April 16, 2011
The Guardian

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 west

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". . . .


"Bahrain Protests: Police Break Up Pearl Square Crowd," BBC News, February 17, 2011

"These Are The Controversial Satellite Photos That Set Off Protests In Bahrain,", March 2, 2011

"Letter to President Obama about Libya," CSID, March 14, 2011 -- Why are these American Muslim leaders and proponents of "democracy" silent on Bahrain? Our reply to CSID

[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,", 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.

Bahrain's monarchy, since calling in Saudi troops last month to help crush the protest movement, has been quietly dismantling the country's Shiite-led opposition.--Joby Warrick and Michael Birnbaum, "As Bahrain stifles protest movement, U.S.'s muted objections draw criticism,", April 15, 2011]

[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,", April 19, 2011]

[The harshness of the government repression is provoking allegations of hypocrisy against Washington, London and Paris. Their mild response to human rights abuses and the Saudi Arabian armed intervention in Bahrain is in stark contrast to their vocal concern for civilians in Libya.--Patrick Cockburn, "Bahrain escapes censure by West as crackdown on protesters intensifies: Saudi troops' demolition of mosques stokes religious tensions,", April 19, 2011]

Jeremy Laurance, "Bahrain's secret terror: Desperate emails speak of 'genocide' as doctors who have treated injured protesters are rounded up,", April 21, 2011

Barry Lando, "A Tale of Two Hospitals: Kuwait 1991, Bahrain 2011,", April 24, 2011

[Up to 50 doctors and nurses who treated anti-government protesters injured during the recent demonstrations in Bahrain were charged yesterday with acts against the state.--Jeremy Laurance, "Bahrain charges 50 medical staff with anti-state conspiracy," Independent, May 4, 2011]

"Oil Wealth, U.S. Backing Enables Saudi Arabia to Crush Dissent in Bahrain and at Home,", May 6, 2011

Roy Gutman, "While Bahrain demolishes mosques, U.S. stays silent,", May 8, 2011

"Noam Chomsky: 'The U.S. and Its Allies Will Do Anything to Prevent Democracy in the Arab World',", May 11, 2011

Patrick Cockburn, "Anti-Shia Pogroms Sweep Bahrain,", May 16, 2011

Roy Gutman, "Bahrain's arrests of opponents show unsettling pattern of abuse," McClatchy Newspapers, May 25, 2011

[The Sudairi convinced the king of Bahrain to bloodily crush the hopes of the population.

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 Meyssan, "The Middle East counter-revolution,", May 26, 2011]

Marian Wang, "White House affirms relationship with Bahrain, detentions and prosecutions continue,", June 8, 2011

Philip Weiss, "Bahraini blogger on State Dep't tour says Hillary Clinton 'betrayed' and 'crushed' Bahrain democracy movement," Mondoweiss, June 16, 2011

Robert Fisk, "Briton at the heart of Bahrain's brutality rule,", June 18, 2011

"Bahrain reconciliation talks start amid crackdown," Associated Press, July 2, 2011

[ . . . the Obama administration demonstrated their firm partnership with the Bahraini dictatorship by selling them $53 million in arms, including equipment that could be used against protesters.--John Glaser, "Bahraini Protesters Jailed in Harsh Crackdown After Election Boycott,", September 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,", November 23, 2011]

VIDEO: Nicholas D. Kristof, "In Bahrain, Protests and Police Action,", December 16, 2011

Rannie Amiri, "Bahrain by the Numbers: Numerical Narrative of an Uprising,", December 30, 2011

Donald MacIntyre, "A year on, violence erupts again at Bahrain flashpoint: Gulf state's military goes in hard to prevent a repeat of clashes that marked start of uprising," Independent, February 15, 2012

[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,", March 10, 2012]

Ian Black, "Bahrain Grand Prix fails to drown out angry protests," Guardian, April 22, 2012

Reem Khalifa, "Bahrain Protesters Decry Unity Plans With Saudis," Associated Press, May 18, 2012

Glenn Greenwald, "Why didn't CNN's international arm air its own documentary on Bahrain's Arab Spring repression?," Guardian, September 4, 2012

Amber Lyon, RT America, October 2, 2012

Kristin Deasy, "Where's the News Coverage of Bahrain,", October 22, 2012

"Bahrain bans all protests in crackdown on Shia opposition movement," Associated Press, October 30, 2012

back button