Society and State: Between Confessionalism and Citizenship

WHEN: June 30 from 9:00PM-11:30PM
WHERE: Nestle Toll House Cafe, Budaiya

“Society and State: Between Confessionalism and Citizenship” aims to analyse concepts of citizenship, society and state in an effort to gain a better understanding of current systems in Bahrain and to reach new conclusions about how to build a better state and society.

The event features paper presentations about the concepts of equal citizenship and sectarian confessionalism, in addition to an open discussion about the systems of parliament, government and the job market, with a special focus on gender, youth and citizenship.

The event is moderated by Mr. Bader Al Maskati, Master’s Graduate from the University of London, School of African and Oriental Studies in International and Diplomacy Studies.

The speaker panel includes:

  • Dabya Al Rafaei, Politics and Economics graduate from Queen Mary, University of London.
  • Ali Salah Al Zayani, Law student at the University of Bahrain and an avid follower of politics.
  • Khalid Al Khayat
  • Isa Al Sheroogi

Stories From Yemen

Stories from Yemen
Photo credit: RAW Media
WHEN: Tuesday, May 26 at 7:00pm
WHERE: Eat Cafe, Hamala (near Room 2 Rock)

A storytelling session bringing together Yemeni voices, storytellers, writers, poets, filmmakers and journalists, via video conference to provide Bahraini audiences with their perspective on the current ongoing conflict in Yemen, the state of civil society, the country’s history and the everyday challenges Yemenis face.

Following this, the audience will reconvene to discuss these narratives, and reflect on what this means to them as Bahrainis in an effort to understand Bahrain’s own conflicts, society and challenges, through comparison with Yemen.

The event also features the “Nqoosh Ala Al Jedran” traveling art installation featuring artwork about conflict, sectarianism, dehumanization and graffiti.

  • Ahmed Saeed, an independent activist and a public policy analyst from the city of A’den. He is a ICANN 53 fellow selected to represent civil society in the Yemen and MENA region and was selected as a civil society representative to the Arab Internet Governance Forum.
  • #SupportYemen, an independent media collective engaged in using video to tell under-told and under-heard struggles in Yemen. Made up of a group of Yemeni organizers, activists, journalists, videographers, bloggers and photographers who are passionate about using creative communication strategies as a tool for social change.

Reply (or ‘to anyone who has ever told me to “man up”‘)

by Hala Abdullah

 لكل من قال لي “ترجّلِ

بقلم حلا عبدالله


To everyone who has ever asked me to “man up”:


take another fucking look at me.

I am all woman,
all double-x,
all lower-your-voice,
all cover-yourself,
all flash-a-smile,
be delicate,
all survival,
all surviving,
all fight.

In my conditioned silence all I had been
for years
is my own instinct.

Every feeling of inferiority planted underneath
my skin.

But I will no longer be victim to this.

I will no longer be subjected to the
sickening degradation of my sex.

I am more than this.

I am centuries of women being beaten up
and burnt at the stakes,
the silent screams held behind their
clenched teeth,
I am the black and blue circles on their
covered faces,
the reincarnation of every girl buried
before ever being able to breathe,

I am the woman I will teach my daughter to be
and I too, promise to not be silenced.

Will not have my gender dragged through the
mud in the name of their righteousness.

We know we are more than this.

But the men in my country have thrown us into open

Like their ancestors before them, they have
found it best to stifle our whimpers before
they grew into screams.

But I have been clawing my way out of dirt
for so long and I will not rest until I feel
the sun on my face again,

until I am standing on the same steady ground
that they parade on so full of feigned piety.

I am coming back for all the rights that were
dragged away from me.

Before you tell me to “man up”,

know that my womanhood has been stolen away
from me.

Has been turned into something
so perverse,
so wrung with evil,

I had spent years wishing I wasn’t so unholy,

but I’m taking it back.

I do not wish to be anything other than what
I am,

so believe me when I tell you that I will never
“man” up.

I will reclaim the force of my gender,

Realize the holiness of my existence,
rekindle the ashen fires of my passions.

I am a woman reclaiming the sacredness of the
disgraced term


So the next time you want to remind me of my strength,
tell me of our history. Of the women who have waged wars
against all this ignorance before me.

The next time you want to remind me of my strength,

don’t you dare tell me to “man up”.

Just remind me that:

I am all woman,
all double-x, all oestrogen,

I am a force to be reckoned with,
a movement within myself,

all woman,
all power,
all power,
all power.


