ABU DHABI Ñ Gulf Cooperation Council states appear headed for a
period of heightened unrest amid the failure to implement democratic reforms
in the region.
GCC experts said Al Qaida and related groups were expected to grow
stronger in such countries as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Iranian-inspired unrest was also predicted in Bahrain, where power has been
concentrated within the Sunni minority.
The failure to develop civil institutions and public interest groups has
abandoned the field to violent elements, the experts said. They said
democratic opposition remains banned in every one of the six GCC states.
On late Dec. 10, scores of young Muslims rampaged through the streets
of Bahrain's capital, Manama, Middle East Newsline reported. The rioters attacked security forces, tourists
and destroyed property in the city's entertainment strip during preparations
for a flood of Western visitors for the New Year holiday.
So far, the
kingdom has refrained from issuing an official statement on the violence.
"The lack of genuine public participation in the decision-making and the
development process led to the marginalization of some groups," Ebtissam Al
Katbi, a leading UAE sociologist, said.
Addressing a conference of GCC sociologists in Manama on Dec. 2, Ms. Al
Katbi blamed governments in the region for the rise in unrest. She said
governments have oppressed their people, suppressed social justice and
failed to implement developmental programs.
As a result, Ms. Al Katbi said, young people have been drawn to Islamic
insurgency groups. She said youngsters regard violence as the only
legitimate outlet in their society.
"Politically, citizens must take part in the government," Ms. Al Katbi
said. "Economically, social justice should be the cornerstone of the
development process. Socially, the civic society organizations should be
strengthened and given the freedom to work without the traditional
bureaucratic or tribal restrictions."
GCC officials did not dispute the predictions of increased unrest in the
region. They said Arab society has lost control over its young and their
penchant for violence.
"The problem of violence among the youth has become the most pressing
issue that threaten the stability of our societies," Bahraini Labor Minister
Majid Al Alwai said. "We need a strategy to confront extremist and violent
tendencies among the youth."
Other GCC experts urged for radical changes in Arab societal norms.
Abdul Nabi Al Ekri, a Bahraini sociologist, said tribal societies in Gulf
Arab states have produced the seeds of violence and oppression among
citizens and by regimes.
"The Arabs may have moved from the desert to modern cities but they
still carry the heavy heritage of submission and
oppression,"Al Ekri said. "We must to overcome tribal tradition in order to
create a modern society that enjoys a healthy relationship between the
government and citizens based on the principle that the people are the
source of all powers."
Several GCC experts also blamed the United States for increase in unrest
in Gulf Arab societies. They said the worst attacks of Al Qaida were
conducted since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.