Bahrain: The debt owed to the Indians of the Gulf

This is the second post from Bahrain this week; the first covered various celebrations, and demonstrations. In this post we'll be examining the official population statistics, hearing about a frustrating experience in Saudi Arabia, seeing what role graffiti can play in political mobilisation, and acknowledging the debt owed to South Asians in the Gulf.

We start with a photo of some flamingoes by Yagoob, taken in the south of the island:

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Photo credit: Yagoob

Not adding up
Last week we mentioned a ‘misunderstanding’ regarding the size of Bahrain's population; this time we have LuLu questioning the government's population statistics:

So recently the government made an interesting non-announcement in parliament. Apparently, according to a statement by the Central [dis]Informatics Organization (CIO) to parliament, Bahrain's population finally reached a million. Hurrah! Now, setting aside the question as to why we remain in the dark when it comes to official statistical figures of the CIO, something just doesn't add up…
If we go back to 2001, the official statistics were as follows:

Total population = 650,604
Bahraini = 405,667 Non-Bahraini = 244,937
Total population growth rate of 2.7% Bahraini population growth rate: 2.5%

[Note that the Middle East growth rate was 3.62 in 2001]

Fast forward to 2007:
Total Population = 1,046,814
Bahraini = 529,446 Non-Bahraini = 517,368
Total population growth rate = 10.1% Bahraini population growth rate = 5.1%

[…] This can only mean one thing. Yes. God created 60,000 Bahrainis just like he created Adam and Eve, for no such number can possibly be born here by accident. Otherwise, we may actually have to believe that the government is lying when it says it is not naturalizing all the people we see mushrooming around us. Either way, even this number does not make much sense if we consider that the CIO itself had declared the 2006 population growth figure of 2.6%.

Fill ‘em up!
Gardens of Sand is doing some calculations of her own – trying to work out if she should see the proverbial glass as half-empty or half-full:

Great professors:
half full – the label summed it up, who knew learning can be immensely enjoyable?
half empty- my instructors asked me what and where Bahrain is, then proceeded to sarcastically tell me that it must be a great place to live followed by his surprise that Bahraini women are allowed to drive?!!! Even the educated are ignorant!

In the neighbourhood
Bahraini women are indeed allowed to drive – but of course Saudi women are not. Soul Search writes about a recent shopping trip to Saudi Arabia that left her feeling distinctly unimpressed:

We decided to do a little Eid shopping in our friendly neighbor the K of SA. The overpowering stench of stupidity did not leave my nostrils since the second we set foot on the causeway. Here are 5 reasons why I will not be travelling across the causeway unless I absolutely had to:

1. You can't have a decent two hour shopping spree without having the whole shop shut down on you for prayers. Don't they realize that people should be given the freedom to worship and not have worship shoved down their throats 5 times a day?
2. Store managers get jumpy and nervous and would rather kick you out of their shop as soon as they can, than to have the religious police close down their shops!
3. If you thought traffic in Bahrain was a nightmare, think again. Many of our neighborly drivers prefer to jump a red light or claim your lane as their own at any time they choose.
4. There are absolutely no changing rooms for ladies in any retail outlets, even my 5 year old daughter was not allowed to try on her clothes anywhere, because “she's a female”. Outrageous!
5. It hurts me to see how women are totally inferior to men on many a level. They are treated in a humiliating way, that I would not be able to take if (God forbid) I had to ever live there!!

The bare facts
Another blogger went shopping before Eid; CeCe is working out what clothes make her feel comfortable:

Ever since I wore the Hijab 6 months ago, I wear with it the Abaya wherever I go. It made my life simple and way easier. But since Eid is coming, my friend suggested I wear something “different”. I just came back from shopping for Eid. I bought me a long skirt with a cute shirt and jacket to go along. I tried putting the whole outfit together (with the Hijab) and walked around the shop. It felt like I was walking around naked!

