Saeed Al-Shahabi is one of first political figures in Bahrain who was forced to a self-exile after Manama regime imposed a death sentence against him.
(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Shahabi and many other protesters inside and outside Bahrain protest discrimination, injustice and brutality of the ruling Al Khalifa regime in the tiny Persian Gulf Arab country.
After 14 February 2011 uprisings erupted across Bahrain, the regime showed an oppressive reaction by deploying Saudi regime army forces in the country suppressing massive peaceful rallies. It has also put pressure on different political parties and religious figures including Sheikh Ali Salman and Sheikh Issa Qasem; whereas the latter has been under an imposed siege for over 7 months now and has been stripped of his Bahraini nationality by a court ruling.
As the tough responses by Al Khalifa dynasty is increasing day by day, we have talked to Saeed Al-Shahabi to ask him share his views about the current situation and what may happen in future in Bahrain.
What Bahraini people seek to achieve from protests? Would they seek introducing reforms to the current establishment or they seek to topple the system and instate a new system?
It is clear from the beginning of the revolution on the 14th February 2011 that the people had reached stage of despair with the regime that this regime is not reformable. They had tried various methods of reform for about 50 years, and the regime had the chance to reform itself from 1922 until 2017 that is about 90 years, however it became clear that it is not possible. This tribal dictatorship cannot be reformed. In fact, none of despotic regimes and dictatorships in the world have been reformed. You cannot transform a dictatorship into a democracy. You cannot expect from despotism and tyranny to give people freedom and respect freedom of opinion and expression. Any attempt to reform these kinds of dictatorships is futile. So the people were clear in their demand that they want fundamental change and this process is unacceptable and intolerable. If reform was possible they would have done so. They tried that in the 90th and the uprising of 1994 - 96 was a clear example of that and we were there in the 80th and 70th and we did our best to push through some degree of reform plan based on constitution in 1973 but the regime proved that it is impossible.
Why western powers such as UK and the USA support Bahraini regime despite its violation of human rights?
They have some reasons; first of all, there is a lack of loyalty to the principles, so the western countries especially UK and USA are simply not loyal to democracy and human rights principles and they just use these values and exploit them but only where it is in their interest. When they come to Saudi Arabia or Bahrain or other friendly countries, though they are the most despotic countries, the most vicious systems they neglect their principles and values of modern democratic governance.
The second reason is greed of these countries, they think that they are ready to support these dictatorships as long as they remain a source of financial interest for the west, because they have oil especially Saudi Arabia and of course UAE, Qatar and Bahrain and because they have plenty of reserved money, US and UK would never ignore all that money. This is why you see a lot of investment today in UK. If you go to a street in London, you can see the high-rise buildings, football stadiums, crossing of river themes and any big enterprise you see is invested hugely by those countries in different sectors.
And the third and final factor is the misconception by the western countries. They imagine that they can ensure stability of the region under rule of these monarchies. But the reality opposites this approach. You cannot have stability and security without democracy. These despotic states have exported only extremism in past decades as you have seen. Extremist ideologies and terrorism in the Middle East are outcomes of supporting these countries. If the west is serious about achieving peace and harmony and defeating terrorism, then they must stop supporting these dictatorships.
How do you evaluate reaction by international institutions to Al-Khalifeh cruel crackdown on protestors?
There is hypocrisy and double standard. Hypocrisy in their dealing. They know that Al-Khalifa regime is killing people. They know that Bahraini prisons have at least 5000 prisoners, large amount of them are imprisoned because of expressing their opinion. They know that people have been killed outside the rule of law which is termed as "extra judicial killing". They know that this regime has destroyed the country and represents just a minority of Bahrain while the majority is opposing it. They also know that this regime has revoked illegally the nationality of citizens and natives and brought foreigners and granted them citizenship. They know that this regime cannot respect human rights and freedom of expression, newspaper has been banned or restricted, journalists are either killed or imprisoned, human rights activists has been persecuted, including Nabil Rajab the most prominent human rights activist. They know that this tribal system has violated civil liberties and political rights and the leaders of political societies were imprisoned and some of them are still in jail like Sheikh Ali Salma and Fadhel Abbas while Ebrahim Sharif and Sheikh Mohammad Ali al-Mahfouz, secretary generals of two other politically institutions were released recently, but they are under constant surveillance. The west knows that the regime is cracking down on the oppositions harshly, but they chose to ignore it and they don't want to see what is going on. They just want to have business as usual with the most vicous government in the Middle East.
How have Bahraini authorities handled protestors? There have been stories in the media that they use unconventional weapon against people.
The regime has broken all possible redlines, so you are not allowed to have right of assembly, the right of expression or to hold meeting or criticize. This regime has tightened restrictions on liberties yet it has managed to avoid sanctions thank to western support. They used all possible means to crack down on protesters, they used tear gas that was proven by the University of Dublin 2012 that is up to 10-times more toxic than normal tear gas in order quell anti-government protestors. They used shotguns against demonstrators and you can see in photos people bodies are wounded by small bullets. They used extensive number of foreign mercenaries to surround villages and towns like Doraz which is under the oppression for six months. They use also foreign experts in security fields, for instance, British personnel are working behind the scene to direct the operation against Bahraini people. Recently we understood that the regime has had links with Israeli government to provide security technology and follow effective methods of suppressing and cracking down on Bahraini nation, because of similarities between these two regimes especially in their occupation policy. So these regimes is using every means to crack down on protestors knowing that it will be always protected by western powers.
Do you expect to see more clashes in future? What is protestors’ strategies to confront the regime?
In the last months we have seen escalation of brutality by the Al-Khalifah; we saw executing people on January 15th and on February 9th also killed three people –we don't know where- but Bahraini authorities say that they killed them in the see. So the regime has committed serious crimes against humanity as torture is practiced so commonly among Bahraini security forces.
What I expect this year is more repression, more killing. We are bracing ourselves to more retribution and revenge by Al-Khalife regime.
We expect to see more cruelty, more torture, more killing and viciousness from the regime this year, because it knows well that it cannot continue much longer.
However, people are no longer afraid of the Al Khalifa's suppression and they cannot give up their demands because of regime's brutality and the more vicious Bahraini regime becomes the braver people become, because they don't want to repeat experience of last decades and They will not let the regime prevail the country again and it must go…This is the strategy of revolutionaries. They will persist, they will have potions, will continue to be in the streets and they will go to jail and continue demonstrate until the Al-Khalifah are removed from power because otherwise they will remain under the threat of mass killing, mass execution, destruction of identity of country as well as its historic values and religion.