An endless cycle of peaceful protest and violent crackdown has endured for now 15 months in Bahrain, the tiny Arab island nation where a U.S.-backed Sunni minority rules over a Shia-majority population. Less visible than the geopolitics (Saudi Arabia has sent troops in support of the monarchy, which it sees as a bulwark against Shia Iran), the complicated dilemma for the Obama administration, or the lives and struggles of the democracy activists who refuse to give up, are the children of Bahrain.
Human Rights First, a U.S.-based NGO that has worked heavily in Bahrain since the Arab Spring began over a year ago, recently launched a project called Through Children’s Eyes to check in with Bahrain’s children and attempt to understand how the country’s conflict is affecting them. Two local activists who work with Human Rights First — and who are now both in prison on political charges — “asked some children who had been directly affected by the crackdown to draw whatever was in their minds.”
[Image: Maryam, age 7, told activists that the drawing portrayed her and her sister running to help their uncle, who was shot in the head by security forces. Graphic images of his body were broadcast widely in Bahrain after the incident. The Pearl Monument again appears, frowning.]
Nabeel Rajab, the man who comes as close as any to leading Bahrain’s revolution, was in a Manama coffee shop last March, holding his drink and casting an amused eye out the window at what appeared to be government-issued security cars lined up at the curb.
“I’m not hiding,” he said.
At the time, Rajab, the gregarious, grey-haired president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was one of a trio of prominent activists — including University of Bahrain professor Dr. Abdul-Jalil al-Singace and the BCHR’s founder, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja — who had become the most revered figures of the then weeks-old revolution.
Now, almost a year later, his two contemporaries have each received lifelong prison sentences, leaving Rajab — a 47-year-old building contractor by trade — the de-facto leader of Bahrain’s resurgent uprising.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Al Jazeera English’s new documentary, Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark, will air tonight and looks to be an absolute must-watch. (For those of us not fortunate enough to have Al Jazeera hosted on our cable, we have live streaming options via LiveStation. It’ll also no doubt be uploaded online quickly.) The Telegraph says that the documentary also reveals the Bahraini government’s use of social media sites to their own advantage, and to find activists like twenty-year-old Ayat Al-Qurmezi, whom they arrested.
When Maryam al-Khawaja and I first met in March, in a dingy hospital hallway in Manama, Bahrain’s regime had just tear gassed hundreds of its staunchest detractors, shooting them with rubber bullets and live ammunition while they slept and prayed. The dead and wounded were brought to Salmaniya medical center, where their loved ones were met by an energetic girl in jeans and a head scarf, hopping from floor to floor directing foot traffic, doling out information to worried families, and escorting aid workers.
Around 3 a.m., with the screams of a grieving mother echoing down the corridor, Maryam delivered a denunciation indictment of the U.S.’s silence on what was going on around her, calling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s criticism of the regime a mere wrist slap. By May, she had found a bigger audience, having left Bahrain for the U.S. and Europe, her anecdotes and big brown eyes humanizing Bahrain’s faltering opposition for a West that did not fully understand it.
From Brown University to the Oslo Freedom Forum to Voice of America, she preached the gospel that had been violently muted on Manama’s streets — the regime, she repeated, was doing grievous things, and the U.S. and its allies needed to step up their rhetoric.
Last week, her work took on a new urgency, when father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the country’s best-known opposition activist, was marched into a closed-door military tribunal and sentenced to life in prison for anti-government propaganda.
That a 24-year-old girl has become the face of one of the most repressed Arab Spring revolutions comes as a surprise only to those who don’t know her lineage. Maryam’s was born in Denmark to then-exiled Abdulhadi and his wife, Khadija, who had been banned from Bahrain in the mid-1980s. They lived in Denmark until returning to Manama in 2001, as soon as they were allowed re-entry. Maryam was 14
Read more at The Atlantic
[Image: Maryam in Manama before leaving the country / Twitter]
Time-lapse video by John Caelan from the website The Swamp Post mapping global protests from December 18 2010 to March 7, 2011.
See Middle East protest time-lapse video and read the original post at Global Voices Online.
Over the last month, the Shiite protests against Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy have produced flashes of violence but no systematic government crackdown.That changed on Wednesday, when Bahraini security forces, supported by tanks, helicopters, and armored jeeps, fired tear gas at protesters and drove them out of their headquarters in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout. Three policemen and three demonstrators were killed in the clash, the Associated Press reports.
The violence comes a day after Bahrain’s king declared martial law in the country. A legislator from Bahrain’s largest Shiite opposition party called the monarchy’s actions a “war of annihilation,” according to Reuters.
Critically, the unrest in Bahrain has morphed into a regional conflict, with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) sending forces to help Bahrain’s monarchy maintain order and Shiite-ruled, non-Arab Iran denouncing the arrival of GCC troops from Sunni-ruled Arab countries like Saudi Arabia. In Iraq, Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for mass demonstrations in solidarity with Bahrain’s protesters.
Read the rest at The Atlantic Wire
Troops crossed from Saudi Arabia into Bahrain on Monday to help quell unrest there, a move Bahraini opposition groups denounced as an “occupation,” while pro-government legislators called for the imposition of martial law.
An unnamed Saudi official told Agence-France Presse that military vehicles carrying more than 1,000 Saudi troops had crossed the bridge linking Saudi Arabia to the tiny island kingdom. His account was corroborated by witnesses in Bahrain, who said they saw more than 100 trucks crossing the bridge, but there was still no official confirmation from the Bahraini government.
The Associated Press reported that a Saudi security official said the troops came from a special unit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and that they were there to protect critical buildings and installation like oil facilities.
“We’re awaiting confirmation but do not have it,” a spokeswoman for the Bahraini government said by telephone.
Mohammad al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, said several of his fellow activists had seen the troops arriving.
The opposition statement said it considered the arrival of any soldier or military vehicle “an overt occupation of the kingdom of Bahrain and a conspiracy against the unarmed people of Bahrain.”
Inspired by recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of protesters in Bahrain have taken to the streets rallying against the ruling Al Khalifa family, many of them gathering in Pearl Square, in the capital city of Manama. Here, unlike in Egypt, police and armed forces are severely cracking down on the protests, using both crowd control tactics and live ammunition
[Image: John Moore/Getty Images]
(Source: The Atlantic)
I am deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur. We express our condolences to the family and friends of those who have been…