Hussein Yousif: About the Inviolable “Self” of the King

2019-03-29 - 3:03 ص

Hussein Yousif*

The first direct encounter I had with him was before the inauguration, in 1995/1996, in the presence of the late Minister of Industry Yousuf Al-Shirawi. Hamad bin Isa, the then Crown Prince, wished that the Kuwait award-winning Science Center team set up an electronic register for the royal court visitors in Riffa. I tried to form an image of his character from his speech, wondering to myself if his constant smile at that meeting expressed warmth and optimism or hid behind it the distress of a country ignited by the demand of reinstating the Constitution. However, this young team of creators and inventors in his speech were condensed to merely being "the Children of Yousuf" (Al-Shirawi). A phrase that summarizes a man's approach in governance and evaluation. To him, you're who you are based on who your father is, and not on your own being. As if he is saying: I am with you as long as I see you along with your extensions to me; your meaning becomes greater with the presence of your extensions [i.e. family relations] and vanishes with the absence of such kinship. A sentence almost defined with a preconception in mind about the value of citizenship, and so it was indeed. I was stripped of my citizenship by a decision made by the king himself in 2015, twenty years after this first meeting.

The king suffers from the same issue the Prime Minister suffers: the personalization of national action and the centrality of the "self". This centrality emerged when he was declared the symbol of the National Action Charter, and crowned himself in the media as the "King of Hearts", rendering the royal self inviolable and untouchable in the 2002 Constitution. At the same time, in him all authorities were combined: legislative, executive and judicial, as well as the military. This makes all the budgets and institutions in the hands of the King and the royal court outside the grip of any institutional or popular supervision.

During his 20 years in office since 1999, the king's ego was inflated in every corner in Bahrain. The royal court's budget rose from 6 million dinars in previous decades to an estimated value of over 600 million dinars, while the public debt jumped to 12 billion dinars. The number of special security bodies increased, before the Royal Guard had been established, he formed the national security apparatus which is loyal to the royal court exclusively.

In parallel with the economic concerns and the blatant constitutional crisis, the king's name emerged as a spiritual father for the political naturalization project. The Citizenship Act was amended to allow the King, as an exception, to grant the privilege of citizenship outside the frameworks of legal standards, but this exception has been used as an gateway for naturalizing more than 120,000 people for purely political aims, disregarding the effects of this action on the social, economic and security levels on the one hand, and the popular consensus that rejected this project on the other. The king always looks for the voices of loyalty to his "self" but the consequences of this on the national level have been disastrous.

In the constitution, the King owns 50% of the seats in the Parliament which belong to Shura members, and owns the right on the other hand to draw the constituencies and tilt the balance of more than 50% of the constituencies, thus 75% of the votes of the electorate is secured in his right hand. This parliament also does not have any sovereignty of its own, as it convened with its two chambers (Council of Representatives and Shura Council) for the first time in its history in an exceptional session summoned by the King in the summer of 2013 to discuss the request to tighten the grip on citizens, which was translated to the moment by the revocation of the citizenships of more than 800 Bahrainis, as if one's nationality or national belonging is just a word written on a travel document.

In 20 years, Bahrain has turned into a destination for international labor, while the national labor force has been cornered to the extent of exclusion.

Twenty years kicked off with the demand for constitutional life alive in the streets of Bahrain, and ended with the duality of the king's "self" and the constitution which sum up the homeland's crisis. The "self" should have protected the Constitution, and the Constitution should have protected the homeland. But the "self" has eaten up the constitution, thus the country deteriorated. The king's "inviolable self" should have protected the Constitution, but it crossed the Constitution.

*Bahraini Activist and Author residing in Lebanon

Arabic Version


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