Speech of the Secretary-General of Alwefaq National Islamic Society: Sheikh Ali Salman
At the General Conference of the Society 2012 under the slogan: “Democracy is our demand”
Held on March 31, 2012
In the name of Allah
Opposition is qualified to administer the country and to achieve sustained
development when participating in power
Introduction: Two years ago and exactly during Al-Wefaq’s conference in 2010, some had difficulty accepting the notion of peaceful transfer of power, discussed during the event, in effect doing away with continued monopoly of power by Al-Khalifa family. The message was designed to prepare the ground for a reform movement years to come.
However, on 14th February 2011, youths of Bahrain took to the streets and 17th February the Pearl Roundabout was subjected to an assault for the first time. The developments allowed for pressing for an elected government both a slogan and a program. Yet, following the second assault on the roundabout on 16th March 2011, election of the prime minister either directly or indirectly became an indispensible necessity. As such, the more the authorities commit atrocities, the more political concessions they have.
This is only one of numerous achievements of the pearl revolution starting on 14th February 2011 as part of the Arab Spring, in turn credited for bringing down long serving-rulers. Undoubtedly, the period during which rulers acted as gods is over for good, as all must be held accountable. May Allah’s blessing be on martyrs of Arab Spring everywhere?
Special thanks are reserved to individuals working silently at Al-Wefaq’s establishment in diverse directorates dealing with liberty, human rights, media and public relations, to name a few. Amongst others, these persons, numbering in hundreds, organize chairs for the activities and sweep streets afterwards.
Likewise, thanks to females for their devotion and sacrifices. Also, thanks must be extended to founders of the society such as Abdel Wasab Husain and Hasan Mushaima. And thanks go out to successive management, secretariat, arbitration body, shura and other committees formed in the society; still appreciation must be extended to Al-Wefaq’s representatives, who served as members of municipality and parliament for the period 2002 to 2011.
Many thanks to our sources of inspiration like Sayed Jawad al-Wedai, late Sheikh Abdul Amir al-Jamri, Sheikh Isa Qassem, and Sayed Abdullah al-Ghuraifi. A moment of pause and fulfillment to late founders of Al-Wefaq, namely Abdul Amir al-Arab, Ibrahim Husain, who chaired a municipality council, Dr Ahmed al-Taho, a key financial contributor, and the two martyrs Zakriya al-Asheeri, the active member in diverse committees and Abdul Kareem Fakhrawi, credited for developing an investment arm for the society, and an exemplary sincere person to the cause of Allah.
Premises: As a political establishment, Al-Wefaq results from wishes of the people and enjoys grassroots support. The society’s call for overthrow of the dictatorship and establishment of democracy is in line with the premises. Surely, survival of dictatorship contradicts wishes of Bahraini people, freedom and dignity as well as prospects for provision of quality of services and fair distribution of wealth.
Naturally, for a society rising from such premises and ideals, patriotism is an integral part of its work. In effect, Bahrain is Al-Wefaq’s eternal love. In reality, Al-Wefaq and opposition forces at large are confining themselves for reforming the system for the interest of all components of Bahraini society. Ever since its inception, Al-Wefaq has not deviated in any slogan or a program from its premises and objectives.
Ten years since inception: Many observers believe that in a span of merely ten years, Al-Wefaq has emerged as one of the most successful parties in the Arab world and the undisputed No. 1 in the Arabian Gulf. This is demonstrated in terms of internal organization, maturity of visions and political programs, electoral success, communications with the grassroots, and development of international relations whilst maintaining autonomy. And despite its limited resources, the society is doing well in media, public relations, training and development.
And for the first time in the nation’s history, as a political establishment, Al-Wefaq has pooled resources of elite to openly work in the political affairs. Still, the society has presented an advanced political vision equivalent to tens of years of party work, relying on the backgrounds of its founders, experiences of other parties and consultations with diverse sources. Al-Wefaq has successfully responded and addressed campaigns of repression, helping documenting cases presented in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and contributing to bringing to the attention of international organizations the sort of human rights violations occurring in the country.
Today, Al-Wefaq is an establishment standing match to the official institution despite differences of resources. Nevertheless, Al-Wefaq has won the race of convincing the international public opinion by virtue of being more civilized and mature compared to the system, and most capable of resolving economic and other challenges encountering the nation when given the right opportunity.
