Bahrain Government and Politics
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. According to AllCityCodes.com, 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.
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 replacement.
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 and 29.
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 perpetrated.