BAHRAIN – THE KEY TO THE ARAB UPRISINGS

IRISH ANTI WAR MOVEMENT (IAWM) - 18 March 2011

BAHRAIN – THE KEY TO THE ARAB UPRISINGS

by

Dr. Abdullah Sayegh and Jim Roche, Steering Committee IAWM.

The actions of western leaders in recent weeks show the disdain in which they hold the ordinary people of the region, including Libyan people. Contrast their expressed “deep concern” for the fate of the Libyan people with the mild commentary regarding the current treatment of protesters in Bahrain. The U.S. government—through its proxy/puppet monarchy in Saudi Arabia—is arming, financing and sending troops to Bahrain to violently suppress the protests that have been happening for weeks.

The Bahraini authorities, western leaders and the UN are playing the sectarian card against the protesters – invoking yet again, as occurred previously in Iraq, a conflict between Shiia and Sunni Muslim, and of course, the demonization of the great regional evil - Iran.

The protesters on Pearl Roundabout were mainly Shiia, due to the awful discrimination in all aspects of work and cultural life against this larger demographic group by the ruling Sunni elite. Yet many Sunnis were prominent amongst the protesters, including those arrested, thus exposing the sectarian motives of the Bahraini authorities, Western leaders and the UN.

The protests in Bahrain link back to a wave of protests beginning in 1994 that were unique in its time for the level of cooperation between religious, secular and leftist / labour forces. Though inspired by the recent wave of Arab protests in the region the demands being made by Bahrainis today are the same as they were in 1994 namely, the release of political prisoners, the granting of political rights to women, and economic reforms to raise the standard of living of the majority Shia population.
Bahrain was, on 14 March, invaded by a foreign army consisting of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with the stated purpose of protecting essential facilities including oil and gas installations and financial institutions and to "safeguard security and stability". The maneuver was carried out under the aegis of the Gulf Cooperation Council that also has Kuwait, Qatar and Oman as members, in contravention of international law and any sense of human decency.

The US administration has publicly declared that this is “not an invasion!

The Bahraini security forces and the invading Saudi army brutally attacked the peaceful protesters who were camped out on Pearl Roundabout resulting in many deaths and more than one thousand injuries. Hospitals are now under siege and are short of medicines. Ambulances have been stopped from collecting the wounded. There has been inhumane treatment of doctors, including a Dr. Akri who once worked in Dublin, and protesters have been injured beyond imagination. The Minister of Health has resigned due to these attacks on doctors and the Chief of the Sulaimani hospital has been replaced with a military officer. The imprisonment and house arrest of many leaders of the uprising is ongoing, helped by an imposed nightly curfew from 4pm to 4 am.

The suppression in Bahrain is, in proportion to the populations of both countries, as bloody a situation as Libya. Yet, compared to the grand standing of western leaders and now the military intervention in Libya, the mild condemnation by Hilary Clinton and other western leaders of the Saudi’s invasion of Bahrain and subsequent violent suppression of the peaceful protests, is astounding, matched only by the mild media coverage of the suffering of the people in Bahrain.

There are strong indications that this action by Saudi Arabia had the green light from Hilary Clinton. The timing of the Saudi intervention came after US Government officials met the Bahraini government leaders. Saudi troops drove across the border only two days after secretary of defence Robert Gates was in Bahrain, ostensibly attempting to convince the Bahraini leadership to engage in a more rapid process of dialogue and reform.

The Bahraini uprising will play a pivotal role in the future of the area. Many demonstrations are occurring now in the Eastern Saudi provinces and there are many skirmishes between ordinary people and the state forces.

The struggle of ordinary people for their democratic rights in an area governed by corrupt regimes, who maintain power only through the support of western political leaders, will win out in the end.

The struggle of ordinary people who believe that citizenship means equality of opportunity and not divisions between sects and tribes, a lazy excuse always used to divide people, will win out in the end.

The struggle of ordinary people who wish to express solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people will win out in the end.

The struggle of ordinary people against those leaders who try to divert Arab people to think purely that “Iran is the enemy” will win out in the end.

The success of the Bahraini people in struggle will not only affect the regimes in the Arab side of the gulf, but it could also spread democracy throughout the Persian side of the Gulf, namely in Iran. That may explain the Iranian condemnation of the Saudi intervention being as mild as that of America.

Anti war activists must hold firm and support the demands of Arab protesters for democratic change, argue against the sectarian card being played by regional and western powers and point out the duplicity and hypocrisy of western leaders in their reluctant support for some protests while they remain silent, or at best ambiguous on others, and in their devious manipulation of the genuine struggles of the Arab people for democracy and freedom versus the interests of western multinationals and military machines.

Dr. Abdullah Sayegh and Jim Roche, Steering Committee IAWM. 18 March 2011