Bahrain’s order to reinstate unemployed employees, students and #BHSacked

The recent events in Bahrain have been covered from a to z locally, regionally and globally. Much of the conflict between the government, its supporters and opponents has gone online. Bahrain has seen a surge in the use of social media this year both pro-government and pro-protestors.

As the conflict in Bahrain has ebbed and flowed much of the debate has gone online. One group of Bahrainis who have been particularly vocal have been those who lost their jobs and university places due to their actions and views which they expressed publicly.

This group, led in part by the medics sacked from Salmaniya Hospital and other medical institutions, have been pushing for their reinstatement. The campaign, much of which has been directed online via Twitter and Facebook, has been given added impetus by the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report which investigated human rights abuses committed following the events of 2011 in Bahrain.

In its report, on pages 406 and 407, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry called for the reinstating of those who were fired from their posts. To quote verbatim from point 1664.

More generally, the report confirmed that, following on from HM King Hamad’s Eid speech, it was decided that there would be no further dismissals when the remaining 1,423 cases were reviewed. The maximum penalty upon review would be a 10-day suspension from work and salary. In other words, 1,423 dismissals by the public bodies have been overturned by the CSB and these people have already gone back to work on normal pay.

Despite the official statements there still seem to be many on the island who have not returned to work. Protests have been ongoing before the release of the BICI report at the end of November. Activities by those demanding their reinstatement has been stepped up over the past week. These protests have been extensively covered online via social media. Using the hashtag #BHSacked protesters have extensively uploaded pictures and videos of their protests.

One of the sacked doctors today protesting outside Bahrain's Ministry of Labor

They’ve also sent their messages to prominent journalists on twitter such as @nickkristof. Check out the link for a video shot from an iPhone today at the protests outside Bahrain’s Ministry of Labor.

What’s most interesting from a corporate communications point of view is how many of those who support this group have set up their own twitter accounts in the name of companies who have laid people off, including Alba and Gulf Air. Here’s a link to one tweet from a profile called antiBatelco (I’d love to embed but Twitter still hasn’t rolled out the option yet). They’ve used company logos for their account profile pictures. None of the companies affected seems to have taken to social media to defend their actions.

So what does the government of Bahrain do? What can it do? Not much legally, seeing as the human rights commission appointed by the King himself has stated that those who were fired be reinstated to their jobs. There’s little hope that people will fade away after a period of time either. As those protesting are both unemployed and educated there’s little hope that they’ll either stop protesting or taking their cause online.

The difference today is how social media and the use of images and video can keep a campaign running and running. Both sides in Bahrain have been quick to take up the use of online tools to argue their cases. However, digital media changed who now has the most share-of-voice and influence. Social media has exacerbated that shift. A group of motivated and IT-savvy activists with a couple of iPhones and Blackberries with internet connections can now challenge their governments. Where do we go from here? For those protesting back in Bahrain, it’s to get back to work.