As founder of the Bahrain Foundation for Reconciliation and Civil Discourse (BFRCD), I get asked a lot about my views on the National Dialogue – and about the Bahrain Crisis in general.
To say the overall situation in our beloved island kingdom does not look good would be an understatement.
Things don’t look good; protests are ongoing, violence is escalating, the media is getting more polarised by the day, more youth are being radicalised, prominent opposition figures are in jail (which caused the opposition to withdraw), the business community is demoralised, and for some odd reason we seem to have the slowest internet speed in the Northern Hemisphere.
There are no signs of reprieve, and people are fast losing hope, or have already given up. Sadly, some Bahraini’s have left or are planning to leave Bahrain. So we’re even experiencing a brain drain, a very dangerous symptom for any society.
The way I see it, we are where Northern Ireland was in the late 1960’s, just before their “troubles’ started. Their crisis lasted around 30 years and led to over 3,000 deaths and many more thousands of injuries.
The longer our crisis takes to resolve, the more the cancer of sectarianism will spread in Bahrain. Of course we are not like Northern Ireland, at least for now. But as this polarised youth grows up, there is a very real danger of us becoming like them. It feels like we are entering deeper and deeper into the abyss.
Yet oddly, I’m very optimistic.
There are several reasons for my optimism. For one, in the last year – and especially in the last few months – I’ve been working really hard on myself. I’ve been reflecting and meditating a lot, which helped ground me, increase my consciousness and give me a lot more hope.
The other reason is all the reading I’ve been doing. As a “reconciliation activist” I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the crisis other countries have gone through, and I realised that so many of them have gone through a lot worse than us, and managed to resolve their difference. If they can do it, then so can we!
I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting some remarkable people in the last year; activists, current and former politicians, and even reformed terrorists, and I’ve learned so much from them. One of the key things I’ve learnt is that you cannot give up on dialogue, there is always a way – always!
The final reason I’m optimistic is because there is no other choice – the National Dialogue has to work!
I know what you’re thinking, both sides allege that the other side is not serious, and there are even allegations that one side has been bought, while the other allegedly gets instructions from abroad. . Furthermore, very little has been achieved since the Dialogue started early this year.
Yes, I know all that, but I think it’s just a matter of time until all sides realise that they have to make it work! It will take time for stubborn mindsets to thaw, and for people to come to the realisation that compromise is the only way. I am utterly convinced that it will happen. Like I said, other nations have done it, and so can we.
Here’s the crux however, it will take a long time – time we don’t really have. If we compare what has been achieved so far with what still needs to be resolved, and project that into the future, I would say it will take us at least another three years. Maybe even five.
So a minimum of three to five years, and with a maximum of say thirty years (heaven forbid).
I know this is a depressing thought, but we have to accept that this is the reality we live in. For whatever reason, God saw fit for us to have a heart-wrenching crisis, we can complain bitterly and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can accept and do our part to lessen the pain.
Thank God we’re not Syrians, right? The suffering is all relative.
Stay hopeful my friend, hope is all we have.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and talk to you soon.