The democratization process was accelerated according to the
schedule the royal family had set out the year before. On
February 14, 2002, Bahrain was transformed into a
constitutional monarchy, and the king - the former emir -
postponed elections on October 24, the same year. These were
the first elections in 27 years. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of BA and its meanings of Bahrain.
In May 2002 local elections were held, and for the first
time women had both the right to vote and the right to vote.
The same was true at the October parliamentary elections.
The turnout for this just reached 50%, despite the country's
main party, the Islamic National Association (INAA) calling
for a boycott. The INAA represents the country's Shiite
population, claiming the election was undemocratic because
the legislative power is shared between the elected
parliament and an advisory council appointed by the King who
is a Sunni Muslim.
Acc. In a series of intelligence reports, authorities
closed off access to a number of WEB sites in March -
including the Bahrain Liberation Front site, which had
sharply criticized the King's constitutional reforms. In
May, the regime closed access to the TV channel al-Jazeera.
In October, a new legislative decree was published on press
release, whose Article 68 has a 5-year prison term for
publishing articles that are critical of the state religion
which criticizes the king or calls for government
In May, intelligence colonel Adel Jassem Fleifel fled to
Australia as authorities launched an investigation into him
for suspected corruption. A number of opposition groups had
for several years accused him of torture, or of having
ordered torture against detained or political prisoners.
That same month, Amnesty International called on the
government to investigate all charges of torture, waged by
Fleifel or others from the intelligence service. The colonel
returned to Bahrain in November and was arrested.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission visited
Bahrain in March, expressing the need to investigate past
human rights violations and bring those responsible to
justice. A short time later, Bahrain ratified the United
Nations Convention on Discrimination against Women, although
it had a number of reservations about Articles 2, 9, 15, 16
In 2003, 200 prisoners conducted a hunger strike in Jaw
prison in the southern part of the country. The strike was
carried out in protest against the frequent physical
assaults, and against the obstacles placed in contacting
lawyers and human rights organizations. During a similar
hunger strike at the beginning of the year, prisoner Yasser
Makki had lost his life due to a lack of medical treatment.
The chairman of the National Committee on Martyrs and
Victims in Bahrain, Sayed Jaffar al-Alawi, stated that
33,000 of the country's citizens have been abused by police
over the previous two years and that at least 3,500 claim to
be tortured. Al-Alawi is one of the country's most prominent
human rights activists, and he has called for the
establishment of a legal commission to investigate torture
and killing in the country's prisons.
The Bahrain Human Rights Association, in its report to
the UN Commission on Human Rights, tackled a variety of
forms of discrimination: against women and against Shiites
in public access, and against nepotism in the royal family.
In April 2004, King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, Nada
Haffadh appointed Minister of Health. She thus became the
country's first female minister.
In May, the King removed Interior Minister Sheik Mohammed
bin Khalifa al Khalifa following a clash in Manama, with
police cracking down on 5,000 protesters protesting the U.S.
attack war on Iraq. The protesters carried posters with
images of Iraqi Shiite leader, Great Ayatollah Ali al
Sistani with the inscription "Death on the United States".
Over 20 were injured during clashes in the capital. Acc. the
government should have foreseen the incidents and refrained
from repression. The king declared that the people had the
right to demonstrate and protest against "the abuses and
oppression our brothers in Palestine and Israel are exposed
to, and the abuses that occur in the holy cities of Najaf
and Karbala in Iraq". He added that the government had the
same feelings as the protesters against the injustices