Exclusive Interview with Nada Dhaif – Chairman of Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization
As a medical doctor, Dr. Nada Dhaif – human rights activist and the founder and chairman of BRAVO –was arrested and tried for providing medical care to injured pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain. She was sentenced to 15 years in a military prison and endured electrocution and beatings while in custody. Dr. Dhaif continues to be a vocal defender of human rights and cooperates with reputable human rights organizations to bring attention to the pro-democracy struggle in Bahrain. Dr. Dhaif graduated from the Cairo University, Egypt, in 1996. She is currently undertaking her postgraduate training in Interceptive, Functional and Neuromuscular Orthodontics at the International College of Neuromuscular Orthodontics and Gnathology in Italy.
She believes that Islam should provide a government with guidelines that play an enlightening role, but, at the same time, Islam should not be used as an authoritarian tool. In the 21st century, societies consist of multiple ethnic and religious groups, so a civil state is required to protect both the majority and minorities. Dr. Dhaif also believes in the value of education and the support of the youth in the process of transition to democracy.
EUBULLETIN talked to Dr. Nada Dhaif about the opportunistic Western powers who remove the dictator only if it is in their best interests, and also about the US and EU putting all their cards on the existing dictators in the Middle East that is still awaiting its own version of ‘the Arab Spring’.
EUBULLETIN: Lots of hopes have been pinned to the Arab Spring movement. But in light of the recent developments in Libya, Egypt and Syria, do you think that the development towards a greater democracy, human rights and civil liberties has now been reversed?
Nada Dhaif: The whole world is becoming so much connected that you are also affected by external forces that can sometime delay the process as well as accelerate the process towards a greater freedom and democracy. I give you an example: Egypt, for example, when the international forces realized that Mubarak’s time is over and he was not going to be of any more help to their interests, they have accelerated the fall of the Mubarak era.
EUBULLETIN: Are you saying that the United States, the European Union and other Western powers have used their leverage to accelerate the change in Egypt? Or did they, in your view, rather constitute an obstacle in the process of democratic transformation in Egypt?
Nada Dhaif: They accelerated the change in areas where it was in their best interests – they removed the dictator. But in areas where it was against their interests, they have kept the dictators and they have delayed the process of democracy like in the Gulf region. So, they are supportive of the dictators when the dictator is a friend and still of use and they are against the dictator if the dictator is an enemy and of no more use, like in the case of Taliban. Who created Taliban? Who created that monster? Let’s not forget who created, for example, Saddam Hussein, who? Who made Saddam, who inflated Saddam? And when Saddam was no longer useful to them, he was removed. The main force is from the people, yes, of course, but it depends on what methods they use: if they use peaceful methods in such a violent world, then such a transition is going to be much slower than perhaps if you use violence. It depends on how much allies you have and supporters of your transition. There are many factors that affect the process of the transition and its outcome.
EUBULLETIN: You have referred to the West’s best interests. Do you think, is it in the long-term interest of Western powers, the EU and the US in particular, to instigate the change in the Middle East as well as they did it, for example, in Libya?
Nada Dhaif: Their interest is defined by their decision now, by their immediate interest. If they stood on the right side of the history now, their interest will be served. If they take the wrong choices, like what they did in places like Afghanistan, people will still remember who took their side and who stood against them. People will always remember who oppressed them and helped them during the crisis. It depends on the decision. Now, the West is putting all their cards on the existing dictators. Economy, military, geopolitical considerations – they are putting all their cards on the dictators. It’s time for the West to treat the Middle Eastern countries as equal partners and change their tactics and strategy in this area – they need to take the longer view, instead of immediate economic interests.
EUBULLETIN: So, do you think that, after the dramatic changes across the North African region, the same process is awaiting also Middle East? Is it only delayed but sooner or later also Middle East will undergo a similar process of democratic transition?
Nada Dhaif: To get to this point, people in the Middle East will probably have to wait a bit longer. Please bear in mind that if this raising star, the Middle East, whether we like it or not, we have this huge legacy of lots of things, we have the energy, we have the oil, the people are aware of how much they control, they can rule the world. Of course, they put some dictators here and there who are easily controlled by the superpowers is always the option and scenario. What was unexpected for the people to rise up and fight but again the region has everything, has all the sources, to dominate the world. Look, the spirituality as well – look at Jerusalem, Mecca, Medina – all these important places are in this part of the world.