Bahrain: The Return of the British ‘Butcher of Bahrain’

Politics and human rights are, as ever, the chief topics of discussion on Bahrain’s blogs this week, but we also hear about things that aid and interrupt sleep, creatures that won’t buzz off, and stories of both loneliness and new friendship.

‘The Butcher of Bahrain’
This week has seen the arrival of Ian Henderson in Bahrain, and Bahrain’s bloggers are not happy about it. Ian Henderson was the head of the state security services in Bahrain for over 30 years; he is accused of having employed brutal tactics to suppress the opposition in Bahrain, such as imprisonment, torture and forcible exile, and has been given the moniker ‘The Butcher of Bahrain’. Mohammed AlMaskati couldn’t believe the news:

When I first heard it I thought it’s another one of those rumors that float around every once in a while, something within the same lines as the “Naturalization of 50,000 Baathist Iraqis of the Fedayeen Saddam” or that of a nationwide full payment of all outstanding debt of locals, but the pictures proved me wrong.


How inconsiderate could this really be? Allowing this monster, a symbol of the 90’s era, an icon to the horrors that took place not so long ago on this island, a reminder of the screams and pains of the tortured the blood of the martyrs, the lives of the families that were destroyed because of imprisonment and forcible exile, we have became the first country in the world to deport its own citizens and then demand that other countries refuse to give them asylum.

It is honestly sad to see that international authorities investigating the torture allegations against him instead of our own government, which not only turn a blind eye to the issue at hand but absurdly grants him free access to the country. The US State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international Human Rights organizations have all produced veritable mountains of documented evidence of such abuse and torture and linking Mr. Henderson to them.

Mahmood wants to welcome Mr Henderson:

Your exalted excellency, you are in excellent company here, sir, do relax and enjoy the festivities in your honour and let whoever asks for reparations with your past be damned. You are – after all – a retired gentleman of 81 and could not be held responsible for bygone eras, surely. The world’s powers – to one of which you belong – have turned a blind eye, and why shouldn’t they, it has become their culture. Generations who will continue to have nightmares for the rest of their lives and those who succeed them be damned. The almighty Pound and Dollar rule supreme.

Welcome welcome your excellency, to the land of milk and honey!

Both he and LuLu report on a campaign spearheaded by the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights to bring Henderson to justice:

The concept of forgiving and forgetting has been repeatedly used and abused as a slogan to shelter violators of human rights in Bahrain. To an extent, this may have been tolerable if the government had shown signs of seriousness about acknowledging, compensating, and re-integrating torture victims. However, the recent arrival of Mr. Henderson to Bahrain and the semi-official welcome he received is a sign that no such intent exists. I'm not sure what he is doing here but simply receiving this guy here is a slap in the face to anyone who had taken government promises seriously.

So, while this may seem like a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights had launched a campaign to support justice and human rights in Bahrain– by calling for trial of Bahrain's major human rights abuse symbol, Officer Ian Henderson, Head of Bahraini Security and Intelligence Bureau (1966-2000). Shamefully, he continues to be sheltered by the Bahraini (reformist) government, despite his instrumental role in orchestrating arrests, torture, and exile of national activists.

Summer dreams and nightmares
It seems some bloggers can’t stop thinking about politics, even in their sleep. Haythoo isn’t sure if exams or politics are giving him nightmares:

فـي العادة حـين يكون لـدي إمتحان, أنام بصعوبة, و يـكون معدل النوم منخفض جداً, قد أنام ساعة أو ساعتين. خلال هذه الساعتين, أمر بموجة أحلام, بل هي كوابـيس حول الأمتحان الذي سـأقدمه في الصباح, فتارة يكون حـلمي حول تأخري عن موعد الأمتحان, و تارةً أخرى يكون حول عدم مقدرتي على إكمال الـجزء المقرر للأختبار ” في العادة أذاكر قبل الأمتحان بساعة واحدة
لا أدري هـل هو إمتحان أمر بـه لـتغيير الكثير من الأفكار و الـتبنيات السياسية لدي, أم هي مجرد هلوسات, كل ما أعرفه هو إنني إستيقظت من النوم مفزوعاً, بعد عدة أحلام حول مسيرات, ندوات, خطب, و مواجهات. كانت أحلاماً و كوابيس, و كان الحلم الذي شغل بالي هو حلمٌ بين الجميل و المخيف. كـان يوم الجمعة, و كان جـميع خطباء الجوامع و المساجد قد إعتلوا منابرهم, و جـميع السياسيين قد إجتمعوا في معاقلهم, ثم بـدأت الصورة تتـغير في داخل الحــلم, ليأتي مشهد لـمدرج في أحد ملاعب الكرة, و الجماهير تقوم بـحركة الموجة. تــعود الصورة مجدداً, لـيبدأ الخطباء بـترديد ” مـطلبنا دستوراً عقدي “, كـانت الصورة في مـخيلتي تنتقل من جامع, إلى مسجد, إلى مقر جمعية, إلى مـجلس, إلى ملتقى إلكتروني, كان الجميع يردد ” مطلبنا دستوراً عقدي “, كانت أشكال الناس تبدو على غير طبيعتها, فـتنتقل الصورة بي فجأة إلى مقطع من أحد الأفلام ” ريزدنت إيفل “, و الأحياء الأموات يرددون بـعض الكلمات من غير أحاسيس أو شعور, ثم تعود الصورة بي مجدداً للناس, و لا زالوا يرددون ” مطلبنا دستوراً عقدي “. إنتقل بي الحلم إلى منطقة جافة, كان يقف فيها شـخص ذو عدة رؤوس, كانت الوجوه عديدة, الملك, رئيس الوزراء… إلخ. كان الصوت لا زال يـتردد ” مطلبنا دستوراً عقدي “, و كانت وجوه الجسم متعدد الرؤوس تبـدو شاحبة, تـتشقق بـخطوط حمراء, و أصوات صرخات تعلوا منها, أصوات مخيفة جداً, إلى أن إنفجرت…
I usually find it difficult to sleep during exams. My sleeping hours drop to a minimum and I sleep for an hour or two. During this time I come across a wave of dreams or rather nightmares about how I will fare in the next morning's exam. Sometimes my dream is about getting late to the exam. At others it is about me not being able to answer the questions. I usually study for an hour before an exam. I don't know whether what I go through is an exam to change my thoughts and political inclinations or they are just hallucinations. All that I know is that I woke up from sleep terrified, after a series of dreams about demonstrations, lectures, speeches and clashes. They were dreams and nightmares. The dream that preoccupied my thoughts the most was both lovely and terrifying. It was a Friday and all the clergymen have embarked their pulpits to give their Friday sermons. At the same time, all the politicians gathered at their gathering places. The images in the dream started changing and I saw the spectators benches of a stadium where the audience was moving in the shape of a wave. The previous images return with the clergymen repeating “Our demands are constitutional.” The image in my head moved from mosque to mosque to the premises of a political society to a Majlis (gathering place in a house) to an electronic forum. Everyone was repeating: “Our demands are constitutional.” In the dream, people looked different. The image quickly shifts to a scene from the movie Resident Evil, with the living dead repeating a few words without feelings or sensations. The picture then returns to the people, who were still chanting: “Our demands are constitutional.” The dream then moved to a dry place, where a man with several heads was standing. There were many faces – the King, the Prime Minister..etc…The voice was still chanting “Our demands are constitutional.” The faces of the multi-headed man seemed drawn, with red lines swelling from them. They were screaming agonising yells until they exploded…

Yagoob waxes lyrical about the sounds of summer nights:

Ahhhh don’t you just love the sound of switched on window air conditioners * TRA-HUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM* and feel the cool cool breeze turning your room into a heat free sanctuary, whilst you roll up in your blanket like a cocoon…

Ahhhh don’t you just love the sound of switched on window air conditioners * TRA-HUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM*, with that sound which is so reassuring and loving like a mother wishing her child a good night’s sleep before kissing him goodnight…

Ahhhh don’t you just hate when that sweet * TRA-HUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM* turns into silence in the middle of the night where it’s too dark to know what’s going on and the formerly suppressed heat creeps back in through the walls. Ugh!

Two bloggers have had enough of various winged creatures. Um Naief is at breaking point:

What is up with the flies in this country? Never have I seen flies that don't go away and aren't afraid of humans.

When I was a young girl, I hated them so much that I would go outside, taking the fly swatter with me, and kill as many flies as I could in order to keep them from coming into the house….. yeah, ok… I was young… so bear with me here! :) I would spend hours killing them. My mom would always be home and I can remember her telling me on more than one occasion that it wouldn't make a difference, but it never deterred my determination. For I was the Fly Killer and proud of it!!!

