Interview with Bahrain’s Coalition of February 14th Youth

Revolutionaries Speak: An Exclusive Interview with Bahrain’s Coalition of February 14th Youth

 Toby C. Jones
[Logo of the Coalition of February 14th Youth. Image from unknown source.]
[Logo of the Coalition of February 14th Youth. Image from unknown source.]

In spite of claims that Bahrain’s revolution has failed, the reality is that peaceful protests, a campaign of civil disobedience, and anti-Al Khalifa energy is at an all-time high. The regime’s reliance on heavy-handed violence has failed to quell the country’s revolutionary spirit or stamp out the opposition. If anything, the yearlong brutal siege against its own citizens has strengthened the resolve of anti-regime critics and their determination to carry on.

Among the most determined to keep the revolution alive is the Coalition of February 14th Youth, an anonymous and decentralized political network that has coordinated months of activism and protest. While Bahrain’s older and more visible political societies, including al-Wefaq and Wa’ad, have sought and failed to negotiate with the government over the last year, the Coalition of February 14th Youth has steadily earned popular legitimacy for its commitment to revolutionary principles and action. Out of fear of arrest, the Coalition has coordinated its efforts primarily through social media, most notably on Twitter and Facebook. Until now they have cautiously avoided speaking directly with the media.

Toby C. Jones (TJ): How would you describe the February 14 Youth Coalition? Who is represented in the coalition? How representative is it?

Coalition of February 14 Youth (CFY): February 14 Youth are all those revolutionaries that stood firm on the streets ever since they lit the spark of a popular revolution on 14 February 2011. The coalition is merely a byproduct of this revolution and was formed out of a few of its active revolutionary groups. The February 14 Coalition derives its legitimacy from the popularity of the revolution and its goals.

TJ: What is the coalition’s relationship with the other opposition movements, most notably Al-Wefaq?

CFY: The coalition’s relationship with other opposition groups is based on the principle of respect and considers them integral in the struggle. It values all efforts that are made by them to protect the rights of the people including their right to self-determination as legislated in international law and conventions.

TJ: What is your relationship with non-registered opposition movements such as Haq, Al-Wafa, the Bahrain Freedom Movement, and others?

CFY: Our objective in the coalition with regards to all other opposition groups is to deal with them positively in a manner that serves the revolution and its goals, taking advantage of all expertise and opinions, while emphasizing the need to close ranks amongst revolutionary groups against the common enemy, the bloody Al-Khalifa regime.

TJ: What are the coalition’s objectives? Is the coalition committed to the fall of the Al-Khalifa or is there the possibility of a negotiated resolution with the regime?

CFY: The first and foremost goal that revolutionaries are struggling for is the liberation of our land from Saudi occupation and the overthrow of the Al-Khalifa regime, which has lost its popular and constitutional legitimacy. Once that is achieved, the people can choose their own destiny and choose the political and economic system that meets their ambitions and aspirations. We will not under any circumstance accept a compromise with this bloody regime that continues to violate our human rights. We are determined to liberate our precious homeland from dictatorship, and build a nation of justice, dignity, and equality for all its citizens.

TJ: What are the organization’s demands?

CFY: The coalition’s objectives and demands, as they have been outlined in the Pearl Charter, are as follows:

  1. Overthrowing the tribal Al-Khalifa regime, which has lost its legitimacy, and bringing its heads and officials to trial, including Hamad the dictator, for the crimes against humanity that they have committed against our people.
  2. Ensuring the people’s right to self-determination and ability to choose the political system that meets their ambitions and aspirations.
  3. Dismantling the current state security agencies and rebuilding them along modern standards that ensure safety and security for all citizens.
  4. Forming an independent and fair judiciary.
  5. Reinforcing the principle of separation of powers (Legislative, Executive and Judiciary).
  6. Maintaining national unity, preserving the social fabric, promoting justice and equality, and prohibiting any form of discrimination against citizens.
  7. Finding a realistic and fair solution to the problem of systematic political naturalization that has been created by the regime to change the original identity and demographics of the country.
  8. Preserving the Islamic and Arab identity of Bahrain.
  9. Forming a national body to oversee the election of a Constituent Assembly that will write a new constitution for the country after the fall of the Al-Khalifa regime.
  10. Ensuring the fair distribution of wealth while protecting national resources and gains for future generations.

TJ: What is the coalition’s position on the use of violence? You have come under criticism for supporting the use of Molotov cocktails, endangering the lives of motorists, and the destruction of property. How do you respond to this criticism?

