- Political violence in Bahrain – view on the reasons and applications
- 1: Factors of Violence
- 2: Introduction to Political Violence in Bahrain
- 3:Historical Models
- 4: What Prevents Political Violence in Bahrain?
- 5: the Challenges facing the Contraindications of Political Violence
Violence, if used to serve any political game, cannot always be explained in a study through normal mechanisms of political analysis, whilst academic researches provide many factors to the phenomenon of political violence.
There are four major factors dealing with the concept of political violence, this study shall identifies these key factors, which are very important to examine in order to understand any political reality.
$11. Psychological Factors
This group attribute political violence to the emotional situations crystallized through people’s discontent, anger, anxiety and frustration. This factor links between relative deprivation and political violence. Relative deprivation is the belief of inequality. Researchers in the field of psychology say that this sense of inequality leaves a hole between what you deserve to get, and what you are truly getting. This state of being results in creating some sense of frustration that when accumulated cause angry and livid reactions.
One of the main causes of this hole -leading to political violence- is the factor related to some economic variables, for example: political violence may occur as a result of a sharp setback of the people’s situation, when for instance, a severe economic relapse follows a huge economic thrive. Some scientists have used the theory of (frustration-violence) that results from the wide distinction between people’s expectations and aspirations versus their reality, as if when people felt that the increasing gap between these two concepts, it is more likely for political violence to occur.
There is another important concept in academic studies, which puts the concept of “systemic frustration” as a key factor for the emergence of political violence. Depending on the theory of (Frustration-Aggression), a “systemic frustration” shall lead to the emergence of political violence when multiple unfulfilled social needs go beyond what is available to fulfill.
$12. Sociological Factors (social factors)
This factor focuses on the imbalance in the social and political echelon, where a lack of balance occurs in the social classes, thus leading to the failure of the political system in facing change and its inability to restore balance, leading eventually to the creation of political violence. This disruption of balance between the values and environment in a society leads to a failure in the social echelon, causing the emergence of social crises. This social crises when accumulates leads to the emergence of political violence that escalates according to the fast pace of the imbalance in the social structure.
$13. Political Conflict Factors
There is an intellectual tendency reads this factor as a factor leading to political violence, and sees that political violence is a product of the conflict that occurs between a political power and opposing groups, which compete against each other over the monopoly of force and power in the community. According to that tendency, the emergence of the political conflict in society necessarily lead to the emergence of (multi-sovereign powers) leading to weakening the role of government and the appearance of challenging power blocs, which in turn creates a disintegration of the political power monopoly. In the view of this factor, the nature of the opposing groups, and the interaction between the political systems and the forces of competition can determined the extent of severity of any political violence in the community.
$14. Factors of Class Conflict
This factor is Marxist-orientated, where it explains the phenomenon of political violence as one of the principles developed by Karl Marx in his reading of social structure for political action. This reading focuses on “patterns of production, the relations of production and the conflict between the classes” where Marx sees (the mode of production of life determines the general process of intellectual, political, social life. Societal forces’ productivity at a specific stage of their development reach a state of conflict with the existing production relations resulting in restrictions being put on the productive forces. This makes the foundations for violence to take the form of a struggle between classes in society).
According to the Marxist analysis as stated in the study, there are those who believe that economic construction is causing the growth of social relations affiliated to certain class organizations. In every society there are two main classes, first is an exploiting ruling class, and second is a controlled exploited class, where members of this last class make up a large cohort united by class consciousness if grew stronger may be able to overthrow the ruling class (1).
Second: Introduction to Political Violence in Bahrain
It is not possible here to explain all four factors mentioned above, since it would require carrying an in-depth analysis, with all accidents and political circumstances took place in Bahrain since the arrival of Al Khalifa into power until the present day. However, it is necessary to point out samples in Bahrain’s history documented in different period of times, whereas the tribal rule of Al Khalifa and since entering Bahrain printed many violent and counter-violent images in the minds and memories of the people.