Fighting back
Still in the arena of issues affecting women, Khalid discusses sexual harassment:

من المؤكد إن تناول موضوع التحرش الجنسي ضد المرأة له حساسيته ليس فقط في المجتمعات الغربية ولكنه أيضا ظاهرة اشد حساسية لدى المجتمعات الشرقية المحافظة ..!!! وهى ظاهرة أخذت تغزو المجتمعات الأخيرة المحافظة تحت ذرائع مختلفة مثل التحرر و الرقي والمساواة والحضارة ..!!! بالرغم من إن الوازع الديني ” الإسلام ” قد وضع ضوابط للحد من إهدار كرامة المرأة وتعرضها للأذى سواء الجسدي أو النفسي بوجه عام .. ومن المؤسف إن البعض قد البس هذه الضوابط دشداشة أطلق عليها الرجعية و التخلف والعصبية… …!!!
Certainly raising the subject of sexual harassment against women is sensitive not just in Western societies, but it is also highly sensitive in conservative Eastern societies too! It is a phenomenon that has begun to invade conservative societies under various pretexts, such as freedom, equality, progress and civilisation! Although Islam has controls for preventing the women’s loss of dignity and their vulnerability to abuse, whether physical or psychological, it is regrettable that some people have made these regulations wear a dishdasha, calling them reactionary, and backward, and fanatical!

With gratitude
Hafez Bucheery is thinking about the development of the Gulf societies in general; he writes about the role South Asians, specifically Indians, have played over the years:

جاؤوا وما علموا بأنهم كانوا وراء نهضة قد امتثلوا, يختبئون خلف السطور الأولى التي تقترف النجاح, سطور سطرها أصحابها بابتذال, وكأن البنيان شيّد في محض من الخيال, أو كأنها سقطت من أعلى السماء. تناسوا في لحظة أن هنالك أناسا يعملون ليلاً نهاراً في دعك الاسمنت وصف الطابوق فوق بعضه البعض, أحداً منهم ينظف طرقاتنا المتعفنة, ويا ليته ينظف معه ضمائر شعوبنا المتخلفة, وأحداً آخرٌ يسهر على تنظيف ما نرمي من أوساخ خارج بيوتنا وداخلها, إخلاصاً منه في العمل, ورغبة منه في البقاء.
هكذا حرضهم فقرهم, وحضهم على بلوغ الصعب من أجل تحقيق معنى الإنسانية, معنى ثقافة الوجود, معنى أن يكون للبشر قلب يضحي ويتقاسم الحياة مع من يحب بشرف. لا تغره تلك الحياة في لحظة من لحظاتها المنتكسة, ولا تستطيع أن تحرك فيه ساكناً من أجل الانحراف. لا نقول هنا الجميع, فطبيعي أن في كل قاعدة شواذها, ولكن يبقى الأصل في المسألة هو ان هؤلاء الفقراء علمونا كيف للبشر أن يعمل, كيف للبشر أن يخلص وأن لا يكون اتكالي, ينتظر وضع اللقمة في فمه, من بعدها ينتظر من يمسح له مؤخرته.
فصرنا نفتخر كوننا أشباه هنود في ما مضى, لم نجد ذلك الاعتزاز صدفة, أو أنه تكون معنا لمجرد الإفراط في كمية الدهن في شعراتهم, وليس لأنهم يصنعون من ” السمبوسة ” وجبة عظيمة, بل لأنهم هم من نذروا أنفسهم للعيش الشريف, وحققوا الهدف السامي في الحياة بالرغم من التفات ضوء الشمس عنهم, وتجريد الناس ثوب الحياة منهم. شرفٌ لهم أن يكونوا أحفاد غاندي, وشرفٌ لنا أن يعيشوا في أراضينا بسلام
They came without knowing that they would be behind a boom, hiding behind the first lines which celebrate success, lines which its owners have penned with excess, as if what was being built was a figment of the imagination, or as if it had fallen from the sky. They pretended to forget for a moment that there were people working day and night in mixing cement and putting bricks on top of each other. One of them was cleaning our rotten streets and I wish he would clean the consciences of our backward people too. Another was staying up late cleaning the filth we throw inside and outside our homes, out of loyalty to work and a desire to survive. This is what their poverty had pushed them to do, and encouraged them to face difficulties to achieve the meaning of humanity, the meaning of existence, the meaning for humans of having a heart which sacrifices and shares life with those you love with honour. He isn't taken in by this life in any of its changing moments, and you cannot alter his stride. We don't say here that everyone is like this, as it is natural for every rule has its exceptions. But what remains in this issue is that those poor people have taught us how humans work, how they can be loyal and not depend on others to feed him and then wait again for them to wipe his behind. And so we were proud to be likened to Indians in the past and that pride did not come to us by chance, or was formed from admiration of the excessive oil they use in their hair, and it isn't because they create a great feast from samboosa, but because they have sacrificed their lives for an honourable living. They were able to achieve the noble goal of life despite being away from the spotlight, and despite their dehumanisation at the hands of others. It is an honour for them to be the descendants of Gandhi and an honour for us that they live in our countries in peace.

