MP Salah Ali (Al Menbar Islamic bloc) said today that it is in Bahrain's interest to "forget about" Bandar's report and just move on. On the same day, parliament voted down Ateyatallah's questioning on the Bandar scandal.
But this is not news. In 2002, decree law No. 56 pardoned all government officials involved in torture and abuse as well as those "guilty" of protesting government policies. Since then, the culture of impunity has been promoted actively by the government. Since then, our government, and pro-government parties, have been trying consciously to blur any memories of government oppression or conspiracy in fear of damaging the perfect picture of a unified, proud Bahrain, and their own image of benevolence.
I really believe this to be the root cause of the division in our society today. Victims of government arrest and (at least alleged) oppression have never had closure, compensation, or justice. Leading government figures that were accused of committing conspiracies, abuse, and torture were never punished. On the contrary, many went on to assume prominent positions and are treated as honorable citizens by the government-controlled press and politicians. Self-identifies victims, meanwhile, are struggling with the residues of the past, especially the 90s, without receiving any form of acknowledgement or apology
In general, there are two central pillars to achieving reconciliation: truth and justice. Revealing the truth paves the way for the society to face its past and move forward to forge a national reconciliation. Pursuing justice cleanses the nation’s conscience and provides victims with closure and sense of support and security.
In the case of post-90s Bahrain, healing never occurred, as neither truth nor justice was pursued. People on both sides of the spectrum, despite public rhetoric of "unity", really just maintained two different versions of the truth and two different concepts of what justice entails. Al-Dhahrani's recent proposal to compensate "victims" of 90s violence (only this time he spoke of victims of the actual popular uprising) was only one manifestation of the deep divide. The two sides never came together to tell the story; and a balanced version of the truth was never revealed. Throughout time, the distinction between victim and perpetrator was also blurred.
In public statements of major pro-government Islamist parties (Al Menbar, Asala and Sa3eedi), the prevailing rhetoric is not just to deny government wrongdoing, but to accuse the mainly Shi'a dissidents of “starting it” by rebelling against government policies. On the other side, mere mention of property losses that some non-involved parties suffered as part of the violence is often shunned as an attempt to justify government violence and abuse of protestors.
To be honest, with the exception of nationalist oppositionists (Al Noaimi, Munira Fakhro, Ebrahim Sharif, etc), we have a sectarian divide along those lines. It's not unreasonable to claim that the majority of Sunnis blame the protestors for starting the violence. In turn, the Shi'a wounds never healed and their self-image of victimhood was never addressed.
All nations have moments in their history that make them feel especially proud. All of them have moments of shame as well. In order to foster healing and "real" unity, Bahrain cannot afford to continue on this path of "unaccountability" and denial. Historical events need to be debated, recorded, and in the Bandar report, acknowledged and investigated at minimum, at least to show respect to that section of the population that seems to be the target of the strategies put forth in the report.
So, No, Mr. Salah. It is not in Bahrain's interest to "forget about it" and continue breeding this culture of impunity. Your refusal to even investigate the matter is suspicious at best. No one with half a brain can possibly forgive or forget, knowing that the suspects are roaming around happily under the protection of our own elected parliamentarians.