Monday, April 9, 2012

'Abd al-Hadi al-Khawajah: "Let's Bring Down the Ruling Gang"

The AFP reports that the lawyer for 'Abd al-Hadi al-Khawajah fears that the activist and founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights may have died as a result of his extended hunger strike, as the state has denied access to or communication with him since yesterday.

Over the weekend, there was hope that a last minute deal would send him (back) to Denmark (where he spent years in exile) for medical treatment, but, as seemingly everything in Bahrain, that was blocked as a result of disagreement within the Al Khalifa. The BBC reported yesterday,
The government is badly split on what to do, sources in Bahrain have told the BBC's Bill Law. They say the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, is keen to see a resolution.

However, Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa insists he should not be released, the sources told our correspondent.
The story continues,
An official [at the Supreme Judiciary Council ostensibly in charge of the matter] told the Bahraini state news agency: "The hand-over of accused and convicted persons to foreign countries takes place under specific conditions...

"This does not apply in Abdulhadi al-Khawaja's case."

The official did not elaborate.
Indeed, an apt summary of the state of law in Bahrain.

Yet, though "the official did not elaborate," one may surmise that part of Khalifa bin Salman's reluctance to see the release of 'Abd al-Hadi is the personal history between the two. Indeed, 'Abd al-Hadi owes much of his notoriety for a now-famous public lecture in 2004 at the 'Uruba Club in which he openly criticized the prime minister, singling him out as particularly responsible for Bahrain's social and economic problems.

Perhaps it's true what the Bahraini Sunni militiamen say: "Khalifa bin Salman will crown your head."

The point of this post is not to speculate about the current status of 'Abd al-Hadi or about the reasons why the deal with Denmark fell through. As part of my fieldwork in Bahrain during 2008 and 2009, I had two opportunities to meet al-Khawajah, once for a direct interview in his capacity as a political activist (before some readers go crazy, I also interviewed Jassim al-Sa'idi, so let's hold the accusations of pro-Shi'a bias); and once indirectly during his fiery speech on the tenth night of 'Ashura' on January 6, 2009, for which he was subsequently arrested.

Portions of the personal interview appear in my thesis on Bahrain (in Chapter 3), but what I would like to retell here is the story of that night in January, and in particular the content of 'Abd al-Hadi's speech, which seems eerily appropriate for the present occasion. Titled "Let's Bring Down the Ruling Gang," the address connected the political struggle of Bahraini Shi'a to the religious occasion of 'Ashura', drawing a stark distinction between those citizens content to accept political domination by a corrupt power, and those who choose to stand up it to even at the threat of retribution.

The following analysis of the speech, which also can be found in Chapter 3 (pp. 96-102) of my dissertation, is based largely on an Arabic text that I came across at some point. There is also a much shorter attempt at an English translation, which is (seemingly deliberately) moderated in parts. In any event, the entire thing is available on YouTube.

For the ease of reading, I have simply created a 7-page .pdf document of the relevant portions of the chapter, which is attached below:


  1. Justin - Al Khawaja is a cry baby, he did the crime and refuses to do the time, so he goes on hunger strike. Boo-hoo. He is an extremist, one that will try anything to appeal to the masses including religious zeal as shown from your analysis. His allegiances are questionable and his whole Danish experience does not help. He and the gang of Iran's minions that are so fortunately behind bars, do not offer a credible and real alternative to the current regime. They have no experience at ruling, they do not have depth in their arguments other than the usual rhetoric, and as rightly pointed out have come up with a formula that could plunge the nation into civil war.

    Comparatively, the so called ruling gang as Iran's little minion calls them, have a longstanding track record and history. Transforming a sleep fishing village and pearl diving centre into a bustling economy of over US$20 billion in GDP, huge financial services sector, and more luxury hotels and malls than most Saudis can handle. They have put Bahrain on the map, they have been the reason for the plethora of educated Bahrainis, they have been the reason why Bahrainis have travelled and seen the world on the passport of tiny little island, and they have given us joys like Formula 1. I will take my chances with the Ruling Gang any day before I succumb to the whimsical nonsense of street performers and village orators that come with a Danish tint!!! Long live King Hamad and Death to the Agents of Persia!! And while we are at it, someone should wave a juicy cheeseburger with the works in front of the lost soul! Yum Yum!

    1. Hey can you elaborate on this Iranian-Danish conspiracy? I haven't heard about it before, and would certainly love to hear more details of the fairy ta- I mean theory.

  2. Very interesting post Justin!

    Could you present us with more insight into the bandargate scandal. I always wonder why it does not receive more attention from researchers as I would think it is a major trigger if the 14 Feb uprising...