Al-Sammak: “Bahraini women are essential partners in preparing and implementing comprehensive plans and programmes for development in the Kingdom of Bahrain”
Al-Sammak: “The Government claims that the State Budget is in crisis, because there is no clear Government policy for developing income. Is it credible that redirecting meat subsidies will increase the Budget? This claim makes no sense”
Chairwoman of the Committee for Women and Children
Member of the Permanent Committee for Services
Member of Joint Parliamentary Committee for Reviewing Subsidy Reform (July 2015)
Member of Government Action Plan Committee (Jan-Feb 2015)
Through her various committee roles, Al-Sammak is establishing herself as an articulate and confident deputy in a male-dominated chamber. As head of the Women and Children Committee Al-Sammak has helped give prominence to a number of family-related issues.
Al-Sammak is growing in confidence during open parliamentary sessions, challenging colleagues on issues of women’s rights and challenging ministers on matters of public interest. She voted in support of the Stat Budget on 2 July 2015.
During the 7 April 2015 parliamentary session Al-Sammak strongly challenged the views of two Shia cleric MPs on the issue of domestic sexual violence, arguing in favour of the woman’s right of consent to her husband’s sexual demands.
In a 7 July 2015 press conference to mark the end of the parliamentary year, Al-Sammak discussed the achievements of her Women and Children’s Committee over the past year. In particular she stressed the Committee’s successful work on the Agreement for Abolishing all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Draft Bill for Protecting Families Against Domestic Violence; as well as organizing the Parliamentary Conference for Women.
Al-Sammak during March 2015 began to strongly address the issue of “shortages” of resources in Bahraini public hospitals, challenging the Health Ministry on this issue and taking the initiative in seeking to put together a parliamentary committee to tackle the subject.
As her confidence and parliamentary standing has grown, Al-Sammak has very much become the spokeswoman for defending the cause of unemployed Bahraini health professionals – an issue also passionately advocated by MP Jalal al-Mahfoudh – she has challenged the Health Ministry to work harder to employ qualified Bahrainis in preference to foreign applicants.
Al-Sammak is also one of few MPs who have spoken out about the rights of prisoners, in particular highlighting the situation facing many women detainees.
ACTIVITY DURING 2015-2016 PARLIAMENT SEASON
Housing, services & infrastructure
Housing: On 1 Sep Al-Sammak discussed ongoing and projected housing projects across Bahrain.
Standards of living, health & education
Health: Al-Sammak on 12 July called on the Health Minister to urgently address the issue of unemployed health professionals. She said that she had received dozens of calls from unemployed medics pleading for help. Al-Sammak on 18 July warned that the Health Ministry was increasingly inclined to only sign temporary contracts with Bahraini medical professionals. Al-Sammak indicated that this could violate recruitment legislation.
MPs Osama al-Khajah, Abdulhalim Murad, Ibrahim al-Hammadi, Ahmed Qaratah and Jamila al-Sammak proposed a mobile health centre for the elderly and those with special needs. Al-Wasat reported on 23 Oct that this proposal was to be discussed in the coming parliamentary session. On 27 Oct, MPs approved this proposal.
Disabilities: During the 3 Nov parliamentary session, MPs discussed a proposal for establishing a centre for children suffering from Autism. Al-Sammak criticized the Govt’s response, saying that many parents couldn’t afford to benefit from the services available from private institutions. During the same session, MPs voted in favour of establishing a holistic centre for those with mental disabilities. Al-Sammak noted that current facilities failed to house many of those facing problems, which had resulted in a number of patients being housed in centres in Jordan.
Education: On 2 Sep Al-Sammak emphasized the importance of recognition of the highest-performing students for encouraging them to fulfill their aspirations. She was speaking at a graduation event.
Economy & employment
Training detainees: Al-Sammak on 5 Oct proposed reintegration training programmes for prison detainees to help return them to society.
Good governance & public finance
Subsidies: Joint Subsidies Committee member Al-Sammak on 13 Sep said that the additional revenue which would accrue to the Govt as a result of subsidy reform was around BD 30 million. She warned against Bahraini citizens having to pay the price of the current economic challenges and urged the Govt to avoid hurrying into such decisions.
During the 27 Oct open parliamentary debate on subsidy reform, Al-Sammak said that the meat subsidy measures were discriminatory, because women received less compensation than the male head of the household. She said: “The Government claims that the State Budget is in crisis because there is no clear Government policy for developing income. Is it credible that redirecting meat subsidies will increase the Budget? This claim makes no sense.”
In the Bahrain TV show on the views of MPs following the 27 Oct parliamentary session, Al-Sammak was quoted, stating her support in principle for subsidy reform, but noting her opposition to the unilateral measures taken by the Govt.
Policing & regional security
Terrorism: Al-Sammak on 28 July condemned the recent attack in Sitra which killed 2 policemen. She warned of the consequences of “this dangerous security escalation”. Al-Sammak on 7 Aug condemned the mosque attack in Abha Saudi Arabia, calling it a cowardly act.
Al-Sammak on 8 Sep praised Bahrain’s regional role in guaranteeing security and stressed the importance of GCC states standing together against violence and terrorism.
Yemen: Al-Sammak on 4 Sep extended her condolences over the deaths of 5 Bahraini soldiers and other GCC troops in Yemen. She stressed the importance of combatting terrorism and “those sowing divisions”. Al-Sammak on 10 Sep proposed a memorial at Bab al-Bahrain for the soldiers killed in Yemen.
National Unity: Following a meeting with the Governor of the Capital on 5 Sep, Al-Sammak stressed the importance of efforts to enhance national unity.
Prisons: At a conference concerning the rights of female prisoners, Al-Sammak on 25 Oct called for judicial inspections of female prisons. Al-Sammak stressed the importance of upholding the rights of female prisoners.
Rights & freedoms
Women & family: Al-Sammak on 12 Aug praised the importance of the new measures for preventing domestic violence, saying that they guaranteed “stability and security” for Bahraini families.
Youth, culture & sport
Youth: Al-Sammak has stressed the importance of summer activities for enhancing the nationalist sentiments of young people and developing their skills. (28 Aug)
Parliament role & constituent engagement
Affiliation: According to several media sources on 13 October, around 13 MPs are moving to form a parliamentary bloc. These are Jalal al-Mahfoudh, Ghazi Al Rahmah, Nasir al-Qaseer, Abbas al-Madhi, Khalid al-Shaer, Adel Bin-Hamid, Majid al-Majid, Majid al-Asfour, Isa al-Kooheji, Jamila al-Sammak, Fatima al-Asfour and Ali al-Aradi, with Hamad al-Dossary indicated as being the head of the bloc, with “unanimous” agreement.
Delegation: Al-Sammak from 17-22 Oct is participating in the International Parliament event in Geneva.
ACTIVITY DURING 2014-2015 PARLIAMENT SEASON
Housing, services & infrastructure
Public infrastructure: Al-Sammak on 21 January addressed the Ministry of Works on behalf of local constituents in Sadad concerning the lack of action for improving local paved roads and lighting. During the 14 April parliamentary session Al-Sammak thanked the Minister of Works for addressing the need for paving in areas of Sadad, but asked why there had been no response for her request for a team from the Ministry to come and inspect the area to address the issue of construction refuse.
King’s speech: Al-Sammak stressed the need to highlight the housing issue in the response to the King’s Speech and the right of citizens to “obtain suitable and satisfactory accommodation”.
Housing benefit: On 8 April the Parliament Chairman confirmed that the Parliament Minister would respond to Al-Sammak’s query about criteria for allotment of housing benefit during the next week’s parliamentary session.
Standards of living, health & education
Health workers: Al-Sammak during the 10 March parliamentary session strongly criticized the Health Minister, saying that there was an “intense shortage” of medical staff in local hospitals, at a time when 42 Bahraini doctors had come to her saying that they were unemployed. She asked why waiting lists for treatment often were as long as nine months. She quoted from the Financial Audit Report which cited shortages of medical staff in key areas.”
Salmaniya Hospital: On 18 March Al-Sammak said that MPs were in the process of putting together a committee to investigate the “intense shortages at Salmaniya Hospital”. She said that the Minister of Health’s responses to her questions on this issue had been “unconvincing”. In statements to the media she gave details of some of these shortages.
Disabled: Al-Sammak has put forward a private bill for setting up holistic facilities for the mentally disabled. She stressed the struggle families underwent in gaining access to specialists and specialized care. (15 April)
Health: Parliament on 21 April approved a bill put forward by Al-Sammak and others for making Bahrain a centre for health tourism. Al-Sammak noted the huge potential profits from such an enterprise.
On 24 May Al-Sammak represented the Parliament at a Medical Faculty event at the Bahrain University.
Al-Sammak on 16 June tabled a question for the Health Minister about the responsibilities and guidelines for health employees.
Schools: On 19 March Al-Sammak called for an investigation into allegations that a teacher from a public primary school hit a pupil with a plastic pipe.
Al-Sammak on 20 April proposed building a primary school in Shahrkan, noting the lack of locally available schooling.
Elderly: On 20 May Al-Sammak tabled a formal question for the Minister for Social Development concerning support for a society for the elderly.
Meat subsidies: During the 2 June open parliamentary debate on planned subsidy cuts, Al-Sammak said that subsidy reform was acceptable if based on a careful study of the economic impact, with the impact on the citizen being the first priority. She said that MPs should stand together in rejecting this proposal.
Economy & employment
Bahraini workers: During the 24 February parliamentary debate concerning the Shura Council’s rejection of proposals to prefer Bahraini workers for jobs, Al-Sammak complained that “businessmen only thought of making profits, depending on cheap labour”.
Public sector employees: During the 19 May parliamentary session a proposed bill for making the public sector fully Bahraini within five years had to be withdrawn for further discussion after many objections from MPs. Al-Sammak argued that Bahrainis should be prioritized, as set out in the Constitution. She acknowledged that certain roles required foreign skills, but questioned what the strategy was for gradually replacing foreigners with Bahrainis.
Economic & financial disputes: During the 17 parliamentary session to discuss the amended practices for the Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution, Al-Sammak said that the measures would help in attracting new investment and in allowing Bahrain to implement its agreements.
Good governance & public finance
Action Plan: On 3 February Al-Sammak stressed that her own role within the Action Plan Committee had sought to make the Plan “responsive to the aspirations of citizens”. She noted the substantial number of modifications made to the Plan as a result of interventions by parliamentarians, saying that the achievements on Parliament in influencing this file must be upheld in the future.
Public debt: During the 24 March parliamentary session to discuss a possible rise in the debt ceiling, Al-Sammak said: “We want to preserve the reputation of Bahrain and our nation’s economy”. She rejected sending the proposal back to the Financial Committee for further discussion and voted to reject an increase in the debt ceiling.
According to Al-Watan on 14 May Al-Sammak was one of the 20 MPs who said that they would give conditional support to raising the debt ceiling to 7bn BD. During the 2 July parliamentary session when a majority of 18 MPs approved an increase in the debt ceiling to BD 7bn, Al-Sammak voted in favour.
Audit report: During the 14 April parliamentary debate concerning the annual Financial Audit Bureau report, Al-Sammak pointed out that the Bureau was not specialized in all areas of government and questioned whether many more serious violations went unnoticed.
Minister interrogation: Al-Sammak on 19 April said that the issue of overseas medical treatment was a central issue which MPs wanted to probe the Health Minister about. She said that this issue was the “axis of corruption at the Health Ministry”. In an interview with Al-Wasat newspaper, Al-Sammak went into further details about issues which MPs sought to interrogate the Minister in regard to.
