…from beneath the crooked bough, witness 230 years of brutal tyranny by the al Khalifas come to an end
Random header image... Refresh for more!

An Interview with Dr. Colin Cavell former Assistant Professor at University of Bahrain

Crooked Bough Interview with Colin S. Cavell, Ph.D., former Assistant Professor at the University of Bahrain
14 February, 2012

Crooked Bough: It’s now been about a year since your return from your teaching position in Bahrain. Can you recollect for the readers the circumstances and situation as you left Bahrain?

CSC: My wife and I left Bahrain on February 25, 2011, the day of one of the largest demonstrations in Bahraini history with over 300,000 people marching in the streets calling for the downfall of the 228-year-old Al-Khalifa monarchical dynasty. The political situation in the country had been deteriorating gradually for some time, though most folks in the government and in the professions were unaware of this erosion of confidence in the regime and the rising anger which accompanied it. However, this deterioration was evident in the stultifying inefficiency in the country’s bureaucracy where all are fearful to take any initiative or make any decision for fear of royal retaliation. It was also evident in the lack of any meaningful advancement based upon merit and hard work instead of patronage and favoritism. And, of course, there is the persistent low wages for the country’s majority Shia citizens as well as their systematic denial of promotions. And there is the very abusive usage of expatriate labor being imported from neighboring countries in the region for manual labor of all sorts. Sensing the gradual ossification of Bahrain’s reform movement, started since the ascendancy of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa in 1999, we applied for an immigrant visa to the USA for my wife, who is a Moroccan national, in the summer of 2010 and received approval later that fall from the State Department. I finished my teaching duties at the end of the Fall 2010 semester in January 2011 and submitted my resignation, effective February 15, 2011. We left Bahrain ten days later. The Arab Spring revolts were rocking the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region by then, and Bahrain’s revolt began on February 14th of 2011. The immediate reaction of the monarchy was to shoot the protesters, and this only inflamed the uprising leading to an occupation by thousands of the Pearl Roundabout in downtown Manama. We were in a race to leave the country, as we sensed by that time that the political situation was rapidly boiling and about to explode. Faced with the necessity to obtain a slew of bureaucratic signatures and approvals before our departure, I was concerned that events would stall our departure. Thus, we let go a sigh of relief as our plane departed the airstrip that night heading for London and then on to the USA.

Crooked Bough: What kind of relationship do you now have with the UOB?

CSC: As regards my present relationship with the UOB, I have not been in touch with the University since my departure. There was violence at the University in mid-March 2011, and, from what I understand, the campus was initially closed down for a couple of months, and since reopening, returning students have been forced to sign loyalty oaths to the regime, and there is heightened surveillance everywhere on campus. A number of students, nearly 500, have been expelled, and a number of staff have also been dismissed for their pro-democracy beliefs.

Crooked Bough: What has become of your students and colleagues?

CSC: I have only had contact with a few colleagues, as most are too fearful to communicate about the political situation in Bahrain while still in country. I believe it was very fortuitous that we left when we did, as several of my colleagues have been dismissed from their positions at the University of Bahrain for allegedly supporting the pro-democracy activists. At least one Bahraini newspaper undertook an attack on the American Studies Center at the UOB, where I used to teach, for allegedly fostering hostility towards the regime, because some of our students and/or alumni were engaged in the uprising and had become leading spokespersons of the opposition. Teaching students about American democracy was what they learned theoretically in the classroom; now, in the real world, they are shocked to see the US government side with the autocratic monarchy. US interest in maintaining its naval base in Bahrain for the US Fifth Fleet apparently outweighs our country’s interest in supporting democracy. Was in touch with many students while still in Bahrain, but once the regime crackdown commenced in mid-March of 2011—the Ides of March—most have been very reluctant to communicate via normal channels, and I have not heard from most in country for quite some time now. Am in communication, however, with a few who are outside of the country. For example, Maryam Al-Khawaja, a former student, is a spokesperson for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and she regularly tracks the political situation in the country alerting the international press of developments. Her sister, Zainab Al-Khawaja, another former student, is still in country, and is a leading activist. Both Maryam’s and Zainab’s father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and a prominent and leading human rights activist, was sentenced to life imprisonment last fall for his opposition to the regime, and he is now on a hunger strike and is gravely ill.

Crooked Bough: Do you anticipate a return to Bahrain?

CSC: As to whether I shall ever return to Bahrain, that remains to be seen. I would love to return to a democratic Bahrain, a free Bahrain. But, for now, it would be suicidal for me to return as long as the Al-Khalifas are still in power.

Crooked Bough: Thank you for your time and thoughts Dr. Cavell and thank you for all your effort toward a free and democratic Bahrain – watch for part two of this interview in the near future.

Do you have an original writing, poetry or art about the revolution in Bahrain that you would like to share with over nine thousand viewers a month. Contact Phlipn using the Social Networking Bar in the side bar of this page. Your submission are welcome and can be done with anonymity, confidentially and using a pseudonym. GPG Encryption available.

Add facebook comments

There are no comments yet...

Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment