11/07/2006, 00.00
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Christian and three women to contest Bahrain election

Ibrahim Zahi Suleiman is a candidate for the town elections while the women will contest polls for the House of Representatives. Bahrain is a tolerant country but nonetheless a local newspaper attacked the Christian candidate because of his faith.

Manama (AsiaNews) – A Christian and three women feature among candidates in political and municipal elections set to be held on 25 November in Bahrain.

Ibrahim Zahi Suleiman, a Christian, will contest the election for the third of five electoral districts in the municipal poll: a law graduate, he has worked for 20 years, since 1986, for the Bahrain Defence Force (army). He says his father was one of its founders. Jordanian by birth, in 1994, he became a citizen of the small monarchy, which enjoys a longstanding tradition of tolerance. A Christian, Alice Sammaan, already forms part of the Consultative Council, an assembly appointed by the king. She represented the thousand of so Christians who live peacefully amid the kingdom's 650,000 residents.

Despite prevalent tolerance, Suleiman was targeted by a local newspaper that attacked him precisely because he is a Christian. "But I was never discriminated against," says the candidate, who has an electoral programme that aims for the consolidation of democracy and the environment. "It is necessary to create more green spaces and to set up youth centres to allow our children to live in a healthy environment."

If elected, Suleiman will not be the first Christian to be chosen: one was already elected some years ago.

Of the three women who have presented their candidature for a place in the House of Representatives, the most confrontational could well be Moza Salem Sabt, an ex-teacher who has made women's rights and education her battle cries. "Only good education prepares people for the future," she says. "When a person is educated, it is much easier to face problems like unemployment." Interviewed by the Bahrain Tribune, she said women needed to be given a chance.

Sabah Al Dosari comes from a family that is strongly committed to social issues and she herself undertakes charitable and volunteer work. For her, the main concern is to "understand the problems and needs of people". The chief problems she draws attention to are unemployment and poverty. She said: "I know of the needs of people but I don't believe in empty promises and I don't want to exploit the trust of my voters. My motto is that 'action speaks louder than words'."

The third candidate is Khadija Al Kahtani, who is probably the least well known, but she has the advantage of living in the district she is contesting.

Asked about female candidates, one voter said: "I believe women are capable of doing well. We have men in both Councils and nothing has changed in the past four years."

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