Ebrahim Sharif's speech at the annual commemoration of martyr Hussam Al-Haddad
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2015-07-14 16:09:55

In the name of God, the all-merciful, the ever-merciful


I was in prison in the past four years, and we were saddened, always, to hear the fall of one martyr after another. During one of Ramadhan’s nights, three years ago, we heard of the death of martyr Hussam. And I began asking people from his area about Hussam’shouse and family. The painful thing while you’re in prison is that you hear of the fall of martyrs but you cannot come to their funeral, and although sometimes we could talk to their families, for the most part we couldn’t. 


In the few days after I was released from prison, I began to watch some of the videos that documented the deaths of these martyrs, and I was horrified by some of what I saw. I saw Hussam, his body punctured by bullets. I thought to myself that the firing of these bullets must have been from a range of two to three meters, only. It couldn’t have been more. 


It came to me, as I was trying to gather some thoughts for this speech, a few of the quotes that I read when I was in prison, from a number of thinkers and freedom fighters - quotes that themselves reminded me of the sacrifice that martyr Hussam has made. I recalled a few of these quotes. Voltaire [correction: Victor Hugo] said, “Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come,”.... and the idea of change in Bahrain is one whose time has come, a while ago, and I believe that martyr Hussam, and the other martyrs and freedom fighters remind us all that the time for this idea has indeed come, and for that, they are ready to give the biggest of sacrifices... because when the time for such an idea comes, it becomes necessary that we sacrifice. Martyr Hussam was one of those courageous, who marched to the front lines to say that the time for this idea has indeed come and we need sacrifices to make this idea a reality. 


The national Filipino leader, one of the heroes of Philippine’s independence, José Rizal, who also became a martyr under the time of the (Spanish) colonization, talked about how despotism is created. He said, “The tyranny of some is possible only through the cowardice of others,” the tyranny of some, rulers or others, cannot happen unless we ourselves cower.  Therefore to us, there is no going back when it comes to the building of this wall of fear among citizens. The government is strong only when we are cowards, and weak when we are courageous. This is what martyr Hussam tried to say. This is what the other martyrs and youth tried to say, as well as all the freedom fighters who are now in prison… “The tyranny of some is possible only through the cowardice of others.” 


“A free man,” says the philosopher Spinoza, “thinks of nothing less than of death.” The free man does not think of anything less than he thinks of death. This lesson we also learn from Hussam and from his brethren martyrs during the last four years and the courage of the thousands of youth in prison today and the hundreds of others who continue to protest and demonstrate… because the free man thinks of nothing less than of death. 

On the purity of the sacrifice, I come back to the Filipino national leader Rizal, who said, “Pure must the victim be for the sacrifice to be accepted.” And I don’t believe there is more purity than that found in childhood. Hussam was on the brink between childhood and youth, before treachery took him from us. If there was any purity, there would not be more so than in childhood, in Hussam. 

The nature of the political movement in this country has been, from the beginning, peaceful and moral. The opposition understands well that violence is the domain of the authority. Violence is where the authority has the upper hand over opposition, but morality is where the opposition has the upper hand. Violence is the authority’s playing field, not ours. This was understood by all of the opposition, all of the youth and citizens, and this is why the slogan was raised, “peaceful, peaceful,” from the very first day of the political movement on the 14th of February. 


The goals of the opposition are nationalistic and patriotic, above all else. Those who accused the opposition of sectarian agendas cannot prove it from a word uttered by an opposition leader, or from any document that was published by the opposition, and not even from the youth who carried the slogans. They cannot prove the existence of any non-patriotic goals. Our goals are patriotic - equal citizenship. We refuse the marginalization of any group in society, we refuse discrimination against the Shiites, we refuse the system of privileges to the ruling family or the ruling class. We are for democracy, we are for a strong constitution that gives wide authorities to the parliament, we are for an elected government through the parliament. We are for a constitutional monarchy where the king does not have authorities, where the king owns but does not rule. These are the bases that the opposition have relied upon from the very first day, and we dare anybody to prove that we have proposed any agenda that is not patriotic. 