Al-Sammak on 4 May stressed the importance of interrogating the Health Minister. She said that MPs had the right to use the tools at their disposal. She observed that “there are many matters which need addressing at the Health Ministry”.
During the 5 May parliamentary session an insufficient number of MPs voted in support of interrogating the Health Minister over issues raised in the Audit report (23 supported, below the 2/3 quota of 27 MPs). Al-Sammak voted in favour of the interrogation.
Al-Sammak on 6 May said that the failure to secure the Minister’s interrogation was “not the end of the road for the Council of Deputies” and wouldn’t impact on the possibility of future interrogations.. She said: “I was personally hoping for approval of the interrogation and that the Council of Representatives would find a definitive solution to the outstanding issues at the Ministry of Health”.
Civil Service: The Civil Service Chamber on 8 May responded to questions from Al-Sammak regarding pay benefits for civil servants in various pay grades.
Budget: During the 2 July special parliamentary session in which a small majority of MPs voted to approve the State Budget, Al-Sammak stressed the level of expectations from the public, calling on the Govt to now play its part in increasing revenue and decreasing dependence on oil. She urged greater support for those in society with special needs and stressed that the Govt should not take any measures without consulting MPs.
Policing & regional security
Terrorism: In a 25 May statement Al-Sammak called on the GCC states to work together to “respond to terrorist acts and to act in solidarity to preserve security and stability”. She strongly condemned the Qatif mosque attack by ISIS.
Al-Sammak on 25 June strongly condemned the attack by terrorists on a Kuwaiti mosque.
Air crimes: With the parliamentary ratification of the Tokyo protocol related to air crimes on 26 May, Al-Sammak raised a number of reservations with regard to the powers of air security personnel.
Rights & freedoms
Women & family: On 17 January Al-Sammak spoke about the importance of prioritizing the draft law for addressing domestic violence.
On the occasion of the national day for women, Al-Sammak on 1 February stressed that “Bahraini women are essential partners in preparing and implementing comprehensive plans and programmes for development in the Kingdom of Bahrain.”
On 8 February Al-Sammak confirmed that her Committee would recommend the approval of the Shura Council’s draft law for the protection of the family from violence. On 16 February, the Committee continued to discuss these measures.
During a 24 February event in honour of the National Action Charter, Al-Sammak stressed the efforts of her parliamentary committee to support King Hamad’s reform process and empower women.
Al-Sammak on 6 March praised the King’s initiative for strengthening the property rights of widows and divorcees, saying that this measure guaranteed the rights of all to decent standards of living.
Al-Sammak on 9 March confirmed a parliamentary event on 15 May to promote Family Day.
Al-Sammak on 21 March praised the efforts of women’s organizations in Bahrain for strengthening women’s rights and role in society. She warned that current legislation failed to ensure that women married to foreigners enjoyed equal rights.
Al-Sammak on 15 April confirmed there would be a parliamentary conference concerning women in May. Al-Sammak also said that her Committee had discussed a proposal put forward by MPs (several of whom are from the Islamist fringe) for paying benefits to women who refrain from work and remain with their families. She said that the proposal had been withdrawn for amendment. Several ministries and departments have opposed the motion on budgetary grounds and the claim that it is discriminatory.
Al-Sammak on 14 May announced the holding of a parliamentary convention for women’s groups the following Thursday. She discussed the objectives of the event with the media for empowering women in society.
During a parliamentary women’s forum on 21 May, Al-Sammak pledged that her Committee would work to implement the recommendations emerging from the event, through drafting a report and opening the issues for discussion with the full Parliament.
Al-Sammak’s Committee on 2 June submitted a number of legislative proposals regarding women. Further details weren’t given in the press coverage.
Al-Sammak on 9 June stressed the determination of Parliament to enhance the role of women in society. She was speaking at the College of Public Administration.