Hala Abdullah

Hala Abdullah is a poet and a feminist from Saudi Arabia. She is the founder and is currently the co-president of the Writing Club in Riyadh – a project that aims to help young men and women find their voice through writing. You can read more of Hala’s writing on her website ( and follow her on Twitter at @7allo.

حلا عبدالله شاعرة ونسويّة من المملكة العربية السعودية. حلا مؤسسة ونائبة رئيس نادي الكتابة بالرياض وهو مشروع يهدف إلى مساعدة الشباب والشابات إيجاد صوتهم من خلال الكتابة. يمكنك قراءة المزيد من كتاباتها على موقعها والتواصل معها عبر صفحتها على تويتر


Enough - Khalid Al Qahtani
All it takes is just one reason out of many reasons to lead to conflict, tearing apart entire countries and societies. The reasons are often forgotten but the impacts of every conflict remain forever. People can’t take any more of this. Enough.

Khaled Al Qahtani started making art at the age of seven, but two years ago he started becoming attracted to the fine arts, collage making and photography which offered him the opportunity to express himself in different ways. Currently, Khalid is a student in the intermediary level in the city of Tabouk, Saudi Arabia. You can follow his work on Instagram @DaRealKhaled.

Towards Deeper Understandings of Sectarianism

 إقرأ هذه المقالة بالعربية

questioning conflict event poster high quality
WHEN: Headquarters of Society of Sociologists in Adliya
WHERE: Saturday, May 16, from 6:30pm-9:30pm

Towards Deeper Understandings of Sectarianism is a discussion workshop session that aims to raise critical questions about sectarianism and social and political divisions by defining and analysing the phenomenon of sectarianism in an effort to understand ourselves, our own communal identities and the forms sectarianism may take in society.

The moving art installation “Nqoosh Ala Al-Jedran” featuring art and photography by Questioning Conflict contributors will be exhibited at the event.

Segment 1:

  • What is sectarianism?
  • Is sectarianism a religious or political term?
  • What are the roots and causes of sectarianism?

Segment 2:

  • How does sectarianism take shape in society?
  • Who is “us” and who is “them”?
  • Does diversity create sectarian societies and sectarian states?


Dehumanization - Hajer Ghareeb
Dehumanization – Hajer Ghareeb


Dehumanization is the representation of the retraction of humanness to people, as well as the psychological impact of the imposed terror societies face nowadays on a global scale.
Terrorists recoursing to dehumanization to further their cause with a mindless and mobilizing force of inhumanity. Disregarding people’s individualities and communities, which results the population to suffer a great deal of violence when they no longer evoke humanity.


Hajer Ghareeb is a Bahraini-based multidisciplinary artist, predominantly an illustrator and designer with a penchant for challenge and obsessive detail. She studied Multimedia and Web Development. Hajer is currently employed at Obai & Hill as a designer and when she is not glued to a computer screen, she spends my time listening to music or favourite podcasts, playing instruments, practicing mindfulness, and watching Seinfeld reruns. You can follow her on Twitter @hghareeb or contact her by email at

Conflict and What It Means To Be Bahraini


In this video, Mariam Al Zeera outlines her views on issues of conflict, in addition to her views on sectarianism in Bahrain. She raises critical questions about what it means to be Bahraini.


Mariam Al Zeera is a pacifist from Bahrain. She is a student, reader, writer, and occasional video blogger. All she wants is to nudge the world in a nicer direction. You can watch more of Mariam’s videos on her YouTube channel or follow her on Twitter @Mariamnessi.

Sectarian Conflict in Iraq: A Non-Sectarian Analysis

by Dabya Al-Rafaei

إقرأ هذه المقالة باللغة العربية

Volatility of the Middle East and frequency of civil conflicts on ethnic and sectarian grounds, in comparison to other regions in the world, had largely been explained through the primordialist account of political identity. The distinct communities that occupy the region had long been argued to be geographically homogenous and mutually hostile towards one another (Dodge, 2007, p. 24). However, this explanation of political identity as a core factor in driving violence in the Middle East ignores the historically and pragmatically grounded complex reality.

This paper argues for an alternative, modernist explanation of political identity within the framework of the modern state. In this approach, the politicization of ethnosectarian identity is an effect rather than a cause of state weakness.

Exclusive bargaining in the process of state building, weak state capacity to legitimize its monopoly over the use of force as well as external influences combined, give rise to ethnic entrepreneurship in divided states.

