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Matar Ebrahim Matar
Visiting Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy
with comments by
Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
About the event
Bahrain’s political landscape is often reduced by western media to a discussion of the Sunni minority’s rule over a Shia majority population, an oversimplification that ignores the fact that the sectarian nature of the Bahraini regime is only a symptom of a much deeper problem. Moreover, the international community tends to focus on the prevention of human rights abuses, rather than examining the root causes of the violations.
In his presentation, leading democracy advocate Matar Ebrahim Matar described how Bahrain is dominated by a kleptocratic regime, in which the ruling royal family and its allies rely on an exploitative system to maintain control over the country’s resources.
He argued that a reconceptualization of power dynamics can provide a better explanation for the country’s political and economic challenges and also lead to more realistic and effective solutions for meeting the complex challenges in Bahrain.
Drawing upon his experiences in parliament and on the streets of Bahrain during the 2011 uprising, Mr. Matar offered first-hand insights into the democracy movement in his country and proposed recommendations for local and international stakeholders.
His presentation was followed with comments by Sarah Chayes.
About the speakers
Mr. Matar Ebrahim Matar is a well-known political activist who served as Bahrain’s youngest-elected member of parliament, representing its largest constituency. In February 2012, along with eighteen members of his al-Wefaq political party, he resigned from parliament in protest of the Bahraini regime’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. During the February 2011 uprisings, he encouraged youth participation and informed the media and foreign officials of ongoing developments, actions that later made him a government target. Mr. Matar continues to speak out on behalf of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain and has testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States Congress. The author of several articles and book chapters on prospects for democratic reform in Bahrain, he was awarded the Leaders of Democracy Award by the Project on Middle East Democracy in 2011. During his fellowship at NED, he is analyzing labor market reforms and its impact on democratization in the Gulf region.
Ms. Sarah Chayes is a senior associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.