In a 7 July press conference to mark the end of the parliamentary year, Al-Sammak discussed the achievements of her Women and Children’s Committee over the past year. In particular she stressed the Committee’s successful work on the Agreement for Abolishing all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Draft Bill for Protecting Families Against Domestic Violence; as well as organizing the Parliamentary Conference for Women.
Sexual abuse: During the parliamentary debate on 7 April concerning a new Domestic Violence Protection Law, Al-Sammak strongly challenged arguments against a domestic sexual abuse clause, saying that sexual abuse in marriage should be punishable since both partners should consent to sex: “Sex is something practiced by two people who have to be on the same level of acceptance for it not to constitute harm or abuse,” she said. “Sexual harm could come from a husband or wife transferring STDs and that should be punishable because it has huge negatives on human health.”
Democracy and human rights: Al-Sammak has been nominated as the representative of Gulf and Arab states for democracy and human rights in the International Parliament. (28 March) Al-Sammak was praised by Parliament Chairman Ahmed al-Mulla for being selected as the human rights representative in the International Parliament. (30 March) MP Abbas al-Madhi congratulated Al-Sammak on behalf of his Services Committee on 9 March for her appointment on the International Parliament’s Human Rights Committee.
Khaled al–Shaer and Al-Sammak on 15 June participated in the Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva.
Royal pardon: Al-Sammak on 9 May praised the announcement of a royal pardon, saying that it “gave hope to the families of prisoners”. Al-Sammak noticed the impact of female detainees on the families they left behind.
Societies: Al-Sammak on 28 June called for the establishment of societies to promote national unity and combat corruption.
Youth, culture & sport
Sport: During a 7 April open debate about sport in Bahrain Al-Sammak called for the establishment of a women’s sporting union for promoting female abilities.
Parliament role & constituent engagement
Constituency: On 31 March Al-Sammak spoke to Al-Wasat newspaper about interaction with her constituents in the context of local calls for boycotting Parliament. She stressed the close cooperation between her and local people. She said it was untrue that there was an effective boycott against local deputies, noting that “on the contrary there have been numerous requests and files submitted to me personally from local people. We are working on these in our efforts to address the desires of citizens”. She cited the large number of pressing issues which concerned local people, like housing, infrastructure, employment and social problems.
Al-Sammak acknowledged the “dominance of issues related to services” over the work of MPs, but stressed the good relationship between her and the local municipal councilor. She described several specific instances where local people had approached her about specific problems and she had approached various ministries to address these.
- Standards of living, health & education – 8
- Housing & services – 6
- Policing & regional security – 3
- Good governance & public finance – 7
- Economy & employment – 7
- Supporting constituents & youth – 7
- Rights & freedoms – 8
- Constructive Parliament role – 7
- Public visibility – 6
- Progressive/reformist credentials – 7
Results of 2014 elections – 12th Northern
Areas covered: Dumistan, Luzi, Karzakan, Malikiyah, Sadad, Shahrakan, Safariyah
Housing blocks: 1017, 1018, 1020, 1025, 1026, 1027, 1028, 1032, 1033, 1034, 1037, 1038, 1041, 1042, 1044
Registered voters: 11,323; Percentage 1st round voter turnout: 21.7%
First round vote:
Jamila al-Sammak – 963 (46.5%); Ammad al-Sayed – 315 (15.2%); Khalid Abdulaal (MP) – 287 (13.9%); Abdulrazzaq Fardan – 245 (11.8%); Ali Baqer – 150; Ali Fardan – 111
Second round vote:
Jamila al-Sammak – 1158 (71.3%)
Ammad al-Sayed – 467 (28.7%)
Profile of election campaign: Dr. Jamila Mansour Jassim al-Sammak
Dr. Jamila al-Sammak was an administrative manager for government hospitals. She is now the deputy head of a university and active in civil society and a regular attendee of international conferences.