Consequently, mobilization of ethnicity by these “entrepreneurs” more often than not leads to widespread violence in a race for security and scarce resources. The way these dynamics interplay in a volatile region like the Middle East, determine the degree to which ethnic entrepreneurs can mobilize ethnicity and religion.

Accordingly, in Iraq, as the paper aims to demonstrate, it is the primordialist understanding of Iraqi society by the U.S.-led coalition in 2003 that exacerbated divisive sectarianism into Iraqi politics. Due to the disintegration of the mechanisms of centralized government, dangerous competition over local resources generated ethnosectarian violence as individuals found that pre-emptive actions against other groups were a necessary means for survival (Bunton, 2008, p. 631).

Priomordialism and Iraqi Political Identity

The primordialist account insists on the centrality of collective identity that is rooted in historical experience in determining the political behaviour of people groups. (Esman, 1994, p. 10). It is primordial loyalties, therefore, that cause ethnic and sectarian conflicts in Iraq. The apparent lack of a national identity among Iraqis and their political affiliations with either sects (Sunnis or Shias and their sub-sects) or ethnicity (Arab, Persians or Kurdish origins) defends such view.

When conflicts arise, members of different ethnic and sectarian groups act upon the impulses that their sense of kinship dictates, aligning themselves with their fellows who share the same objective traits in an expression of solidarity. According to Toby Dodge in Iraqi Transitions: Preventing a New Generation of Conflict, this primordialist understanding of the roots of conflict in Iraq influenced the formation of the first post-Saddam governing body. However, because it failed to capture the complexity of Iraqi society, it was unable to deliver the reformed political structure the U.S. officials running the occupation had sought (Dodge, 2007, p. 25).

Part of this complexity is derived from the overlapping constituents of political identity. Religion, language, geographic location and historical experience that make up a certain group are not mutually exclusive. As the discussion of the role of state policy will convey, whichever of these traits prevails as the main determinant of political identity for the most part depends on its relevance to the context in which individuals interact.

Moreover, primordialist views on conflict in post-Iraq almost entirely overlooked the significance of sub-sectarian and sub-ethnic divisions in shaping the internal dynamics.  The resulting political structure under the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) institutionalized ethnosectarianism by word and deed in the mindset of the people and most dangerously, in the body politic (Dawisha, 2008, p. 222). This unprecedented endeavor in Iraqi politics was meant to overcome the past difficulties that were perceived to be a natural consequence of the lack of representation of the Iraqi people aspirations.

However, just like the case with Lebanon’s disastrous confessionalism, the divisive nature of the process of selecting representative government officials, nurtured a political culture concerned with particularistic concerns, rather than national interest; concerns that became a driving force behind governmental policies and parliamentary behavior (Dawisha, 2008, p. 222).

Failure of incorporating the pluralism of Iraqi society in the body politic to as a necessary effort to demobilize ethnicity and sectarianism is primarily due to the failure of the primordialist approach to assess the role of state policy, capacity and external factors in giving primacy to an otherwise passive constituent of identity.

The State and the Political Arena

The state as the arena in which different groups compete and contest to put forward their interest is central to the modernist explanation of political identity. In the modernist analytical framework, the environment shapes ethnic and sectarian identity rather than a fixed set of objective traits as the primordialists suggest. Deployment of ethnicity as means for political gain is highly dependent on the opportunities it offers in comparison to other instruments. Like other people, Iraqis’ societal identity is shaped by various determinants such as the financial situation, profession, education, and the degree of exposure to cultural globalization, as well as religion and ethnicity. What makes the last two of these the main vehicle for political mobilization is the state itself, not any inherent privilege that these two traits they possess.

When the state enjoys autonomy from ethnic contestants, it can function as a neutral arbitrator where healthy forms of competition over allocation of resources through merit, productivity and opportunity can take place. However, when the state is controlled by one of the contending communities as is the case in Israel, Syria and Iraq, it is perceived as a partisan that even when succeeding in managing conflict, it will not be immune to future ethnic conflicts i.e. that the system is not sustainable (Esman, 1994, p. 19). Even though ethnosectarian identity cannot be deconstructed, functionality of the state can contain and deactivate its violent politicization.

Conflict in the Political Economy

Activities of the modern territorial state are not limited to security and law enforcement. States aim to penetrate society through taxation that finances services of great importance of all their members such as education, public health, transportation and regulation of economic and social activities (Esman, 1997, p. 19).