After four years and a quarter of the revolution, 3000 prisoners, tens of martyrs and hundreds wounded, and hundreds of exiled and whose citizenships have been revoked all of these great sacrifices, our people are still ready to give one sacrifice after the other, and so when we say that the regime is strong when others are cowards, our people have not cowered, people continue to be courageous and sacrifice. When I was released from prison they told me that the political movement is calmer than it was… of course, there is no doubt it is calmer. Four years and a quarter of movement, the people need a fighter’s rest. 


Nobody can protest for more than four years, receiving heavy blows every day, while the government releases one prisoner and takes a hundred in his place.. afterfour years and a quarter, perhaps the people need a period of pause, but don’t be fooled. Let nobody be fooled and say that the fire has extinguished, that the revolution has died, that people’s determination has softened. This is not true. 


This is the blazing coal, under the ashes it lays; all it needs is two or three puffs for the fire to start again. Who had expected that on the 14th of February we would have the greatest of Bahrain’s uprisings? Nobody expected this. But the gust that came from Tunisia and moved to Egypt, scattered away all the ash that had piled up in the past years, and a strong fire was ignited again. This fire was always in people’s hearts, waiting for the right moment. And I say that this fire still burns in the hearts of our youth, waiting again for the right moment to carry on a political movement bigger maybe than that of the 14th of February. Then let nobody be fooled by this calm. This is the calm before the storm. This is the ash that covers a burning coal waiting the right moment.   

They are now trying, after they stole our “loaf”, stole our rights, they stole our “loaf of bread” – and I am trying to use our rights metaphorically as a “loaf of bread” - to return a crumb from this loaf, a miniscule crumb from this loaf, and expect us to thank them for the return of this miniscule crumb.  The audacity! It is audacity, no other way of describing it.


What is required from us now is to accept the very minimum.  They will tell us that they will release prisoners gradually and all that is required from you as opposition is to raise the white flag and proclaim that everything is fine - the existing political system, the constitution, the parliament, electoral districts, these are all matters which you accept – and your acceptance will mean we will gradually release your children one by one from prison.  This is what I am saying – they stole our “loaf of bread”, they returned a crumb and they demanded we thank them for this crumb. The audacity! This is what a group of individuals in this country are trying to market.  Open your eyes and ears and hear of endeavours that are circulating these days from one location to the other to force us to accept the very minimum, as if all these sacrifices are for nothing.


The political leaders in prison are unwavering.  I was released but there were other comrades with me. We were 13 and then we were joined by Sh. Ali Salman and we became 14.  We then became 13 again and I told Sh. Ali Salman as I was leaving that this seems like a hostage exchange situation.  It is apparent that they will remain at 13, and if one is removed, another one will replace him.  The political leaders, I assure you, are mountains - mountains of steadfastness and there is no fear of them settling.  The authorities cannot subjugate or compel these leaders.  These individuals are guardians of your ambitions, [guardians of] the blood of the martyr – guardians of your son’s blood [Hussam Al Haddad] - guardians of all martyrs, guardians of the interests of this country.  They will not enter into any deal with the political regime.  Accordingly, this steadfastness on the outside and the steadfastness on the inside fortify one another.  Therefore, the people will not be defeated because such steadfastness is strong.  


Think of the medium term – as youth – what will happen then?  This Government is good at one thing, good at automatically generating opposition.  With every day a marginalised citizen is born, the son of a Shia family – regrettably we have to say Sunni and Shia due to the fact that sectarian persecution exists in the country’s current state – every day since birth this son is told that he is incompetent compared to other citizens.  You should remain lowly, beaten on the head, and you will not have a share of the security apparatus nor join the military.  If you get into a government position, beware as you will not be promoted to the highest positions unless you became intensely loyal.  


The Government generates this type of thinking every day, and this type of thinking ultimately generates ongoing opposition against it.  Therefore, the Government is its own enemy.  They tell us that you incite people against the Government.  We say that we do not incite people.  Who incites the people against the Government is the Government itself, namely the persecution and marginalisation inflicted by the Government on the child since birth and into adulthood with his life consistently plagued with obstacles.   If he finishes school, he is faced with the scholarship obstacle – distributed here and there through nepotism, concealed or allocated to the various [Royal] Courts.  Once he finishes his education, perhaps he will get employed in the Government or perhaps not.  If he gets employed in the Government, he will not join the security forces or the military.  If he gets employment in the Private Sector, he will attain promotions with difficulty.  The Government practices discrimination consistently.  The Government is the one responsible for generating discontent and opposition amongst people.  Therefore, a large number of people will remain as opposition as a result of the Government’s treatment.


