Bahrain Protests Will Go Nowhere
While the US Supports Its Government
The Al-Khalifa family, who control
Bahrain, has cracked down on dissent with little condemnation from the
by Ian Black
Bahrain was always going to be a prime candidate if unrest erupted in the
Arabian peninsula. But it was not easy to predict that the Al-Khalifa
dynasty, Sunnis who rule over a restive 70% Shia majority, would react so
brutally when protests mushroomed in February. Still, the activists who
streamed to Manama's Pearl roundabout in a deliberate echo of Cairo's Tahrir
Square were demanding reform, not the overthrow of the regime. . . .
Prospects for political change looked reasonable until last summer when a
sudden security crackdown began. The government was alarmed by joint
Shia-Sunni demands to investigate the acquisition of prime real estate by
the royals: Google Earth showed just how much of the island - where public
beaches are rare - was already owned by the Al-Khalifa family.
Last October the mildly Islamist Shia opposition party al-Wefaq won a
plurality of seats in the lower house of parliament - despite being smeared
by the government as Hezbollah-type extremists. But progressives in Bahrain
emphasise nationality, not religious sect - thus the catchy slogan "not
Shias, not Sunnis, we are all Bahrainis". . . .
[Those plucky demonstrators we saw occupying the Pearl Square roundabout in
Manama, the capital of Bahrain, have been swept away by government security
forces - together with the 300 foot monument at the roundabout, which came to
symbolize the aspirations of the protesters . . .
The repression has turned into an operation of conspicuous bigotry,
brutality, and mendacity that does not bode well for the future of the
emirate, political liberalization inside Saudi Arabia, or peaceful
coexistence between Iran and the Gulf states.--Peter Lee, "Bahrain and Saudi
Arabia's Rulers Goose-Step to the Brink of the Abyss,"
counterpunch.org, April 5, 2011]
[Two months after the eruption of mass protests in Bahrain, the kingdom has
largely silenced the opposition, jailing hundreds of activists in a
crackdown that has left the Obama administration vulnerable to charges that
it is upholding democratic values in the Middle East selectively.
[Iran has repeatedly condemned the dispatch of Saudi troops to Bahrain to
support the Bahraini forces' crackdown on demonstrations there by Shiites
who form the majority of the population of the country.--"Gulf states call on
UN to halt Iran 'interference'," AFP, April 17, 2011]
[Washington will allow Saudi Arabia to have a free hand to tackle the
movements for democratic reforms in the region and forestall any regime
changes in the region. Accordingly, the Saudis are moving on three different
tracks. First, they have done everything possible to portray the democracy
movement in Bahrain, which has serious potential to overthrow the regime in
Manama and trigger a domino effect, in starkly sectarian terms as an issue
of Shi'ite empowerment. The Saudi calculation by stoking up the latent fires
of sectarian prejudices in the Sunni mind is to somehow prevent a unified,
pan-Arab democracy movement from taking shape.--M K Bhadrakumar, "Saudi money
wins Obama's mind," atimes.com, April 19, 2011]
[The Sudairi convinced the king of Bahrain to bloodily crush the hopes of
On 13 March, U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates arrived in Manama to
initiate the coordination of operations, which began with the entry of Saudi
special forces, known as "Nayef Eagles", under the command of Prince Nayef.
Within days, all the symbols of protest were destroyed, including the public
monument erected in Pearl Square. Hundreds of people died or went missing.
Torture, which had been abandoned for almost a decade, was again widespread.
Doctors and nurses who treated injured protesters were arrested in their
hospitals, detained incommunicado, and brought before military tribunals.
But, the most important element in this terrible repression is the
determination to transform a classic class struggle, between an entire
population and a privileged class tied to foreign imperialism, into a
sectarian conflict. The majority of Bahrainis are Shiites while the ruling
family is Sunni. The Shias are seen as the vehicle of the revolutionary
ideal of Ruhollah Khomeini, who was designated as a target. In one month,
the "Nayef Eagles" razed 25 Shiite mosques and damaged 253 others.--Thierry
Middle East counter-revolution," voltairenet.org, May 26, 2011]
[Drawing on 9,000 testimonies, the 500-page report offers an extensive
chronology of events, documenting 46 deaths, 559 allegations of torture, and
more than 4,000 cases of employees in both the public and private sector
being dismissed for participating in protests.--Elizabeth Kickinson, "Bahrain
commission issues brutal critique of Arab Spring crackdown,"
csmonitor.com, November 23, 2011]
[Al Jazeera Arabic, which broadcasted other Arab revolutions live, creating
widespread sympathy with the revolts (whether in Egypt, Libya or Syria),
chose to turn away from the Bahraini uprising. The reason is simple - for
the Qatari-owned news channel, Bahrain brought the revolution too close to
home.--Ala'a Shehabi, "Don't Look Away from
Bahrain's Revolution," egyptindependent.com, March 10, 2012]