As the allocator of vital resources, policies adopted by the state directly affect the population and generate different consequences accordingly. Unless the state is perceived as a neutral arbitrator, members of different groups find it rational to mobilize in order to make credible claims and secure a favorable allocation of wealth, goods and services.

For civil society to become the foundation upon which national identity could be built, citizens needs to believe that their interests are best served by the state instead of their sub-state alliances. Under the Ba’ath governance, oil wealth secured that objective. Abundance of oil granted the Iraqi government great influence over society as 21% of the active workforce as well as 40% of households were directly dependent on government payment (Dodge, 2005, p. 708).

Even though bigoted views against non-Sunnis were held by both Abdul Salam Aref and Saddam Hussein, ethnosectarianism was not allowed to “become the key criterion for apportioning governmental and administrative positions and responsibilities, nor in any way was it advertised as an element of public policy” (Dawisha, 2008, p. 220).

Of course after sanctions in 1990 and the following uprisings in 1991, the political tone had changed following the violent campaign against Shias and Kurds. The authoritarian state could no longer deliver economically, and therefore the population could no longer be kept under control. The difference between Ba’athist Iraq and post-2003 Iraq is less to do with the ethnosectarian social structure that was consistently problematic for the state, and more to do with the policies adopted by the state and the degree to which they were legitimate in the eyes of the population.

The CPA and Political Sectarianism

The CPA’s (Coalition Provisional Authority) attempt to establish a stable democracy after the downfall of Saddam brought about the infusion of particularistic identities in the concept of political parties. Parties thereafter, became instruments of promoting ethnosectarian interests that led to the inevitable collapse of the political body. This is because elite bargains that were central to the negotiations that took place to pave the path to democracy and prevent the occurrence of violent conflicts were exclusive, not inclusive.

While an inclusive bargaining approach integrates a broad section of the existing national elites into the ruling coaling, the settlement created by the United States after the 2003 war involved an exclusive set of elites with narrow ethnosectarian interests (Dodge, 2012, p. 41). This arrangement, coupled with aggressive de-ba’athification was a recipe for a sectarian disaster as Sunnis were systemically excluded and marginalized, which birthed insurgency and encouraged monopoly of the Shia elites over mechanics of Iraqi politics.

The partisanship of Iraqi politics after 2003 could have succeeded in conflict management through accommodation, or -most likely- coercion. However, the lack of the state coercive ability to enforce order made neither option possible.

According to Toby Dodge, the institutional capacity of the state must be judged and compared to the capabilities of non-state organizations that seek to mobilize the population and deploy violence as means for political gain.

State Legitimacy

For the state to be legitimate, there must not be other forces capable of competing with and challenging its monopoly over the use of violence. However, as is the case with other Arab states that were created through colonial powers, the only strong government institution in Iraq is the military. As part of de-ba’athification, the Iraqi military was disbanded and the American-led troops were left to restore order in a state of chronic weakness while lacking the necessary troop numbers to control the chaos. Consequently, a security vacuum has emerged where no community could secure its interests without threatening the interests of other communities when power devolved from the collapsed central authority to local organizations.

The primordial loyalties cannot be mistaken for a cause, for they are only instruments mobilized to sustain survival by granting fundamental economic and security gains that could no longer be provided by the central government. As ethnosectarianism became a feature in Iraqi public policy, the majority of Iraqis deemed state actions illegitimate and no public consent could be fostered. Criminality therefore flourished to serve the pursuit of narrow interests and resist state-driven repression as state prohibitions on murder became meaningless to the public (Dodge, 2012, p. 32). Therefore, the monopoly of the Ba’athist state over both economic resources and legitimate use of force were two key features in demobilization of a population that now found itself no longer able to rely on the state to provide basic human needs. Instead, they sought these services from local competing establishments that seemed to promise the best options of survival.

Geo-Political Sectarianism

When ethnic and sectarian relations become the most visible feature of state dynamics, they also become issues of macropolitical concern that can be manipulated, exploited and escalated by transnational actors. Whereas the primordialist account assumes the answer to ethnosectarian conflicts lies in voluntary apartheid, the modernist approach finds such settlement counter-productive due to the interconnectedness of world states through networks that recognize opportunity, not borders.

