Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bahrain, kingdom of Kafka: The absurd rules that suppress civil society activity

Brian Whitaker
 The right of people to get together and organise themselves in pursuit of shared interests is one of the building blocks for a free and open society. It is also something that Arab regimes fear, since active citizenship undermines their authority.
Consequently, many of them have introduced laws creating arbitrary powers to restrict, control and otherwise manipulate the activities of civil society organisations.
Among Arab countries, association laws (as they are usually known) follow a general pattern that seems inspired more by the novels of Franz Kafka than sound principles of governance.
First, they require clubs, societies and other non-government organisations to register with the authorities while making it difficult, and in some cases almost impossible, for them to do so.
Organisations that succeed in registering then face a host of bureaucratic and mostly pointless rules for how they should conduct their affairs. These basically create an obstacle course to trip up the unwary and often also impose restrictions on fundraising.

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