Now… living here in Bahrain, I don't think I'd ever be able to swat one of these dang little creatures… they're so fast. Not only that, but they seem to withstand even the hardest swat with the hand…. so would they even be affected by the good ‘ole swatter?

And Notes From Behind The Bike Shed entertains us with a description of trying to practise tai chi in the grounds of a luxury hotel when a wasp has other ideas:

As I sat immobile, nursing my swollen feet, my mind was left to ponder how I was supposed to react to this. Here I am trying to commune with the universe and find some inner peace and along comes this wasp and violently (it really hurt) disrupts my exercise. I mean, sure, I was stepping on his home and blocking him from getting out, but I certainly wasn't being Israeli about it. After all, I pay exorbitantly for the privilege of trampling on that grass. Couldn't he wait until I was done?

The thing is, once you do tai chi outside, it is a totally different experience from practicing inside. It really does feel different (the expression that described the difference best: practicing outside was like eating off fine bone china after having eaten off paper plates). I guess my choice of metaphor kinda explains my waistline.

… At first, I tried to choose where I practiced carefully, looking for telltale mounds where the wasps had burrowed underground. Then I tried different times of day when I thought they might either be at sleep or out and about taking care of their waspy chores. Eventually, I got so tired of watching the wasps that I gave up and just went out, not caring too much what would happen. And that was when it started to change for me.

The wasps would circle around me so I tried to keep extra still, my feet became lighter on the ground cause I was overly careful about any wasps underneath and I was always watchful of what was happening around me, which took my mind off my form and helped me relax about the movements I was making. All in all, my tai chi improved tremendously and I enjoyed my practice more than ever and I have been given the Native Indian name: dances with wasps

Feelings of loneliness…
Ashish Gorde is prompted by article analysing the work of the American artist Edward Hopper, to wonder if feelings of social isolation are solely a Western phenomenon:

From a purely Asian or even Middle-Eastern perspective, such descriptions would lend credence to the more popular indictments we have about the West as a place that lacks familial relationships, and where individuals are left to fend for themselves without parental or any other support. Isolation as a cultural motif and not an exception to the general rule of social decorum.


It would be almost blasphemous to suggest that loneliness is a familiar pattern in our societies because we've been trained to acknowledge the supportive presence of family, tribe and community. Togetherness is, what we believe, to be the natural state of people in our communities, and individuals, if there be any, exist only in relation to someone else. Individuals cannot exist on their own, and if they do, then, there is something decidedly wrong with them. Wrong as in, morally wrong.

But the fact of the matter is, lonely people do exist in our societies, and their loneliness is made even more acute because no one expects them to be. Perhaps parallel could be drawn between Hopper's portraits because just like the supposed incongruity of those images neither does anyone expect painful isolation to be part of our social landscape.

…and making new friends

A group of female bloggers met up for first time this week, and Gardens of Sand was pleasantly surprised:

July, 21st 2007 marked the first female bloggers’ meeting, or at least the very first I attended. Us gals met in Dolce cafe (am I saying the name right) at 11am. Me being myself and Bahraini on top of that arrived a few, ok more like 20, minutes late. … Ok, back to the meeting; it was quite good! I expected to either be dreadful or great. Fortunately, it turned out to be the latter.


The turn out was good, 8 of us there I think. I met some ladies that I can see myself befriending! … The meeting reaffirmed that I should never judge the book by its cover. Or in this case, never judge the book cover by the book's contents. It is amazing how one form's this notion of another's appearance and behavior based on their writings. You expect them to be and look a certain way, and boom! You meet in person and they are not at all how you thought they would be. It is funny how quick we are to peg someone. I also decided to read more Arabic blogs. I am missing out on some really good blogs. … Ladies, here is to all you gals, may we continue to successfully and happily blog away and may friendships blossom out of our experiences.

Appearances matter

We end this week with a poem by Hisham Khalifa, called Intelligentsia:

See and be seen
know and be known

It’s the game of society
we play

Run like a champ
avoid the chimps

A few tips
for sounding intelligent

When someone says something, nod ever so slightly, as if you’re agreeing, then stop as if you’re disagreeing. A subtle frown might add to the effect.

When someone mentions the “government,” look distressed and say “1984.”

Quote Oscar Wilde whenever someone talks about literature.

For the rest of the poem, see here.

More from Bahrain next week.

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