The other important issue we must consider is the fact that this Government is bankrupt.  Any of you following the events in Greece will see that the events that recently transpired are a result of bad governments, despite the fact that they had democratic governments and devolution of powers.  However, the past two governments, the socialist government and the new democratic government were a corrupt elite, a corrupt ruling elite.  Their jobs were to steal or forge statistics to enter the European Union and the Euro.  After the financial crisis in 2008, all of their actions were unmasked and the economic system was exposed leading to the discovery that the country is bankrupt.  The current state of Bahrain now is the same as Greece in 2008, meaning we are gradually being exposed now. In the next 5 years, if the prices of oil do not improve and the Government has not conducted genuine reform, we will have a situation similar to Greece – unless they go begging to the GCC countries asking for USD 4 billion instead of USD 1 billion.  The economic situation is bad and getting worse, which will propel other factions of society to also oppose the Government.  Therefore, I believe the opposition must look ahead, not behind.


Yesterday an important resolution was issued by the European Parliament with 14 strong recommendations, including the banning of the sale of arms, security devices used in quashing protests and tear gas, demanding the release of Sh. Ali Salman, Nabeel Rajab and the 13 leaders.  The recommendations were a strong condemnation of Bahrain’s non-compliance with the BICI Recommendations.  I urge you all to read these. No one should say that these are futile, on the contrary, there is benefit to be derived.  The Government is always quick to issue reactionary statements, such resolutions being apparent provocation for it, and I view this reaction as proof.  As long as we have a demands’ movement in this country, coupled with the involvement from human rights activists, including those who have been exiled or had their passports revoked by the Government and are outside – this movement locally will lead to international interaction.  Ongoing local movement means ongoing international interaction.


If our movements are extinguished, the world will not care about us.  The world will only care about a nation that cares about its interests.  I think this is beneficial, the pressure is still there.  While this statement is not something we can necessarily encash, if we continue to accumulate our efforts, this Government will continue to receive slaps and blows on a daily basis until the “welding” eventually loosens in time.


All of these problems faced by the Government have no solutions.  The Government is automatically generating opposition.  The inflation of the Government in the past few years, particularly the expansion of its security apparatuses and those relating to the Royal Court etc. – all these are expenses – and those useless institutions created by the Government are also part of this.  Government created institutions such as the National Institution for Human Rights and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission etc. – expenditure – and the Consultative Council – expenditure, expenditure, expenditure, expenditure – such expenditure being futile as it was unable to save the Government.


This reminds me of something a Dutch philosopher once said, that you cannot – let me see – or rather that “a beautiful outfit does not add value to a man, and it is inconceivable that cheap objects are wrapped in expensive exteriors”.  It is inconceivable that cheap objects are wrapped in expensive exteriors.  The Government is cheap, bankrupt – a failure of a Government.  No matter how you wrap it, no matter how beautiful the exterior you put it in is, this is futile as you are wasting money on a façade as this Government cannot be adorned.


I say if this Government wished to resolve all these existing problems, it will have no option but to go for the reform option which was put forth by the opposition.  This is an available option as was laid out by the opposition in the Manama Document and generally in its pursuit of achieving democratic reforms.  There is no solution for all these complications, including the economic, social and political conditions, without genuine national reconciliation and genuine reform in this country.


To the father of the martyr, his brothers, his sisters, his mother, his family and all my loved ones in this good neighbourhood – and I know how good this neighbourhood is because I ran for elections in this district in [2010] and I know how genuine people are and their urge to help one another – I say to you, the martyr’s father, that “the day of justice against injustice is harsher than the day of oppression on the oppressed”, as Imam Ali once said.  I offer you my condolences for the martyr and I congratulate you as well.  I offer my condolences as you have lost your son and I congratulate you on his martyrdom.  I congratulate the good people of this neighbourhood and the people of Bahrain and I say that victory is near.  We carry on, persevere, work, fight and sacrifice until the other party listens.  There is no solution in this country but reform.


Peace and God’s mercy and blessings be upon you all.


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