The fact that Jamila came so far ahead of the incumbent MP Khalid Abdulaal is remarkable. With around 47% of the vote in the first ballot, she was close to winning outright in the first round. However, Jamila went on to confirm her victory in the second round with an incredible 71% of the vote – the highest percentage win in the second round competition.
Al-Sammak has stated her determination to promote national unity and banish “marginalization, the politics of incitement and the spreading of hatred”. Jamila also said she wanted to address institutional corruption and improve standards of living.
Jamila singled out the education issue as particularly important, saying she wanted to promote skilled Bahrainis into educational positions. Jamila stood in a Capital seat in 2006 and gained just 127 votes.
Khalid Abdulaal only narrowly won his seat in 2011 with 51% of the vote in the second round against Ali Fardan. Abdulaal seemed to hardly be bothering to contest this election, failed to engage with the media and there is little sign that he went out seriously campaigning at all.
Many localities in this district half-way down Bahrain’s west coast have seen sporadic rioting over the last three years. Visitors to the area in the second week of November noted the lack of elections-related activity and the absence of promotional billboards, except on the main road entering Dumistan.
A 21.7% first round turnout, given the boycott, was probably higher for this area than most people were expecting and perhaps reflects a success for the candidates in reaching out to those who are prepared to vote.
Know your deputy: Profiles of other Bahrain MPs
Adel al-Asoumi – 1st Capital
Ahmed Qaratah – 2nd Capital
Adel Bin-Hamid Abdulhussain – 3rd Capital
Deputy-Head of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Abdulrahman Bumjaid – 4th Capital
Nasser al-Qaseer – 5th Capital
Deputy Head of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters
Ali al-Atish – 6th Capital
Osamah al-Khajah – 7th Capital
Shaikh Majid al-Asfour – 8th Capital
Mohammed Jaffar Milad – 9th Capital
Nabil al-Balooshi – 10th Capital
Ali Bufarsan – 1st Muharraq
Head of Committee for Youth and Sports
Ibrahim al-Hammadi – 2nd Muharraq
Jamal Buhassan – 3rd Muharraq
Isa al-Kooheji – 4th Muharraq
Head of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters
Mohammed al-Jowder – 5th Muharraq
Abbas al-Madhi – 6th Muharraq
Ali al-Muqla – 7th Muharraq
Abdulrahman Bu-Ali – 8th Muharraq
Fatimah al-Asfour – 1st Northern
Deputy Head of the Committee for Women and Children
Jalal Kadhim al-Mahfoudh – 2nd Northern
Deputy Head of Committee for Youth and Sports
Hamad al-Dossary – 3rd Northern
Ghazi Al Rahmah – 4th Northern
Deputy Head of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment
Ali al-Aradi – 5th Northern
Deputy Head of Parliament
Rua al-Haiki – 6th Northern
Shaikh Majid al-Majid – 7th Northern
Head of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters
Dr. Isa Turki – 8th Northern
Abdulhamid Abdulhussain al-Najjar – 9th Northern
Deputy Head of Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People
Mohammed al-Ammadi – 10th Northern
Head of Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People
Jamal Dawoud – 11th Northern
Head of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment
Jamila al-Sammak – 12th Northern
Head of the Committee for Women and Children
Khalid al-Shaer – 1st Southern
Head of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Mohammed al-Ahmed – 2nd Southern
Abdulhalim Murad – 3rd Southern
Second Deputy Head of Parliament
Mohammed al-Maarifi – 4th Southern
Deputy Head of the Permanent Committee for Services
Khalifa al-Ghanim – 5th Southern
Anas Buhindi – 6th Southern
Deputy Head of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters
Abdullah Bin-Huwail – 7th Southern
Head of the Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence and National Security Affairs
Dhiyab al-Noaimi – 8th Southern
Mohsin al-Bakri – 9th Southern
Ahmed al-Mulla – 10th Southern
Head of Parliament