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Did Prisoners Reject Offer for Additional Privileges?

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Political prisoners on hunger strike in Bahrain have rebuffed government concessions and will extend their protest, raising the stakes in the biggest showdown in recent years between dissidents and the ruling family, Reuters reported. This piece of news was published in most media outlets and was circulated by the world's press.

Comparing the circulated headline to the piece of written news reveals no optimism, and perhaps it is not accurate.

First: Is there a real offer made to the prisoners or just promises that were mentioned in the news to the public?

Second: is the growing threat of the biggest confrontation in years between opponents and the ruling family, which the agency reported, a result of the prisoners' rejection of what was said in an offer made to them, which they rejected?

Third: Should the prisoners have ended their strike based on promises mentioned in the news, and not implemented on the ground, as neither have the isolation prisoners been returned, the harsh glass barrier removed, nor have the patients been taken to hospitals. Where are the privileges mentioned by the agency as if they were a real thing offered to prisoners?

Those who have been following the strike since its first day know how the events unfolded, and what the Reuters headline and the content of its news can suggest in terms of justifying the Interior Ministry's actions, which wants to present prisoners as intransigent, who do not accept solutions.

About twenty days after the start of the strike, the Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad received the Minister of Interior Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, and the following day the Minister of Interior received the President of the National Institute for Human Rights. During the meeting, the Minister of Interior announced that a number of procedures are to be reviewed.

Circling back to the text of the statement published by the Bahrain News Agency, we will find that all of the above were only promises, and that no actual decision was taken with regards to any of these issues.

The statement says, for instance, "the health services provided to inmates by government hospitals were discussed" without clarifying what this means. The statement also adds "reviewing the system of visitation of inmates and developing it to include increased the visit duration." The word review does not necessarily imply any particular decision to be made in the future. The Ministry of Interior's statement goes on to say that during the meeting, they also discussed "increasing the daily leisure time (sunbathing), and with regard to increasing the tariff of calls, there is ongoing coordination with the telecommunications company on reviewing this matter."

The Minister of the Interior, who has full power, could have said during the meeting that he had decided to increase the leisure time, or increase the number of family members and modify the conditions of the visitor list... etc. However, he preferred to keep his options open, meaning that he would not make any concessions in the future if the prisoners broke the strike today.

Therefore, the prisoners decided to continue their strike because the Interior Ministry simply did not make an offer, but made promises through a media statement. Is this unclear for a giant media agency like Reuters? Certainly not, it is not difficult to comprehend, as it certainly differentiates between promises through statements and official offers in negotiation sessions, and this makes publishing news with such wording a bit strange.

The news that is now spreading around the world says that prisoners in Bahrain are rejecting an offer of additional privileges!

This approach has been used in the past, portraying opponents as ones who reject solutions. In 2014, the authorities and a number of media outlets at home and abroad promoted that the opposition refuses to participate in parliamentary life.

After that, the opposition was subjected to repression, including the arrests of opposition leaders, the closure of a number of political societies, the revocation of citizenship, and the siege imposed on Sheikh Isa Qassim that lasted for about 2 years, which the authorities concluded with a massacre in 2017.  Therefore, one must worry about promoting inaccurate conclusions of the type that says prisoners are refusing additional privileges. The truth again is that the prisoners were offered nothing and that there was only the statement of the Interior Ministry made to the media.

The prisoners have decided to continue their hunger strike because there is no solution for them, as they have been suffering from very difficult conditions on the humanitarian level for years, and a number of them have been martyred because of the continuous violations against them, so they have made their final decision to go on a serious strike. They; however, were only met with an interior minister obsessed with revenge and repression, and a prime minister who did not speak throughout the strike or make any statements, save for his comments to English radio broadcasters yesterday.

Arabic Version