Anti-government protests in Bahrain, 2011. Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia & the Arab Spring That Wasn’t Toby Matthiesen Stanford University Press, 2013 In 2011, when a wave of protest and rebellion swept the Arab world, the monarchical states making up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were not exempt from the unrest.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established to prosecute individuals alleged to have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. From the ICC’s inception, the US objected to the possibility that US nationals could be subject to its jurisdiction. The administration of former US president George W Bush waged an aggressive campaign to persuade states to sign “Article 98”, or bilateral immunity agreements. Those that signed agreed not to transfer US nationals to the ICC. Between 2002 and 2009, sanctions were implemented on states that refused to sign.
Protests against the Al-Khalifa regime have escalated in Bahrain ahead of the two-year anniversary of the uprising's start in mid-February and planned national talks between the opposing camps. The protests were spurred on by court rulings against jailed activists and more deaths caused by security forces. On January 13, 88-year-old Habib Ibrahim Abdullah died after inhaling tear gas fired by security forces at a protest in Malkiya, sparking protests in the capital. Security forces attacked demonstrators at his funeral the same day.
It is now two years since spontaneous mass uprisings against political and economic injustice started to sweep through the Arab countries. This began a period of heightened class struggle known in the West (but not the Arab countries) as the Arab Spring.
The Bahrain government's attempts to use the April 22 Formula One race to portray the country as harmonious have backfired badly. The world's media were forced to focus on the ongoing protests against the ruling al-Khalifa dynasty over demands for democracy and justice for those who have suffered human rights abuses. The government marketed the race with the slogan "UniF1ed", in a brazen attempt to whitewash the protests and suggest the country had returned to normal.
The most fun part of the news at the moment is these interviews with the government of Bahrain. Because they start: “You have stated that you're moving your country towards democracy. Is that true, Crown Prince Imperial Grand Emperor O Flawless Being of Gorgeous Holy Succulent Mightiness?”
The expression “business as usual” summarises the view of the revolution in Bahrain held by the Bahraini authorities, Western governments, international media like Al Jazeera, and the Gulf states. The Formula One Grand Prix has been confirmed by the International Automobile Federation. It declared the decision to reinstate it “reflects the spirit of reconciliation in Bahrain”.
The NSW Parliament passed a motion on April 4 in support of pro-democracy protests in Bahrain. The motion condemned the Bahrain government's repression of protesters, attacks on doctors, killing of 60 protesters by security forces, destruction of 40 Shi'a mosques, expulsion of journalists, and widespread use of torture.
On March 14 last year, four days before the NATO intervention in Libya, there was a less publicised Western-supported military intervention. A Saudi-led force invaded Bahrain to put down democracy protests against that country’s absolute monarchy. Despite the repression, fresh protests have broken out. Press TV said on March 27 that thousands of Bahrainis rallied calling for the overthrow of King Hamad bin Isa and his Al Khalifa dynasty.
Pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain have gone on the offensive in the face of government repression and harsh sentences for activists arrested in the first wave of protests in February and March. Large protests began on September 23 against sham by-elections for Bahrain’s toothless parliament. Most people heeded the democracy movement’s call for a boycott — only about 17% turned out to vote, FT.com said on September 25. Police blocked attempts by protesters to reach the previous epicentre of the protests — the now-demolished Pearl Roundabout, known as Martyr’s Square by protesters.
While the mainstream media have focused on the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya, democracy movements in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain have deepened despite severe repression. Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Yemen's capital Sana'a on September 4, MorningStarOnline.co.uk said the next day. They demanded the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Thousands were prevented from rallying by military roadblocks. Five protesters were wounded when government troops opened fire on the rally.
The home of Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) was attacked on May 21, CNN.com said that day. It was the second attack on Rajab's house in a month. The BCHR said the attack occurred in the early hours of the morning while Rajab and his family were sleeping. It said the attackers launched teargas grenades into the house, breaking the window of Rajab's brother, the group said.
Protests across Bahrain that began on February 14 have rocked the US-backed Khalifa royal family, mobilising hundreds of thousands of people against the regime's repressive rule. As part of the struggle for democracy, protesters have also opposed policies by the regime, which is dominated by the Sunni Muslim minority, that discriminate against the Shia Muslim majority. Since March 15, the pro-democracy movement has faced brutal repression from the Bahrain government and occupying troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. See also:
Februrary 14 was "The Day of Rage" against Bahrain's monarchy and dictatorship. As the government shut down radio broadcasters and stopped journalists from reporting on the situation, underground hip-hop artist Elreda wrote a song in dedication to the victims and the continuing protest that was not being broadcast to the western world. Elreda says he was motivated by Bahrainian citizens overseas to stand up for what they believe in in his song "February 14th". The song starts: "Blood splashes Bahrain Labyaka ya Hussein up rise strength February 14th."
Despite appearing calm on the surface, tensions are escalating within Bahrain, which has been the scene of anti-government protests that began on February 14. There still remains a strong police presence within the country. Armoured tanks and vehicles man the streets and highways. Blockades are on major intersections, forces have set up camp temporarily within the city and are on a state of permanent standby for civil unrest.