Vice News – Bahrain: An Inconvenient Uprising

Bahrain 2014: The protests are not over. Tens of thousands mourners marched during the funeral procession for Asma Hussain on February 12, 2014. She died of a heart attack when several masked police stormed her home.

Bahrain 2014: The protests are not over. Tens of thousands mourners marched during the funeral procession for Asma Hussain on February 12, 2014. She died of a heart attack when several masked police stormed her home.

After 26-year-old street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of a public building in the Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid on 17 December, 2010, protests broke out in Tunisia. Subsequently, a wave of protests broke out across almost all of the Arab states that people came to dub optimistically the “Arab Spring“. These protests had a socio-economic background, with the main factors being the high rate of unemployment and the lack of investment resulting in poor prospects for young people, despite their relatively high levels of education. For the vast majority of protesters, initially, their movement therefore had less to do with demands for democracy or secularisation.

About four years later, we have come to realise that the “Arab Spring” was followed by a much grimmer “Arab Winter”. The most successful developments took place in Tunisia, which promulgated a balanced constitution earlier this year and organised parliamentary elections at the end of October. However, even Tunisia is a long way from becoming an established, stable democracy. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood failed to seize the opportunities when it was elected to power. After a short period in office for popularly-elected president Mohamed Morsi, the subsequent rise to power of Abd al-Fattah as-Sisi has de facto meant that hardly anything has changed in Egypt. Considering the rather turbulent period under Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood and the uprising of radical Muslims on the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt’s neighbours as well as the European states and the US are not completely unhappy about the final regime change. Yemen, Libya and Syria are all still torn apart by civil wars with various levels of intensity.

The President [Barack Obama] told President Morsy that the United States is committed to the democratic process in Egypt and does not support any single party or group. He stressed that democracy is about more than elections; it is also about ensuring that the voices of all Egyptians are heard and represented by their government, including the many Egyptians demonstrating throughout the country. — Office of the Press Secretary, “Readout of the President’s Call with President Morsy of Egypt“, The White House, 02.06.2013.

Bahrain represents a special case: the protests here are still on-going but have failed to achieve any concrete results, partly because they did not receive any support from Western countries, compared to that shown especially in Libya and also occasionally in Egypt. In addition, media has barely reported any information about the protests in Bahrain, although this can also be attributed to the difficult working conditions for media in the country. According to the “Freedom of the Press 2014” index published by Freedom House, Bahrain was ranked tenth from the bottom, just ahead of Syria. Any reports that are critical of Islam or of the royal family as well as any calls for regime change are punishable by up to 5 years in prison (see Freedom House, “Bahrain“, Freedom of the Press 2014, 2014). Western governments are unwilling to support the protests in Bahrain largely due to their desire to maintain good relations with the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and its supportive neighbour Saudi Arabia. In March 2011, Saudi troops assisted Bahraini security forces in a crackdown against opposition protests. By the way, a Mowag Piranha armoured vehicle made in Switzerland delivered to Saudi Arabia along with 29 other Piranhas at some point before 1991 was also used in the crackdown (Source: “Schweizer Panzer kam gegen Opposition in Bahrain zum Einsatz”, Tagesanzeiger, March 27, 2011). Brett Davis penned a rather noteworthy article in the middle of October describing the influence of Saudi Arabia and Iran on events in Bahrain for offiziere.ch. Since Bahrain is also the home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, the United States are interested in maintaining stability in Bahrain to ensure maritime security in the Gulf region.

But what is the current situation on the streets of Bahrain? Once again, a short documentary by Vice News provides an insight into the developments that have been taking place in Bahrain since 2011:

This entry was posted in Bahrain, English, Security Policy.

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