These networks consist of either states to which strategic interest is the mobilization of groups outside their borders, or organizations that are often militarized and well able to reach out groups abroad through direct and indirect means. Interference in Iraqi politics was made possible because Iraqi borders became meaningless as the state lost its administrative and coercive capabilities which caused decision-making power to leak out across the boundaries and into the hands of competing powers that further escalated conflict in Iraq in pursuit of their interests (Al-Sayyed, 2009, p. 39).

Power-sharing in Iraq where each groups’ interest is at odds with one another translated into an increasingly militant rivalry between the Sunnis and Shias due to advanced warfare techniques that were made possible through external support. Iran for example, found it easy to mobilize Iraqi Shias to extend its sphere of influence in the Gulf region as Saddam’s Arabization process involved expulsion of many ethnically-Persian Iraqis who sought refuge in Iran and later returned to Iraq both ideologized and militarized (Nasr, 2006). This has bred anxiety amongst Sunni Iraqis who found themselves at a great disadvantage and acknowledged the centrality of state peripheries as means of political organization. Sunnis too, sought foreign aid through connections with Al-Qaeda as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and sympathetic powerful individuals across the Gulf. Dominance of the Sunni faction in most of the Middle East allowed insurgencies to establish networks and move money, goods and personnel back and forth with relative ease (Herring & Rangwala, 2006, p. 164).

Path Dependencies Pre-2003 and Political Mobilization Post-2003

Path dependencies were built long before the collapse of the state as the Ba’athist regime chose to manage potential conflict between rivaling factions through coercion. It was only after state collapse post-2003 however, that the passive sense of collective identity was translated into an assertive, organized communalistic body led by formerly inactive shapers of path dependency; the sub-national political elites and the ethnic entrepreneurs (Dodge, 2012, p. 34).

As ethnosectarianism became infused in the political structure of Iraq under the CPA-created government, the political economy became an arena of rivalry in the national culture. Therefore, it became the duty of ethnic entrepreneurs to provide what the different communities desperately need in times of uncertainty, and that is leadership in the quest of securing access to scarce economic resources. Existence of influential community leaders, as well as well trained, economically motivated ex-soldiers and ideologically driven Shia former exiles created quasi-states within the collapsed Iraqi state that seemingly offered best chance of survival. Therefore, the instability and violence that became a prominent feature of Iraqi politics is shaped by path dependencies built up before 2003 and the actions of political entrepreneurs in the wake of state collapse after 2003 (Dodge, 2012, p. 34).


In conclusion, mobilization of ethnicity and religious communities in the political arena is conditioned on whether citizens believe their interests are best served by the state or elsewhere. Contrary to the primordialist explanation of political identity, ethnicity and religion emerge as core constituents of identity only when the state fails to represent and carry through the interests of its citizens.

In the case of post-2003 Iraq, the resulting fragmentary nature of the state, “partial as a mechanism of order and weak as a service provider…. has been instrumental in the alignment of populations with groups rooted in principles specific to a sect” (Herring & Rangwala, 2006, p. 159). Therefore, rise of sectarian warfare is the product of fragmentation, not a cause for it. Pre-1990s Iraqi politics demonstrates the validity of such a proposal, as sectarianism was not infused in the body politic at the time. Its unprecedented infusion after the U.S. led coalition, as well as the irrelevance of state institutions all-together, were bound to be critical factors in mobilizing formerly passive ethnic and religious communities in response to the absence of means to obtain essential economic needs as well as security. Relevance of ethnicity and religion, therefore, is context-dependent; adaptable and prioritized in the face of threats and marginalized in the face of new opportunities that can best serve society.



  • Esman, Melton J. (1994). Ethnic Solidarity as a Political Force: The Scope of the Inquiry. In: Ethnic Politics. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. 1-25.
  • Dodge, Toby (2007) State collapse and the rise of identity politics In: Bouillon, Markus E. and Malone, David M. and Rowsell, Ben, (eds.) Iraq: Preventing a New Generation of Conflict. Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. 23-39
  • Dodge, Toby. (2005). Iraqi Transitions: From Regime Change to State Collapse. Third World Quarterly. 26 (4-5), 705-721.
  • Bunton, Martin. (2008). From Developmental Nationalism to the End of Nation-State in Iraq?. Third World Quarterly. 29 (3), 631-646.
  • Al-Sayyed, Mustafa Kamal. (2009). Identity and Security in Arab Countries. IDS Bulletin . 40 (2), 62-69.
  • Umut Özkirimli (2005). Contemporary Debates on Nationalism: A Critical Engagement. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Dawisha Adeed. (2008). The Unraveling of Iraq: Ethnosectarian Preferences and State Performance in Historical Perspective. Middle East Journal. 62 (2), 219-230.
  • Toby Dodge. (2012). Understanding the Drivers of Violence in Iraq. In: Iraq: From War to New Authoritarianism. London: Routledge. 31-52.
  • Nasr, Vali. (2006). When the Shiites Rise. Available: Last accessed 19th December 2014.
  • Herring, Eric & Rangwala, Glen (2006). Iraq in Fragments: The Occupation and its Legacy. London: C. Hurst & Co. Ltd. 161-209.