Al-Wefaq has turned concerns and aspirations of the Bahraini society into a political project, diagnosed Bahrain’s political, economic and services problems, exposed aspects of corruption and shortcomings in the system through its media and parliamentarians and put forward some corrective measures via participation in municipal councils and the parliament. However, due to stubborn and hostile practices of the regime towards these sincere efforts, the situation only worsened, leading to the revolution.
Yet, despite its success as a political party, Al-Wefaq has failed in the following:
1) Attracting educated cadres and integrating them institutionally. And here I beg the excuse of all those who had the desires to work at Al-Wefaq but were not able to do so, and declare to them that doors and heart of Al-Wefaq are open to you and to your desires. You have the right to work and serve your nation through the society.
2) Communicating effectively with its grassroots particularly the youths, thereby causing discontent and criticism for its method of work. But this is mostly dissipated in the first session of confession involving a cadre from Al-Wefaq and a displeased youth, in turn lacking information and objective reasons of the society’s actions. Still, Al-Wefaq commits itself to explaining its positions to its audiences in simpler and more direct approaches and to listen to aspirations of its masses by engaging them about its visions and programs.
3) Expanding membership base to include Muslim and non-Muslim, Sunni and Shiite on the basis of citizenship. And here I say that Al-Wefaq was born to you my brother citizen, regardless of your religion and faith. All you have to do is read the society’s statute and look at its history and programs, and you shall find an establishment keen to benefit all people of Bahrain. Still, Al-Wefaq invites you to join and to work through it for a democratic Bahrain, where human rights, civil peace and sustainable development are embraced. Doors of Al-Wefaq are open to every Bahraini believing in freedom and democracy.
4) Diversifying sources of income, reaching the state of financial stability based on fixed resources. Traditionally, sources of funds for the society included amount stipulated in the Political Societies Law, though this stopped since March 2011. Other sources entailed heavy deductions from Al-Wefaq’s deputies in municipal council and the parliament. Still, another source concerns donations made by businessmen, something augmenting in the last year. Yet, the economic war waged by the regime through politicians, media sources and intelligence had denied Al-Wefaq the ability of developing or purchasing a permanent headquarters. All premises of Al-Wefaq are rented ones. The regime’s war has further denied Al-Wefaq the opportunity to complete its investment project some six years following its initiation. This economic reality belies the thrills of the press and paid pens regarding sources of funding of Al-Wefaq.
However, this war only increases our determination to achieve financial stability. After Allah, we rely on the likes of martyr Abdul Kareem Fakhrawi and generosity of businessmen and the society’s supporters. I call on all to donate for Al-Wefaq’s projects.
Also, we feel that our media project falls short of the challenges facing our people; wrongly, the regime has closed down our successful newspaper plus the live broadcast of AlWEFAQ TV on the internet besides the society’s online sites. Concurrently, the authorities continue placing obstacles for the right to issue a daily newspaper and the right to launch a satellite channel, hence monopolizing the vital media sphere. Nevertheless, Al-Wefaq’s media instruments have demonstrated ability to take initiatives, forcing the formal media into reaction in numerous areas. In addition, Al-Wefaq’s media has won respect throughout the world by upholding credibility and professionalism. Suffice to say that Bahrain’s News Agency (BNA) has some 49,000 followers compared to that of 95,000 followers for Al-Wefaq’s account on Twitter.
From this forum, I like to thank all those offering critique for the purpose of reform and development of Al-Wefaq, calling on them to feel free to further criticize the society.
Al-Wefaq and the future: Al-Wefaq and other political forces have shouldered upon themselves the responsibility of correcting course of the country, doing away with dictatorship, building democracy, preserving the country’s wealth, undermining corrupt practices of those in power, recovering stolen public funds, focusing on human and material development, launching of sustainable development, maintaining civil peace, and constructing bonds of national unity. Together with other political forces, we have disclosed in Manama Document our vision and plans for the country following collapse of dictatorship, as follows:
1) Adopting a democratic system under the constitutional monarchy, implementing political pluralism, refusing to divide the country along sectarian or ethnic lines, showing respect for human rights as endorsed by international entities, spiraling prospects for freedom of expression of individuals and groups by providing more freedom to the press and preventing monopoly of any source of media, promoting individual freedom, activation of civil society establishments and ensuring rights of minorities.