Shaikh Yusuf AlBahrani (died in 1772) referred in his book (Pearl of Bahrain) to an incident took place in 1700 AD, where the “Utub” (Al-Khalifa, Al Sabah and Al Jalahmah especially) attacked Bahrain. That was when Shaikh al-Islam at the time (Muhammad bin Majid who had a religious authority in front of political power of the ruler) called the “Howala” who came and expelled the “Utub”. Shaikh Mohammed bin Majed asked the “Howala” for help and assistance seeing that the hand of the ruler of Bahrain was in a inadequate reaction from the attack. So, the “Baharna” joined this “violent” alliance with the “Howala” and prevented Al Khalifas from invading Bahrain for more than eighty years. Al Khalifas with their allies “Utub” intended to enter Bahrain with a mentality of war and sword, added now to the factors of political violence.
These factors are usually linked to internal situation of the country and, in this case, Bahraini community has always been recalling the nature of entry of Al Khalifa to Bahrain, where Al Khalifas themselves still assert the nature of conquest, sword and sovereignty. A point added to reasons discussed later in addressing the political violence on national levels. It is intended here to take into account the historical recall overflowing with blood and pain, which can never be ignored.
Third: Historical Models
$11. Psychological Factor in the Policy of Seizure and Control
After the Khalifas were successful in establishing their rule with the help of the English who supported them with seizure and control, the tribe of Al Khalifa began to protect itself with the “Fedaweya system- commandos, as in private guards”. That system created a social rift coupled with their brutal invasion. The “commandos system” is considered one of the most brutal systems known by the Bahraini people, which was used against their villages to impose control. Moreover, the “commandos” as a security system depended on the imposition of power under duress and was a tool to impose the new order. commandos were not operating under any law or supervisory body, they were something very close to the current regime militias in their lawless exercise and the size of oppression and repression used against the people.
Fierce practices of the “commandos” forced many villagers to migrate from Bahrain and led to the destruction of many of them. The “Fedaweya- commandos” were an essential need for the new rule to enforce its power and control over the people and villages, establishing a new rule far beyond the aspiration of the Bahraini villages.
All the provincial governors used a significant administrative body operating under their personal command, where this body was formed from an Emir (Prince) and a group of “Fedaweya”. The Prince himself was originally a “Fedawi” who won the confidence and love of the ruler (2).
With the development of the administrative and economic regime, and the complexity of foreign policy, the emergence of the “Fedaweya” on March 13, 2011 had its own different character. History has recorded the event when some Sunni youths initiated an attack on the University of Bahrain using wood stick and pipes, repeating the same old scene with only different details, while the mentality of seizure and control remained the very same. This repeated scene brought bits and parts of history together confirming the rift state in the country. It was just like whipping an already-bleeding wound.
Between these two periods are more than two centuries, thus far the strategy of Khalifi violence is one that does not change. With a fast review on the first factor, (the psychological factor), and with the Khalifi permanent confirmation on forming the class that represents an isthmus between the rule (Masters) and between the Shiites (subordinates) – whom are always under control- this psychological gap forms a state of accumulated (aggressive frustration) brining all the sad political realities together in the public memory. So, will this generates violence?
$12. Systemic Inequity… Creating of Social Ranks
The second factor answers the previous question, but with some facts, where in late 2006 a report by Salah al-Bandar revealed a large plot twisted and funded by the Royal Court to sabotage the demographic of the country, and make the Shiite from a majority to a minority. This plot came after six years of the project of National Charter launched by Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, portrayed by the media as the end of tragic four years of bloody uprising in (1994-1998), which left hundreds of wounded, thousands of detainees and more than forty martyrs.
The Bandar report is not only a political document that condemns the rule of Al-Khalifa, and is not only bunch of information that reveals part of how the conspiracy was created to change the demographics of the country, but it is a document significantly and concisely confirming the “disruption in the Bahraini social pattern” between the monarch and the subordinates, and the lack of historic harmony between the two, which always ignites fire under the ashes. The ashes represents Shiite sect suffering in so much pain and bloodshed who are in the same time seeking for maximum reduction of losing lives. This type of ashes that is covering a raging fire beneath might quickly fade away when the anger of the people do not stand for long. (We will discuss the role of the religious impact in controlling the rhythm of violence).
Going back to Al Bandar report, people witnessed a clear and significant change in the demographics, where this plan of demographic change has created some sort of a crack inside the community, represented in the entry of alien cultures on one hand, and the creation of unfair classes and ranks in favor to those naturalized in term of civil facilities (such as housing and salaries) on the other hand -as most of those naturalized were hired to serve in the military and police body. That has resulted in creating a feeling of discrimination between those naturalized and the natives, a feeling marked by some sense of oppression and frustration.