Dhabya Al Rafaei

Dabya Al-Rafaei is a third year Politics and Economics major in Queen Mary, University of London. A freelance journalist with contributions in Al-Arabiya Online, she is also a member of the International Gulf Organization (iaIGO), and the British Middle East Center for Studies and Research. Dabya also served as the President of Spring Thinkers Political Society at Queen Mary, University of London from 2011-2012. You can contact her at

Creating Terrorists: Part 1

by Kyran Archer
خلق إرهابيين: الجزء الأول
بقلم كايرن أرجر


The following story is written from the perspective of a fictional character named Kareem, a 35-year old man living and working as a car mechanic in Sana’a, Yemen.


“There’s been another drone strike in Sana’a,” Ghufran announces just around noon.

I hardly even bother to shrug my shoulders. It’s nothing new, after all. When I was younger I remember my parents going into a panic whenever they heard about a drone strike, afraid that someone they knew would be hurt, but after well over a decade of regular attacks by the US army, none of us care much anymore. We all realise the danger, but it’s a danger you grow used to. That terrible chance that it will affect you personally one day is one you can only ignore.

“How many killed?” Nasser, another colleague, asks him.

“They don’t know yet. Three houses destroyed though.”

I shake my head.

“Americans?” I ask.

“Who else?”

Al Qaeda is bad, and they pretty much rule the country here, but the American army is a lot worse. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose your family in such a way. My beautiful wife, my two children, my elderly parents… I couldn’t bear to lose them. All of them under one roof. It’s a scary thought.

I shake it away and continue working. It’s a busy day today, lots of cars to be repaired, which means long hours in the searing heat. Fortunately, together with Nasser and Ghufran it’s never so bad, but I wouldn’t mind some air-conditioning. A few more months like this and we might just have the money for it…

We talk about the most random things while we fix up an old Toyota. Even though there’s an age-gap between all three of us, Nasser being only halfway through his twenties, myself being 35 and Ghufran almost of an age as high as the two of us combined, we have plenty of shared interests. Music in particular is something we discovered together, and since we did we can hardly stop listening to things like Queen, The Beatles and Umm Kalthoum. Music like that occupies our workshop pretty much all day long, and nothing makes a workday pass quicker than blaring along at music you hardly understand a word of.

But when Ghufran hears the news at 3 PM, his mood changes a little.

“They’re saying the strike was in the northern part of Zahar Himyar. That’s rather close to your home, Kareem.”

For just a second, worry strikes me, but I shake it away. I’m not one to be taken over by worry so quickly. There’s hundreds, if not thousands of people living in that district. How big is the chance that my house would be the target? Come to think of it, I don’t really know my neighbours to the right, but I’m sure they’re not terrorists. I would have known, wouldn’t I?

“Nah, no reason to worry,” I say eventually.

“Want to call home?” Nasser asks. “Just to soothe your mind.”

It isn’t such a bad idea, so I agree. Otherwise I might mull it over all day long, and that isn’t going to make me any more productive. I walk to our little office and dial home.

“Beep, beep, beep.”

There’s no connection.

“It’s not working!” I call out to the others, trying to keep my voice from catching.

“You mean they’re not picking up?” Ghufran asks.

“It just doesn’t connect. It doesn’t even ring.”

“You should go home,” he says immediately. “I’m sure it’s all fine, the bomb probably just damaged the phone lines in the district, but I don’t want you all worried.”

“No, I can stay,” I answer.

I can’t let fear or worry get in the way of my work. It’s a busy day, and we need to get things done. We need the good reviews if we still want to keep earning enough money.

“Kareem, go home,” Ghufran insists. “I’m still your boss, and I want you to go. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I nod, feeling a little relieved. I really didn’t want to stay. Every rational part of me says that there’s nothing to worry about, but worry isn’t rational. I want to go home and check.