2) Building the system and relations between people on the basis of equal citizenship, and thereby abolishing all kinds of discriminatory practices based on family, sect and ethnic groups. The citizen is at the cornerstone of the desired reform, securing his and her dignity and pride.
3) Empowering women to attain their rights as prescribed by heavenly religions and international conventions and treaties and granting treatment on the basis of equal citizenship with men in terms of rights and duties, provided that these do not contradict with fundamentals of Islam.
4) Strengthening relationships within the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and developing regional and international ties on the basis of mutual benefits in accordance with principles of international law and Charter of the United Nations.
5) Developing the economic climate based on market economy whilst encouraging local and foreign investments, providing the necessary legal environment and procedures in order to strengthen confidence in the local economy. Other goals entail working to make Bahrain enjoying a competitive environment, ensuring transparency and competition for the purpose of achieving sustained development whilst preserving the environment. In all cases, Bahraini businessmen and workers should play a central role the construction and development of economic life in the country.
6) Working towards improving working conditions for migrant workers, protecting their financial and human rights, combating all types of human trafficking.
The Bahrain we are seeking embraces all people and ensures justice to all, in turn requiring framing these into constitutional articles and transparent rules to deny formation of a new dictatorship industry under any title, be that religious, sectarian or tribal.
Also, Al-Wefaq stands for popular monitoring process through press and the media, parliament and opposition political forces with the neutralization of the army and security forces of attraction between the political parties in order to ensure that these national institutions and in its composition and objectives are above tribes, sects and parties.
The above mentioned vision and objectives are not a favor or gift we ask of one by virtue of being natural and authentic rights of the people and preventing people from enjoying them is nothing short than grabbing them. We and other opposition forces, once attaining popular mandate, consider ourselves capable of forming a government and achieving these goals. We leave it to the people as sources of all powers the freedom of renewing confidence of our administration of public affairs or withholding that through ballot boxes. The other choice is that of peaceful demonstrations advising of public discontent. Survival or resignation of any future government should be subjected to presence or absence of popular satisfaction.
Al-Wefaq and women: Females represented some 10 per cent of participants of Al-Wefaq ever since inception. Certainly, presence of females kept growing in different committees and departments to the extent of taking part in most entities of the society. Currently, females comprise nearly 30 per cent of members of Shura and General Secretariat of Al-Wefaq; undoubtedly, time is ripe for greater and more effective role of females within the society. It should be mentioned that the first president of a student council at the University of Bahrain, Zainab Al-Aradi, has affiliation with Al-Wefaq. Still, the society’s Shura body has accorded a binding decision ensuring inclusion of females to any future electoral list. Al-Wefaq spares no effort to ensure equality of females and males provided not being incompatible with fundamentals of Islam.
Al-Wefaq and youths: Ever since its inception until today, Al-Wefaq can lay claim for being the most youthful of all parties. The society had presented the youngest candidates for municipality council and parliament, selecting one of its youth to the post of Deputy Speaker of the Council of Deputies in Bahrain. Also, Al-Wefaq intends to continue pressing for effective participation of youths in management of public affairs via lowering the age of association of political parties and voting to 18 years; also, the society supports the Youth Parliament project.
Al-Wefaq and political forces: Al-Wefaq has worked on the basis of respect and right of dissent with all political forces in the country. The society remains cornerstone of political action commonly known as the four-party alliance and the seven-party alliance. Al-Wefaq respects the fraternity of individuals and other formations preferring to work from outside the system, and extends its willingness for coordination and joint actions.
Common national list: Al-Wefaq has supported other societies and individuals in elections taking part in the past decade; happily, the society’s Shura entity has passed a historic resolution extending approval for entering into a national list in elections to come.
Al-Wefaq and national economy: Al-Wefaq’s heart bleeds from financial losses incurred to Bahrain’s economy due to corruptive practices in the country’s political life for more than 40 years, led by a single government. Plundering of scare resources has and continues to happen in the national carrier of Gulf Air and construction of King Hamad Hospital, not mentioning stealing of public territory, shores and territorial waters. What has happened to Bahrain Financial Harbour serves as reminder of catastrophic damage caused by this government on the economy. Likewise, Al-Wefaq’s heart bleeds from damage afflicted to the economy and business community as a result of on-going political crisis. The society holds the authorities responsible for these losses reflecting intransigence of the regime, and their refusal to respond to fair demands of the people for having an elected government, transition to democracy and respect for human rights.