$13. Factors of Coercion and Empowerment
If politics is a game of interests between the classes, then the means of coercion are the most important pillars at this game. The third factor in this study talks about the means of coercion, or what is known as utilizing all means of power. Where if the regime controls those means, other competing powers shall seek for a share too. No distinction is made, the game is the same, either on internal levels (between internal forces of the countries with the ruling regimes), or on international level (between worldwide powers among themselves).
In the case of Bahrain, a close observer does not need an evidence indicating that the ruling authority has taken absolute control and worked on monopolizing all means of power. From the time when the Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa came into power in the seventies, he sought to monopolize the economy, through wicked and malicious ways of establishing or participating in diverse kinds of private institutions. He then taken the decision of the ministries making them contract with those institutions, and there, pumps public money in the private money, through a vital course, yielding him and his family’s great wealth, and gives Bahrain an investment status sponsoring private institutions in the same time.
Whereas from a security side, Khalifa bin Salman and with the help of a number of security advisers (Ian Henderson, as an example), gagged every voice prompting to break this monopoly, making him authoritative and influential on one hand, and making national movements -Muslim and non-Muslim- considering resorting to violence (as a must and as a need) on the other hand.
It is worth mentioning here that the political parties in Bahrain are parties with foreign-orientations, closely affiliated to alien organizations, and those mother organizations resorted to violence in period of its history, mentioning that could help in drawing a clearer map of the pillars of the conflict in Bahrain.
To elaborate, part of the leftists came from the communist Setudeh Party of Iran, and some of it from the Nationalist Movement in Egypt during the period of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Whereas part of the Shiite Islamists came from Al Da’awa party and Hezbollah, and others from the Shirazi stream. All have taken refuge in more than one time to violence.
It is possible here to study the “partisan discourse” from when it started in order to get to know the bases of thoughts and patterns of the various parties in Bahrain. In short, the discourse of the Popular Front (Leftists) in the seventies was the liberation of Bahrain and the Gulf though armed struggle, where the discourse of the Islamic Front (Shirazi) was also the liberation of Bahrain using weapons, and the Islamic Da’awa Party resorted to free Bahrain with its previous military experience.
This does not mean that the parties or the people began the violence. The invader was always the originator of violence. Nevertheless, passage of history does not accept saying: violence was or is not an option for the people of Bahrain. Given that human nature anywhere translates accumulations -at certain stages- to violent acts. Thus, the seeds are there, and perhaps its buds shall grow and rise with the precipitation of the official regime violence in the society.
$14. Conditions for the Class Conflict are all Complete
How does Karl Marx explain humans’ movement of production? This question opens a wide door in interpreting the “link” between politics and economy leading to the promote the belief of the brutality of capitalism. While production systems do not escalate in parallel, it do collide at a point with “clash of interests”, and thus lead to an inevitable conflict. As Marx goes: the mode of production of life determines the general process of intellectual, political, social life. Societal forces’ productivity at a specific stage of their development reach a state of conflict with the existing production relations resulting in restrictions being put on the productive forces. This makes the foundations for violence to take the form of a struggle between classes in society.
The conflict in Bahrain between classes is at its peak, where an economic conflict rose by merchants’ struggle to obtain some of “soft” monopoly, winning in a fierce competition to gain the advantages of government tenders, which seems at first glance as something natural, except it is not. The level of alliances with al-Khalifa allow this merchant or another nail in the tender making the market so far beyond proper competition. This atmosphere made the market gain an unusual competitive behavior.
Furthermore, the cognitive conflict is clearly reflected intense amongst Shiite Muslims, where Shiite parties compete to pump vast amount of literature in order to gain followers, and to convince opponents. While political conflict that is going on between the ruling wings on one side, and between the royal family and the parties on the other side, intensifies and forks (note that the opposition was consisting of three bodies, where now it has become more than a dozen bodies: (Coalition, Wafa, Haq, Al Wefaq, Islamic Action, Saraya, Leftist “including a number of societies” …). All in total composing at some point “political violence”. At least according to Marx, where he suggests that any party could not bear the productivity of the other, where that productivity is seen as a damage that must be minimized.
Fourth: What Prevents Political Violence in Bahrain?
