Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lamees Dhaif's speech on Sectarianism in the United Nations, Geneva on September 19, 2012



Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
After nearly 2 years since the beginning of the uprising in Bahrain, I can honestly say that I am fed up of the accusations describing our revolution as sectarian. I do not think anyone asked the opposition in other countries of the Arab Spring about their religion or ethnic background nor doubted them due to racial or sectarian considerations. But in Bahrain, we always had to refute the myth describing our movement as sectarian.
Well, today I will let you know who is really sectarian in Bahrain using statistics rather than allegations.
The council of ministers is made up of 24% Shiite Muslims, 36% Sunni Muslims, and 40% royal family members.


In commissions, institutions, and government agencies the number of Shiites in senior positions does not exceed 7% whereas royal family members and Sunnis account for 29% and 64% respectively.
To understand the magnitude of discrimination that we're talking about, we have to tell you that the ruling family, which seizes the lion's share in all positions do not exceed 11 thousand people. The males account for 4500 individuals and occupy positions that exceed that of the largest sect in the country by number and statuary resemblance.
In the judiciary system, members of the ruling family account for 33%, Sunnis 58%, and Shiites and foreigners account for the small remaining percentage.
In municipalities and provinces royal family members account for 40%, Sunnis 40%, while Shiites account for 20% of the positions.

One family that does not even make up 0.5% the population confiscates more than what the largest category of people owns. During the past year alone, 296 senior government positions were distributed and only 42 posts of them to the Shiite community which account for 14%.
Who enforces sectarianism, ladies and gentlemen?
Is it the person who considers the country feudal and distributes its resources on his own people or is it the person asking for justice and reform? And who is sinful and should be blamed and doubted: a person demanding equality or a person who measures people according to their sects and ethnic background?

The other day, I received a phone call from a girl. Her voice could barely be heard because of her continuous crying. I have spent the last 12 years studying hard to fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor, she said. My father is a taxi driver and we live in difficult circumstances. I struggled in order to achieve a better future for both me and my family. Although I scored 97.8%, I was deprived of the scholarship because it was given to colleagues with a lower score but belonged to the other sect. They gave me 1200 dollars instead, she continued. While crying her eyes out she asked me: Why exactly am I punished? Why? I did not choose my sect, why do they confiscate my dream?
This girl's story is similar to that of thousands of youngsters in Bahrain. They are unjustly discriminated against due to sectarian considerations, and if they demand equality, they are labeled as sectarian!!
Article 4 of the Constitution of Bahrain states: Justice is the basis of government. Cooperation and mutual respect provide a firm bond between citizens. Freedom, equality, security, trust, knowledge, social solidarity and equality of opportunity for citizens are pillars of society guaranteed by the State.
This is what is mentioned in our constitution but the reality is something else.
Believe it or not: Shiites, who represent the majority of Bahraini population, cannot work in the army because of their sectarian affiliation.
Believe it or not: the regime imports ignorant mercenaries from all around the world to cover the shortage caused that rather than giving a chance to those who are unemployed.
Believe it or not: in the country where its young people suffer from poverty and unemployment, naturalization was used extensively to change its demographics. The regime has naturalized around 50 to 60.000 for political reasons.
Believe it or not: in the Supreme Defense Council members of the ruling family occupy 13 seats out of 14. In the Ministry of Interior Shiites make up 10% of the positions whereas the ruling family occupies 35% and Sunnis occupy the remaining posts.
Believe it or not: Shiites are prevented from living or owning a house in the whole area of Riffa (Both East and West). Can you believe that a country in the 22nd century prevents a large segment of its citizens from ownership in a residential area due to sectarian considerations? Yes, it’s Bahrain.
Whereas 47 thousand families await a modest home sometimes for periods over 20 years, mercenaries and their families are given decent housing where native citizens, sometimes up to 5 families, pool up in mud houses.
We are not a poor country. But we live under the mercy of a corrupt system. I do not see the elements of good governance and justice in my country.

These are only pieces of the brutal reality and let me conclude: this small island had more revolutions since 1923 than any other country - not because of its sectarian combination - but because we are facing a regime which strives on repression, discrimination and corruption.
 
Do not let the Bahraini regime justify its crimes using the sectarian strife that it has created. And do not allow the international community to justify its failure due to divisions created by the regime.
Bahrain's problem is not in people demanding equality and justice.
But rather in a system that detests equality and justice.

Thank you

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