I get in my own car, thinking about my family and what I would do if it really was my house that got bombed. My wife and I have been married for six years now, and I can’t imagine any human being more perfect than her. We were blessed with two beautiful children, both healthy and fit, and since my father broke his leg and had to stop working, both my parents have been living with us as well. It’s a tight fit, but none of us mind. I love my family, and being around them so much feels good.

It’s a 15 minute drive to my home, so it isn’t far, and even as I get closer, I still don’t see any smoke. Of course, the attack happened hours ago, but it makes me hopeful.

Once I turn into my own neighbourhood, just a few streets from my home, I encounter a roadblock. The military is standing there, turning away all cars. My heart starts racing.

I park the car along the road and get out as quickly as I can, passing the roadblock on foot. I turn left, then right, my pace increasing with every step, my heart thumping faster and faster. I take another turn and see more soldiers, standing on the crossing of my street.

I break into a run, the walking no longer bearable. It can’t be… it just can’t be. Please, God, don’t let it be. I reach the crossing and look right. Three houses lie in ruins. Mine is one of them.

As soon as I see it, my heart jumps and my stomach sinks. I stop running and stare at the ruins of what was once my home.

“My family…”

Before I know it, I’m running again. My mind has gone blank and all I can do is run, run and find my family. I have to find my family.

Nobody stops me. There’s an entire army surrounding the place, but they let me pass, they let me reach the ruins without stopping me.

“Where’s my family!?” I exclaim, the tears now running across my cheeks. “Where did they go!?”

A soldier close to me speaks up, his voice hesitant.

“All victims were taken to the hospital. I’m sorry.”

It’s all he says, and I don’t care about anything else. I don’t care, not until I see my family.

I sprint back, past the roadblock and towards my car. Once I reach it, I’m exhausted, all strength faded from my body, the tears running freely. My mind thinks of only one thing: my family.

My vision blocked by the tears, I turn on the engine and head back onto the road. I drive quicker than I ever have before, trusting Allah to guide me back to my family, to lead me through this unharmed. Ten minutes later, I reach the hospital. I leave my car near the door and jump out, running inside and shouting frantically.

“Where is my family!? Who has seen my family!?”

Finally, a doctor comes to meet me, trying to calm me down.

“It’s okay,” he says gently. “It will all be okay. What is your name?”

“Kareem,” I answer. “Kareem Abdullah. My family was at home, the drone strike. Farah, Muhammad, Noor, where are they?”

His face turns sad. The gentleness remains, but the hope disappears.

“I’m sorry…” he says quietly. “They didn’t make it.”

The words hit me like thunder. I fall silent, the panic disappearing. All that’s left is emptiness. My mind is blank and my heart is gone. The doctor guides me to a chair, and I let myself fall into it, staring into the distance.

“It can’t be… there must be some sort of mistake…”

“I’m really sorry. It was a drone strike. The entire house collapsed.”

I shake my head, unable to believe it. The Americans bombed my house because my neighbours were terrorists. They killed my family. They murdered my wife, my children, my parents…

Now what? What do I do without them?

It’s all because of the Americans! They killed my family; they killed hundreds and thousands of innocent people, and for what? Pride? Money? Hatred?

Someone has to take care of these arrogant pigs, and why not me? I have nothing left to lose. I’ll fight them even if it’s the last thing I’ll do.




Kyran Archer

Kyran Archer is a writer from the Netherlands with a fascination for politics and history. Kyran visited Bahrain in 2014 on a writing internship and currently, he is completing a Postgraduate degree in International Peacekeeping at Birmingham University in the UK where he spends most of his time either on studying, learning languages or writing. He blogs about the interesting side of politics and history at and has also written four novels and is currently working on a fifth. You can get in touch with Kyran on Facebook.

كايرن أرجر كاتب من هولندا يهتم بالسياسة والتاريخ. قام كايرن بزيارة البحرين ضمن برنامج تدريبي للكتابة وهو حالياً يعمل على تكملة شهادة ماجستير في حفظ السلام الدولي في جامعة بيرمينهام بالمملكة المتحدة ويقضي معظم وقته في الدراسة والكتابة وتعلم اللغات. يمكنك قراءة المزيد من كتاباته على مدوّنته (، كما ألف كايرن أربع روايات مع خامسة تحت الإعداد. يمكنك التواصل مع كايرن عبر صفحته على فيسبوك.