CFY: Revolutionaries have not threatened motorists nor have they destroyed any public or private property. However, under occupation and gross violations of human rights, self-defense is legitimate and has been sanctioned by all religions and man-made laws. It is neither logical nor fair to ask a person who is in danger to sit idle and not defend themselves especially with the inexcusable silence of the international community, American support for these repressive practices, and the Saudi occupation of Bahrain.  

TJ: Considering the efforts of the regime’s security services to control the villages and suppress demonstration, what are biggest challenges you face?

CFY: The more aggressive and brutal the security grip, the more determined the resolve and steadfastness of the revolutionaries. Over the last year, the al-Khalifa regime has not left one crime that it has not committed against its citizens. Their crimes have even affected foreign residents. Yet, revolutionaries have remained steadfast. One of our biggest challenges in this revolution is the strong American support for this dictatorship and their disregard and indifference to the continued crimes and violations committed by the regime. Another major challenge to our revolution is the disinformation campaign in the media, with Saudi funding and support aiming to tarnish the image of the Bahraini revolution. Despite these challenges, the power to lead is in the hands of the people more than ever. The Saudi occupiers and the Al-Khalifa regime are struggling due to their failure to crush the revolution, which is ongoing and steadfast despite the war being waged to exterminate the Bahraini people on all levels. 

TJ: Who are the coalition’s greatest political influences? What inspires you?

CFY: We reiterate that the coalition is born out of this glorious revolution through the independent efforts of Bahraini youth, and is a nationalist coalition devoid of party and sectarian lines. The coalition is loyal to the martyrs, injured, and prisoners as well as all of Bahrain’s citizens and the homeland. The Coalition is committed to continue on the path of struggle and revolutionary work until the revolution’s goals of overthrowing the Al-Khalifa regime and gaining the right to self-determination are achieved.

TJ: Your critics and observers in the West often describe Bahrain’s uprising as driven by sectarianism? What is your response to charges that yours is a sectarian movement?

CFY: This is a big lie through which the Al-Khalifa regime seeks to mislead international public opinion at media and international forums as well as centers of decision making in order to distort the image of the legitimate revolution. This is in addition to the regime’s media blackout on its sectarian and racist practices against all Bahraini citizens. The truth is that the revolution is popular—par excellence—and has included both Sunni and Shia citizens among its ranks.

The most poignant response to these lies is that the first political prisoner since the revolution started is the Sunni Muhammad al-Buflasa, who was kidnapped by the regime’s mercenaries after giving a talk on the stage of Lulu Square demanding freedom, democracy, and equality among all citizens.

How can it be called sectarian, when the goal of the revolution is for all citizens, regardless of sect, whether Sunni or Shia, to become equal in their rights and duties, not to mention that the most prominent and most important slogan of this revolution is “We are brothers, Sunnis and Shias, and we will not sell out this country.”

TJ: Does the movement include Sunnis or non-Islamists? Do you have programs to attract these segments to the coalition?

CFY: Absolutely, the revolution includes all segments of society, whether among the Sunnis or Shias, or liberals and nationalists. Moreover, the coalition is diverse and includes people with different political and intellectual ideologies, and its program and revolutionary approach resonates with all Bahrainis.

TJ: Similarly, in spite of the absence of any evidence of foreign manipulation as well as a clear statement from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report that there is no indication of Iranian meddling in the revolution, how do you respond to charges that your movement reflects the will of Iran?

CFY: This is a fake peg the Al-Khalifa regime hangs its failure on, due to its loss of its popular and constitutional legitimacy. The revolution in Bahrain raised its demands for democracy many decades before the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran and what happened on 14 February 2011 was merely a renewal of that revolution so that Bahrainis can continue what their fathers and grandfathers started.

Consequently, dictatorial regimes such as that of Al-Khalifa are historically notorious for stigmatizing all popular revolutions against them as having foreign agendas in order to justify brutally and inhumanely suppressing them.

TJ: How do you see Bahrain’s revolution ending?

CFY: We are absolutely certain that eventually the Al-Khalifa regime will inevitably fall, that our revolution will be successful, and that we will gain our legitimate democratic rights. The revolution will result in the wellbeing of the Bahraini people, who have made a lot of sacrifices for the sake of living in freedom and with dignity, without the dictatorial Al-Khalifa regime, and to safeguard the rights of future generations.

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