If all these factors are present, questions appear: Why political violence in Bahrain do not stand for long? Why does it intensify in periods and fades in other time? The Bahraini political violence did not turn to a phenomenon, rather only incidents, why is that? What is the reason behind that political violence not turning into a phenomenon?
The answer can be studied through three factors we consider are the most imperative in stopping the phenomenon of violence in Bahrain, namely:
$11. The intensified security grip: a ferocious security policy that relies on intelligence and crackdown as two key elements in containing any movement, party or group. This grip prevents any violent act to take place and is exemplified in many clear cases in Bahrain.
$12. The core Shiite religious factor: where opposition are made of a majority of Shiite, and the Shiite jurisprudence take in many precautions on resistance and causing bloodsheds. The roots of this jurisprudence in this aspect are very difficult and limited to only few objective and convincing conditions.
Many observers say this factor is one of the most key factors that hold Shiites from being violent, since it is known that the followers of Ahlulbayt school often follow their leaders, and those leaders, in turn, stand in face of violence and chaos. This is due to the research of jurisprudence by the ancestors of the jurists Shiites reporting the teachings of the Shiite 12 Imams on being “reluctant to blood” like what Muhammad ibn Muslim reported from Abu Jaafar (peace be upon him) who said: “A Man comes to the Day of Resurrection burdened with blood, he says: God, I did not kill or participate in any bloodshed. God replies to him: Yes you did not, but you have incited hatred against a man. Your incitement made him get killed, and his blood tarnished you”. (3)
$13. Bahrain’s position within the American strategy: Dr. Amin Hoteit cited in his research four important factors giving Bahrain that important position, even though it has very limited resources, these factors are:
1a. Bahrain consists of a number of Islands, which provide military advantages, related to the movement of Navy in the Persian Gulf and protecting the south-west beach. That is why America rushed through a process of military deployment in the region to adopt Bahrain as a military base for the U.S. Fifth Fleet entrusted with the task of controlling the Gulf, and the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian ocean.
1b. These islands are located opposite to the Iranian shore providing additional capabilities to monitor the beach and to establish the laws of warning against any Iranian move in the direction of the south shore, where the Arab oil states are located. America has taken advantage of this site to establish the rules of the radar, eavesdropping and spying in the region, especially against Iran, being its most dangerous foe in the region.
$1c. Bahrain is located in a region that make up with Qatar an advanced base in the Gulf to defend the GCC against the alleged “Iranian threat”.
1d. It is a country with a majority of Shiite Muslims, some with Persian origins, fearing -in the event of establishing a democratic government based on the majority of the popular- to establish strategic and structural relationships with Iran. Then, Bahrain will shift from being part of the American system against Iran, to an Iranian base used against the “Gulf Cooperation Council” led by the Wahhabi Sunni Saudi. Bahrain Centre for Studies – London (4)
Fifth: the Challenges facing the Contraindications of Political Violence
It has been stated above that the first and third factors are seen as barriers preventing political violence. However, the political stability matter boils down to this question: how can the angry crowd face the two forces of Al Khalifa and the U.S.? in a first glance, this question seems a solid barrier in front of violence, yet, still interpreted differently when it comes to calculation of interests.
Seeing that the reality of human history, confirms that public outrage cannot be stopped by the scarcity of political outcomes, nor always linked to logic and mind. Especially after what was known as the “Arab Spring”, and the fall of the great dictatorships in the Middle East, where pat bet on street tuning became very difficult. Bahrain was never an exception, mainly when we know that the opportunities for a political solution are fragile; leaving people not able to put trust in the Al Khalifa rule once again after it has broken many promises that did not stand for a decade at its most.
Whilst the Western strategies unfolded day after day for stoking sectarian conflict (maintaining the level and severity of violence, according to each region), reasons to turn to violence clump to penetrate the solid wall, which had been holding without loose. In Bahrain, the matter is even more intensified and complex, as the masses have not yet let out their anger unlike other people in other countries, Bahrainis managed to conceal their anger quite a lot. They were not pretty confident on how to apply peaceful approach, they remained confused. Their approach could not be maintained within the frame of civil disobedience, where they can show their protest to the ongoing dictatorship in a peaceful manner.
The peaceful approach pursued by the political societies in Bahrain, shall not remain effective, even if its results came intrue, as it might come in reverse to these societies’ approach. Perhaps what is known as “Saraya Al-Ashtar” and “Saraya Al-Mukhtar” nowadays are examples on the reversed result of the peaceful approach of the political societies. It is expanding these days.
