the government has reached since 2014, after the boycott and imprisonment of Sheikh Ali Salman.
Sharif pointed out that Bahrain has not yet crossed this stage, as about ten thousand people were arrested after 2014, and thousands are still detained, and some were released on conditions as they could not express their opinions in any way.
Sharif considered that the pressure exerted by the international community to stop human rights violations in Bahrain is essential. Still, it has faded due to the decline in interest in the Arab Spring in recent years.