Furthermore, whilst Al-Wefaq accords full solidarity with the business community affected by the government and the political crisis and adopts the notion of financial compensation, concurrently the society refutes the decision undertaken by Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry regarding dismissal of two of its active members on the orders of some officials. The Chamber should be an inclusive body encompassing all merchants, defending the interests and not allowing any party to exercise political and economic pressure on them. Al-Wefaq looks upon the business community to play a positive role now and in the future with regards to democratic demands and to assume a central role in building Bahrain’s economy on the basis of transparency and fair competition away from the corrupt political influence.
Al-Wefaq and relinquishing of Bahrain’s sovereignty and independence: Al-Wefaq welcomes development of work within the Gulf Cooperation Council to a more sophisticated one up to a federal formula whilst maintaining independence of member countries like the European Union, but anyway must be accompanied by:
1) Ensuring participation of people of the region in management of public affairs through elected parliaments, and governments representing the people of each state.
2) Referencing or returning to the will of the people concerning a possible union in order to ensure that the project stems from will of the people, in turn deemed essential for sustained success.
3) Guaranteeing that GCC collectively agree to the union, similar to formation of GCC as an entity. In this respect, Al-Wefaq clearly and definitively refuses compromising of sovereignty and independence of the Kingdom of Bahrain and transferring the nation into a Saudi emirate under the title of union or confederation.
We consider any decision taken by the government of Bahrain in this regard without references to the people of Bahrain, as null and void and people have the right to resist it. And hereby we renew our call for the withdrawal of Saudi forces, as their presence cause damage to all. We appreciate the prestige and centrality part of the sisterly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as part of a solution, not part of the problem.
Al-Wefaq and pearl revolution: Al-Wefaq is an integral part and fundamental to the pearl revolution, contributing effectively in laying claims of rights for freedom and democracy. Since the first day, the society together with other opposition groups, showed support for youths and other people of Bahrain at the Pearl Roundabout. Al-Wefaq embraced and supported the peaceful events carried out by youth groups emanating from 14 February. The society has actively worked to heal the wounds and stood with all its potentials side by side with families of martyrs and wounded, detained females, doctors, students, athletes, teachers, drives of taxi, trucks, dismissed employees and other oppressed and victims of barbaric attacks.
And when waves of repression and official terrorism reached new levels, Al-Wefaq withstood in the face of severe storms and worked to absorb and to contain the unprecedented onslaught of repression. The society succeeded in reproducing the revolution through peaceful means such as sit-ins and magnificent marches. Certainly, Al-Wefaq intends to remain part of the revolution, contributing to its development and rationalization together with opposition political forces and the revolutionary youths, showing support for all peaceful movements, objectives, methods, and logos designed to bring about reform, freedom and democracy.
From this platform, I extend greetings and respect to families of martyrs, the wounded, prisoners and those unfairly dismissed from their jobs besides all rebel factions. Al-Wefaq plans to double its media, political, human rights, and popular works and to coordinate with all those believing in change leading to freedom and democracy to the people of Bahrain.
Al-Wefaq and resolution of the political crisis: Al-Wefaq firmly contends that the way to resolve the political crisis in the country passes through empowerment of the people of their legitimate rights, particularly their inherent right to elect their prime minister, government and ministers either directly or indirectly under a fair and transparent electoral system meeting the universal practice of one person one vote. Also, the society believes in a serious dialogue involving all stakeholders, placing it under a clear and specific timetable approved by the people through a constituent assembly or referendum of nationals excluding naturalized Bahrainis earning their citizenship outside the law.
Al-Wefaq and principle of dialogue: The opposition is demanding a serious dialogue, as this happens to be the best way to resolve political differences in any place. And when there is ground for real dialogue, it is all logical that Al-Wefaq and other opposition forces would interact with it. Conversely, show dialogues are rejected. Nevertheless, Al-Wefaq will now allow the authorities depicting as a party not willing to engage in dialogue and political solutions. Make no mistakes, demands of the people are conspicuous, namely a mature political system where they can elect their prime minister. Undoubtedly, opposition forces are not obliged to accept unilateral decisions undertaken by the authorities in the absence of serious and comprehensive dialogue. Al-Wefaq stresses that people must have the final say in the outcome of any dialogue through a constituent assembly or a transparent referendum involving non-naturalized Bahraini nationals.