On the other side, there is a challenge facing the strong religious mainstream that act with quite a lot of precautions in bloodshed. This challenge is adopting the theme of “resistance” giving an opinion according to denounce evil and ward off evil and injustices. Perhaps the sample of Sheikh Mohsen Alaraki (a former member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, born 1956), presents a model for the expansion of space variation in the diagnosis of the case of Bahrain. Sheikh Alaraki delivered in late 2012, a taped speech encouraging Bahrainis to adopt resistance. Al Wafa Islamic Movement (a stream affiliated to Abdulwahab Hussain, a political symbol born in 1954) widely promoted the word of Alaraki.
The status of “centrality” in making decisions that was prevalent a decade ago and more is being swept by the social networks where vast amount of information, guidance and consensus have been shared to the public. Technology has turned into a space for forming consciousness.
That is also seen as an additional challenge for stopping violence from taking place in Bahrain. Observers of social networks in Bahrain find that advocates of political violence are filling cyberspace, under exciting titles and calls, like stand to take revenge for the martyrs and fight for the women raped, and many other titles touching the wounded memory on the very same bleeding wound.
From here, political violence represents a problematic topic, and not a simple one, where the challenges of its success bypass the challenges of its failure. Therefore, political violence cannot be resolved until being read and understood from a different new perspective.
I have suggested to some responders to change the angle of political practice in confrontation, and make changes in applying peacefulness, so that people can vent their anger, and it can prolong the life of containment of the political violence from increasing. I wrote an article titled (Did we understand peacefulness?) stating: “the concept of “peacefulness” in Bahrain faces two obstacles, the first is to understand the circumstances of this term, and the second is its application. The first obstacle stands in constraints of reality imposed on the people’s perception telling them: peacefulness over non-violence, and expressive peaceful over sectarian animosity.
As well as other similar binaries that formed awareness about the concept of peace. Perhaps the second obstacle is generated from the first, where wrong application came from the perception of “peaceful” taking the defensive position against charges of sectarianism and serving foreign agendas. The only application here was to prevent violence from happening and to express peace in a excessive manner that any movements does not require normally. It is useful to know that peacefulness is part of civil disobedience, and is known in some political literature as “peaceful movement to breach the law”, accordingly peacefulness turns into an effective and influential tool and one of the most powerful weapons of struggle in the modern era, if directed in a proper manner.
This study might not make recommendations or propose solutions, other than studying the situation in some more depth, and encouraging the establishment of genuine research centers to carefully follow the development of societies and its changing mobility movements, as well as the vigorous actions surrounding the region. It is also very important to study the emotional and psychological accumulations in the hearts and minds of Bahraini people left by Al Khalifa tribe, in order to understand where the Bahraini future is heading toward.
It is possible to conclude this study by saying that political violence in Bahrain in this time is much closer to happen than any previous period, due to number of factors:
The first factor is that the strong religious belief preventing bloodshed is faced by another strong religious belief inciting martyrdom, resistance, and redemption.
The second factor is that the split in the opposition forces, dividing them into several bodies and divisions weakens centralized decision to be made toward peace, thus preventing any form of political violence might no longer be possible.
The third factor is the congestion in the minds of the people caused by the great historic accumulation of the regime violence, and the failure of reaching out to any peaceful options in dealing with a regime extremely violent.
The fourth factor is the emergence of some of organizations that pursue violence, giving a different model than the dominant usual reactions in the community.
The fifth factor is that the regional developments have broken the prestige of these political regimes, and created chaos amongst themselves, which shall enhance the options of violence adopted by some of the streams in Bahrain.
The sixth factor is that the use of virtual technology helped in the broadcast, cajole and granulation of some of the trends in an easy, effective and influential way, making a lot of channels of influence increase and reach out to the receiver.
$11. See the phenomenon of political violence in Algeria, an analytical study 1976-1998.
$12. Abbas Al Murshed, Disappearing Villages, commandos and Systems of Siezure and Control «4», Al Wefaq newsletter, 27th of Nov 2009.
$13. See Wasael Al Shiaa, Retribution chapter.
$14. See Bahrain’s position in the U.S. strategy in the Middle East, Amin Hutait, Bahrain Centre for Studies in London BCSL- London.
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