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:
Photo credit: Yagoob
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:
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!
Still in the arena of issues affecting women, Khalid discusses sexual harassment:
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:
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
The writing on the wall
Rayyash examines the significance of ‘wall journalism':
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 ..
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!
Photo credit: Yagoob