Bahrain: An appeal from the Women's Petition Committee to the king of Bahrain

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"Address to His Majesty, King of Bahrain, concerning failures of the Supreme Council for Women."
An open letter on behalf of Ghada Jamshir, Chairwoman of the Women’s Petition Committee.
His Majesty, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, may God bless him, King of Bahrain

The Women Petition Committee pays tributes of greetings and reverence, wishing your Majesty success in all endeavours in favour of welfare an wellbeing of this country.

Your Majesty,

We have entertained fear of the repercussions on the outcome of the conditions of citizens, in general, and women, in particular, in recent years until last elections, which clearly revealed the inability of the Supreme Council for Women (SCW) in confronting plots of some official circles, led by the Royal Court, and in execution of a hidden agenda, and preventing women from entering parliament through the election.

The Council (SCW) has also failed at promoting the rights of women. It was deficient in meeting the hope, invested by thousands of women, in the Sharia courts, did not show the necessary support to pass the Personal Status Act, and stopped the media propaganda for that project after the Authorities used it as political bargain with the Shiite opposition. The Council was unable to deliver, at least, one woman candidate out of those sitting for the parliamentary and municipal elections (Eighteen parliamentary candidates and five candidates for municipal councils). This is despite the exorbitant expenditure on training and empowerment programs which reached 13 programs [1], and the media campaign, which has not achieved the desired positive effect in voting because of the reputation of the SCW.

The exorbitant expenditure not lead to any woman to be a member of parliament through the ballot box, however, one female candidate, arranged by the Minister of the Royal Court, reached the parliament uncontested in isles of Hawar, which almost is citizen-free constituency. Such post is not considered true gain of the SCW. In contrary, the SCW took a negative attitude to support Mrs. Muneera Fakhro leaving the scene of the Royal Court to waive her out of considerations in the political process to produce a sectarian balanced parliament, serving the Authorities in outweighing its electoral inside that parliament. This is in order to ensure the largest bloc of loyalists to make the opposition unable to achieve any gains. The Council left Ms. Fakhro alone facing the Royal court despite its knowledge of the Court support to her contender, Dr. Salah Ali.

The Council was decorated with women figures, but they have no effective role or influence on its strategies and operation. Most of them were recruited on the basis of political loyalty and family relations. Some of the council members occupy several positions and responsibilities thereby depriving other women, reduces efficiency and productivity. The facts confirm the lack of independence the SCW, while directly subordinated to the Royal Court. It also shows the sideline stance of the Council in the war waged by the Authorities against the Committee of Women's Petition (CWP), and his responsibility to push the Authorities to introduce complications in declaring the Women's Union (WU) in order to have it contained and making it part of the decor of our nascent democracy.

What has been produced by the SCW is discreditable considering the potential existing capabilities, logistic support, full time employment and allocated huge funds paid to its Secretariat, its members, courses, travel and accommodation expenses.

All of this substantial and open support did not help in making the Council independent of its own decision, as this goal requires a genuine belief in the leadership of the right of woman as human being and citizen. Giving preference to the humanitarian aspects on the posts, rather than political considerations, which has not been comprehended by the Secretariat of the Council, which believes in bring up women through empty posts to give the regional and international community a propaganda impression of the Kingdom. This attitude by the council, unfortunately, is becoming more important than systematic efforts on building modern women familiar with their social, economic and political rights. The CWP also noted that most women attained decision making positions on the basis of tribal or sectarian affiliation or personal allegiance to the Authorities and some members of the Royal court.

Therefore, the CWP considers that, due to its policy over the past era, SCW profoundly failed in building and supporting Bahraini women. The SCW didn’t not adopted scientific approach, based on a specific and chronic course to raise human rights awareness, starting by introducing its various aspects in the curricula. This is in addition to supporting civic societies, especially the women’s, to be able to play its real and full role by amending the Women's Union by-laws, extending its powers and representation of Bahraini women, instead of the containing it and distribution its powers entity subject to the rein of the Authorities and the Royal Court.

The CWP pledges to your Majesty, believing your wise decision, to order the dissolution of the Supreme Council for Women and pave the path for women's organizations, committees and independent women's rights activists to play their role stemming from the woman and addressed to her. You will be seeing the capabilities of those organizations in being creativity and giving.

May God lead your way, guide you on the path of good willing, and safe guard you as protector of our beloved country.

Ghada Jamshir,

Chairwoman of the Women’s Petition Committee

[1] Note: The women empowerment project expenditure reached US$ 660 thousand, primarily for workshops, short courses, seminars and invitation of experts from outside. It did not include salaries of its program coordinator, Maryam Janahi, and the support team