Bahrain bleeds for liberty

Bahrain protests

By Mamoon Alabbasi

Mamoon Alabbasi views the hypocrisy and double standards displayed by Western politicians and media towards the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain.

Just before the Arab revolt erupted there was much talk about how minorities in the Middle East were being mistreated. Of course, such concerns were not unfounded, but many vocal critics never really cared for finding real solutions nor did they give much attention to the plight of minorities elsewhere around the world. In fact, they often were the very same people who encouraged abusing minorities in Europe and the US.

Minorities in the Arab world (and elsewhere) continued to suffer. However, what has really been missed out was that the majorities in most Arab countries felt they were discriminated against more than anyone else. The signs were always there but few bothered to report this until the uprisings that swept the region left no room for doubt.

In Bahrain, a persecuted majority has literally been bleeding for equality and now, after days of anti-regime protests, dare dream of democracy.

In Bahrain, a persecuted majority has literally been bleeding for equality and now, after days of anti-regime protests, dare dream of democracy.

Unfortunately, many mainstream media outlets and so-called “analysts” have failed to report the protests in Bahrain as a people’s struggle for democracy and equal rights.

Instead, they sought to stress the sectarian divides of the country, even though the protestors were calling for Sunni-Shi’i unity against dictatorship. Analysts were also too preoccupied with the implications a democratic Bahrain would have on Saudi Arabia (negative) and on Iran (positive), as if it is OK to deny Bahrainis their basic human rights just because that might not sit well regionally.

The role of the US in all of this is also crucial. The Fifth Fleet, a major US Navy base, has been in Bahrain for 63 years. As seven Bahrainis were killed following the police crackdown on protestors, the US praised the monarchy for taking “positive steps” to reach out to demonstrators. During a visit to Bahrain the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, reaffirmed Washington’s support for King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ‘s “handling [of] the popular crisis” and “strong commitment” to Bahrain’s army. Mullen said his visit to the Gulf was aimed at “reaffirming, reassuring and also trying to understand where the leaderships of these countries are going, and in particular in Bahrain”.

Despite US calls for “restraint”, I do not see the people of Bahrain being reassured.

Some analysts fear that a democratic Bahrain would give Iran more influence in the region. This is ironic since many of those who claim to want total democracy for Iran do not wish that same privilege for the people of Bahrain, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq and elsewhere precisely because they think that would benefit Iran.

Some analysts fear that a democratic Bahrain would give Iran more influence in the region. This is ironic since many of those who claim to want total democracy for Iran do not wish that same privilege for the people of Bahrain, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq and elsewhere precisely because they think that would benefit Iran. But why would a free and democratic Bahrain threaten anyone’s “legitimate” interests? Freedom and equality in Bahrain serve first and foremost the people of Bahrain. The majority of the people of Bahrain are the legitimate voice of Bahrain; they cannot by definition betray Bahrain. Nor do they wish any trouble in the region.

Saudi Arabia has urged Bahraini’s opposition “to be reasonable in proposing their ideas, and accept what was offered by the government”. This is the same Saudi Arabia that said it rejects foreign intervention in Bahrain’s affairs and pledged its backing to the regime in Manama. But which of the opposition demands or slogans by protesters at Pearl Square run against the interest of the people of Saudi Arabia or any people for that matter?

None. Read some of them for yourself:

– “No Sunni, no Shi’i, we are Bahraini!”

– “We are brothers, Sunnis and Shi’s. We shall not abandon this country”

– “Did you hear anybody raising a sectarian demand, or a demand for one part of the people of Bahrain?”

– “The time has come for true unity”

– “We want a real constitutional monarchy”

– “We want an elected government”

– “We want the people to write their constitution themselves through an elected council”

– “The people should choose their government”

– “We want a parliamentary, democratic regime – a regime with a free parliament elected by the free will of the people, and this parliament will form a government”

– “People here are demanding democracy, and fair distribution of wealth, and these demands are for all the people”.

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