The writing on the wall
Rayyash examines the significance of ‘wall journalism':

مازلت أذكر كتاباتي وأقراني الصغار التي كنا نسطرها على جدران البيوت وعلى جدران المدارس مثل جدران ثانوية أبوبكر الصديق في المنامة وشارعها الرئيسي ..والتي كانت تعبر عن أحلامنا وآلامنا الصغيرة والكبيرة ..حيث كنا نكتب عما نحب ونكره.
كنا نركز على شعارات حرية الأمة..ومهاجمة الحكومة..وكنا نلاحق من الرقيب ..والبعض قبض عليه ودخل السجن ..‏
في الانتفاضة لعبت الكتابة على الجدران ,أو صحافة الحائط دوراً تحريضياً وتعبوياً في العمل النضالي خاصة في ظل غياب وسائل إعلام تعبر عن الوجع البحريني ,وكانت عينا الرقيب والمخابرات بالمرصاد لمن تسول له نفسه القيام بهذا الفعل ليجد نفسه سجيناً ..
I still recall the writing that my young friends and I used to put on the walls of houses and schools, like the walls of the Abu Bakr Al Sadiq Secondary in Manama, and on the main road…It used to express our dreams and pains, small and large…where we wrote about what we loved and hated.
We focused on slogans of freedom for the nation, and attacking the government… we were chased by the censor and some were caught and went to prison…
In the uprising [of the 1990s] writing on walls, or wall journalism, played the role of instigating and mobilising the struggle, especially in the absence of media expressing Bahraini pain, and the eye of the censor and the intelligence was on the lookout for anyone tempted to undertake such actions, who would then find himself a prisoner…

We end with another photo of the flamingoes. More from Bahrain next week!

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Photo credit: Yagoob


  • who owes the debt to the south asians?which country is the culprit?does this attitude has led to migration from ME.plz detail

  • Mariah

    1. I almost missed the content of your articles with the many unnecessary inserts inserted. So, your ‘debts’ refers to those foreign workers that kept Bahrain going. May I conclude that Bahraini is too rich to put dirts on their hands? They can pay for all the services, others do the ‘ground’ works. Fair. Its their way of life. And yes, be thankful that others are willing to do the job satisfactorily.

    2. As for some comments on the inserts, especially the sad perceptions the commentors had on thy neighbours – actually I have a lot to re-comment but to cut it short: I think you do not respect people’ social and human rights! If they wish to close shop at the call of azan, don’t you think it is their right to that way of life? If they wish to wear hijab, its absolutely their rights to do so. So too, if they don’t wish to put up dressers in supermarkets for ladies/women. That is their set of values. Can’t we just respect it. You have your own set of values. That does not mean you have the right to impose your set of values over others. In your country, yes, its your right and if I were to land on your soil, I do have to respect them. Or do you wish that we, not Bahraini nor Saudi, to impose our set of values onto you? Don’t think you would like that and absolutely that would not be right.

    My apology for the comments but I’m almost fed-up with people trying to impose their values on others – just like the Americans & British. Was just passing on my search for Cyber Laws of Bahrain. Peace & Cheers!

  • Hi Mariah, can you please elaborate on this:

    May I conclude that Bahraini is too rich to put dirts on their hands? They can pay for all the services, others do the ‘ground’ works. Fair. Its their way of life. And yes, be thankful that others are willing to do the job satisfactorily.

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