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23-04-2012 - Gulf Daily News

New unity campaign in Bahrain

A new group "fed up" with living in a divided society is lining up a series of events to bring Bahrainis back together.

TA3ABNA Bahrain (Fed Up Bahrain) was set up earlier this year by a number of students, professionals and business figures.

What started out as an online movement, where members of the public were invited to express how "fed up" they were with the situation in Bahrain, has grown into an organisation planning events that promote unity.

These include music, dance, cultural and social events aimed at all segments of Bahrain society, which has been polarised by the anti-government protest movement over the past year.

"We'd had big plans for events which would bring Bahrainis together in a positive spirit using music, dance, culture and activities," said one of the organisers, who explained the group's policy of anonymity meant he could not be named.

"We've even prepared the artwork, T-shirts and thousands of wristbands with our slogans on.

"Our plan is to work with a few of the universities which have been supporting us, build up a support base and continue to try and gain attention for the issues we are trying to highlight - whether we're ever allowed to hold an event or not."

He said the Fed Up Bahrain campaign, which first gained prominence through sites such as Facebook and Twitter, had received positive feedback.

"There is a mix between students, professionals and even a number of business figures who are feeling equally fed up with the difficult economic situation we're finding in Bahrain."

While the organisation speaks for the growing numbers of people unhappy with the current situation in Bahrain, including the economic impact of ongoing tensions, it is specifically focused on combating sectarianism.

Its official Twitter account says it hopes to unite Bahraini society against sectarianism, a lack of respect and all forms of violence.

"Amongst my close friends, we are a mix of Sunnis and Shias - as well as many so-called Sushis (who have one Sunni parent and one Shia parent) - and that never seemed to matter before.

"However, we have seen friendships destroyed and people using the most offensive language against our fellow Bahrainis, just because of the segment of society they come from.

"This is foreign to our culture and we wanted to take a stand against this.

"The protest movement brought to the forefront many important issues, but no issue should be more important than our national unity and our ability to come together as Bahrainis.

"Therefore, the slogan 'fed up with sectarianism' has always been at the forefront of what we're about.

He said those behind the movement had come up with the name Fed Up Bahrain because it tapped into a sense of exasperation that people had become used to. "We have been very pleasantly surprised by the kind of responses the campaign has been getting," he added.

"It's been quite common for people when first hearing about the campaign to comment that the name is 'very negative', but when we engage them in conversation they'll also acknowledge that they are feeling equally fed up with the way things are going in Bahrain, so I feel we've tapped into a feeling which is common to a large number of Bahrainis.

"It has been nice on the website to see moderate opposition and loyalist figures happily interacting and expressing their common frustrations, in a way that is strangely unifying."

One issue that has stimulated the campaign is the controversy over the Spring of Culture, which Islamist MPs tried to cancel earlier this month. "For us in 'Fed Up', there is an important principle at stake here," explained the spokesman. "Bahrain has always been proud of its wide cultural horizons and freedom of expression; we must protect this. That is why we've been working recently under the slogan 'Keep Bahrain Cultured'."

Organisers hope that the Formula One will be instrumental in bringing Bahrainis together.

""There are tough times ahead, but let's hope that the Grand Prix will be a great sports event for bringing a more positive and forward-looking spirit to our country."

The group has been planning to organise an event for more than two months, but is yet to receive permission from authorities to stage any large-scale activities.

"Each time our requests for permission have been ignored by the authorities or we've been granted tentative permission at too late a stage to secure the security arrangements," he said. "We have the Culture Ministry permission, but still have not been able to get the necessary licence from the Interior Ministry.

"It seems that because we're not (opposition group) Al Wefaq, we're not allowed to bring people together in a public place. So please understand how fed up we are currently feeling."

The Fed Up Bahrain campaign can be followed on Twitter at @Ta3abna, or on Facebook at Ta3abna Fed Up Campaign.


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