Al-Wefaq and Bassiouni report: Iimplementation of BICI recommendations requires reforming some aspects of reality human rights in the kingdom. Sadly, it has been shown with no room for doubt that the regime is not serious in the implementation of these recommendations, but works to circumvent them via formation of weak committees aimed at generating garishness media and issuance of claims to the implementation of the recommendations. Yet, realities on the grounds suggest as if no such recommendations had been issued. We have reached a firmed conviction that implementation of the recommendations together with punishment of perpetrators of crimes, torture, and the integration of other components of society into the security services would not be possible without removal of this corrupt government. The international community is looked up to press the authorities for serious, sincere and comprehensive implementation of all BICI recommendations. Also, all need to be advised of the need for having a transitional government, with a clean record.
Al-Wefaq and foreign relationships: Al-Wefaq places great importance to its foreign relations, but paid a hefty price for this pioneering trend through hostile media campaigns carried out by the regime and other politicians working alongside it. Strangely enough, Al-Wefaq’s adversaries opted to follow the society’s model at a later stage in forging ties with the international community.
Al-Wefaq participated early in the conference of Arab parties and succeeded in forming bilateral ties with numerous political forces throughout the Arab world. In reality, the society is determined to intensify these relations by converting them into joint working agreements. Al-Wefaq has developed ties with GCC, Arab, Islamic, and Western countries and more recently with Russia.
Al-Wefaq launches these relationships on the basis of its independence, patriotism and limits these ties for the benefit of Bahrain and its people politically and economically. The society respects all bilateral agreements and treaties and international covenants signed by Bahrain. Al-Wefaq calls on the international community to treat demands of the people of Bahrain in the same standard to those of other Arab peoples concerning transition to democracy and an elected government. Also, the international community is expected to press the authorities to comply with signed international conventions in the forefront of them the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international treaties and conventions, all of which oblige Bahrain to respect human rights as well as adoption of peaceful transfer of power through ballot boxes.
Al-Wefaq and Arab Spring revolutions: Al-Wefaq has sided with calls for freedom and democracy, and hence has demonstrated support and solidarity with all forces, movements and parties embracing such civilized values. The society took the initiative in showing support for revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Still, Al-Wefaq supports the right of peoples in Yemen, Syria and Jordan for self-determination and selection of their political authority via popular by-elections, free and referendums and elections. People should the first and final word.
Al-Wefaq supports the right of peaceful expression for all and rejects the use of force against peaceful demonstrators under any justification. The society will continue supporting the right of people everywhere in the world concerning freedom and democracy.
Al-Wefaq and the Palestinian case: Ever since its inception, Al-Wefaq has sided with the Palestinian people and their right to resist occupation and to recover their land, return of refugees as well as establishment of their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. Also, the society joined other forces in solidarity with the people in Gaza. Al-Wefaq intends to remain supportive of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian issue, which constitutes a central issue, and to support reconciliation efforts on Palestinian arena.
Appeal to our partners in the nation: Al-Wefaq believes that Bahrain is a common homeland to all its citizens, and all have the inherent right to manage affairs of the nation, through a political system recognizing people as source of authority, involving all components of the nation through political pluralism and peaceful transfer of power via ballot boxes, not granting any component or class or family or political orientation monopoly over power and wealth.
We are working on formulation of a nation adhering to principles of rights and freedoms on the basis of equal citizenship and the rule of law to everyone regardless of religious, ethnic or familial or tribal affiliations. In this system, people should have the monitoring power, complemented through the power of free media, civil society, independent and strong judiciary. In the system, we like to see duty of security agencies designed to ensure protection of citizens rather than to terrorize them. Our beloved partners in this homeland of different religions, sects, and political ideologies, lets join hands in protecting our country from corruption and thieves of public money, where all are equal before law. Come together to plan the future of our children through in democratic state capable of ensuring them justice and development without fear.
In conclusion: The right of the people to select their government democratically through free and fair elections based on citizenship Bahraini equal in rights and duties is key to a compromised solution in Bahrain. This is the only hope for progress and modernity and the ability of responding to aspirations and needs of the people.
Conversely, the option of dictatorship and upholding of decisions exclusively for the benefit of one family and marginalization of people translates into use of scorched-earth policy. We believe that this policy will be utterly lost on those undertaking it and the nation, threatening very the very survival of their system.
The General Secretariat
Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society
Shaikh Ali Salman
31 March, 2012