2019 Roundup: Year of Bullying by Naturalized Citizens

2020-02-05 - 8:07 p

Bahrain Mirror (2019 Roundup): Incidents of bullying caused by naturalized citizens and foreigners targeting Bahraini nationals made headlines in 2019. Amid national consensus on the Bahrainization of jobs as well as putting an end to the preferential treatment given to foreigners over Bahrainis in employment in both the public and private sectors, naturalized businessman Yousef Mashal of Palestinian origin had something else to say. He replied to those demanding Bahrainization by saying: "The government doesn't have to employ you," also calling them names that provoked Bahraini public opinion at the time. In a tweet on February 23, 2019, Mashal said: "Is it right to have the government be forced to hire every unemployed person whether that person has value or not, or is it right to have the private sector be forced to hire a person because there's a feather on their head (meaning privileged person), to say that one is a Bahraini even though that person doesn't have any productivity or commitment?" He went on to say "that's what you want to hear from everyone, the government, private sector and intellectuals. Unfortunately this will not happen now because the country cannot."

His tweet stirred widespread public reactions from Sunni and Shiite citizens alike. Lawyer Fatima Al-Hawaj filed a report to the Public Prosecutor against Mashal. She wrote in her complaint that "the complainant [...] spoke of the Bahraini people with demeaning and insulting words [...] describing Bahrainis as having a feather on their heads is derogatory language, as he is claiming that the Bahraini citizen who was not provided with a job opportunity is unproductive and uncommitted."

Another incident took place in the meeting of the general assembly of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) which convened on April 25, 2019. The assembly witnessed a fist fight between a group of merchants and an Egyptian legal advisor after he made derogatory sectarian remarks following an argument between the two parties.

The legal advisor, Yasser Al-Attar, directed insults at the Shiite community, after which a fight broke out between a number of attendees and the advisor, who then said even more offensive words. He addressed one of the merchants by saying: "Son of ... You are a Shiite and an agent of Iran".

After news spread that the advisor was representing the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Ministry responded with an official statement, saying that "it must be noted that the inappropriate words and shameful actions of one of the attendees has nothing to do with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, as these actions were carried out by the personal legal advisor of the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which has nothing to do with the ministry at all."

The President of the Chamber, Samir Nass, issued an official statement, in which he expressed "regret at the incidents that took place at the beginning of the meeting," stressing that what happened does not represent the chamber in any way and does not represent him personally, and highlighting that who caused these events is not linked to the Chamber in any way. Nass affirmed his complete rejection of such actions, and expressed his apologies for the unfortunate events.

Al-Wefaq Society issued a statement in which it stressed that no one would have dared to do such a thing if it had not been a part of the regime's project and plans. It also said this is a blatant crime and encroachment on citizens' faiths.

A number of MPs demanded that the legal advisor who caused the problem be punished. MP Ghazi Al Rahma said: "This ruffian, who insulted a major component of Bahraini society at the meeting of the Chamber, has no place between us. Anyone who provokes sedition is unwelcomed in the kingdom. Expel him immediately."

Contrary to all expectations, the first minor criminal court acquitted (July 7, 2019) the legal advisor and fined him 300 BD on charges of assaulting others (the Shiite merchants), while fining three Shiite merchants 100 dinars each for "assaulting" the defendant, Al-Attar.

The court said in the ruling acquitting Al-Attar of the first charge that Shia is a name given to a group of Muslims, which in the Arabic language means followers and supporters, and that a person pointing out that someone belongs to the Shiite sect would not result in contempt for that sect. What the accused did by telling someone "you belong to the Shiites" would not be considered a scornful act. Also, "you are funded by Iran" was a statement directed at the victim, not the Shiite community as a whole. The defendant didn't say that the Shiite sect is funded by Iran as mentioned in the description of the prosecution.

Lawyer Ahmad Al-Morabiti was the victim of naturalized Bengali Aman Abdulrahman Hanif who threatened to kill Al-Morabiti. According to Al-Morabiti, Hanif threatened to send people to attack him [Al-Morabiti] and use his influence to fabricate cases against him if he accepted the case of a complainant. Hanif works for Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, cousin of the Bahraini king, and co-owns Ahmadiya real estate agency, as well as restaurants, workshops and car exhibitions. The lawyer says that he saved the audio recordings of the threats, which also include an insult against Bahrain's Justice Minister Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa.

One of the most prominent cases in this regard is when Saudi Al-Arabiya channel presenter, naturalized Iraqi Mohammad Al-Arab, insulted and cussed at Bahraini citizens for taking part in a film aired by the Qatari Al-Jazeera Channel in July 2019, entitled "Players with Fire". Al-Arab talked in a video about internal family issues related to former BDF officer Yasser Al-Jalahima and activist Mohammad Al-Bouflasa and described them as "traitors", also making threats. Mentioning the private family matters of activist Mohammad Al-Bouflasa, of which the court acquitted, was met with popular reactions outraged at the fact that he mixed people's personal issues with political conflicts. Mohammad Al-Bouflasa commented by saying: "To the King of Bahrain. Mercenary journalist Mohammad Al-Arab published recordings taken in my house after my first release. I will soon respond to him. Don't accuse me of insulting your person."

Arabic Version