[Debate] As'ad AbuKhalil, "Forgotten Bahrain"
critical.montages at gmail.com
Fri Apr 27 19:41:04 BST 2012
By As'ad AbuKhalil - Fri, 2012-04-27 16:14- Angry Corner
For all intents and purposes, Bahrain is forgotten. The people of
Bahrain and their struggle will never get the attention and admiration
of people and governments in the West.
This week, it was rather ironic to watch and listen to BBC coverage of
Bahrain in comparison to their coverage of Syria. Activists who were
interviewed were treated like criminals, while Syrian activists are
allowed to make all sorts of claims, even claims that are not
substantiated. The BBC sneered at the use of fire bombs by some
protesters in Bahrain, while Syrian activist are permitted to call for
the use of arms on the air. Hillary Clinton called on the Syrian
people to keep their arms and “logistical” help that has been provided
to the Free Syrian Army (which is a collection of bands and gangs
operating under names derived from Islamic history and from rulers of
gas and oil kingdoms). Yet, the spokesperson of the US Department of
State called on the protesters of Bahrain to show “restraint.” If she
called on the protesters in Syria to show restraint she would have
The struggle of the people of Bahrain is as old as the history of
modern Bahrain. The political dynamics in Bahrain can not be reduced
to the sectarian framework that is now being imposed by the Bahraini
royal family and by the Saudi and Qatari media. Western media simply
follows suit, and they unfailingly refer to the protests and
opposition in Bahrain in sectarian terms.
They have refrained from attaching sectarian labels to the blatantly
sectarian gangs and organizations in Syria. Secular and Arab
nationalist movements dominated the struggle of the people in Bahrain
during the Arab cold war, and the Bahraini labor movement has been one
of the most vibrant movements in the region.
But the people of Bahrain are doomed. The majority of the people of
Bahrain happen to be Shia and that is sufficient to demonize the
entire population of Bahrain. All their protests and all their
complaints and grievances are reduced to Shia sectarian agenda, tied
to Iran, of course.
It is rather amusing to watch Western governments subscribe to the
agenda and rhetoric of GCC countries, which are subcontractors – mere
implementers – of US/Israeli policies in the Middle East. The word
Shia has to appear in every sentence in every commentary on Bahrain.
Western media may not be as blatantly sectarian as mouthpices of Saudi
princes, like the notorious Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, but they reflect the
The Bahraini royal family is quite fortunate. The presence of the
Fifth Fleet sends a message in the region and the world that the
little island is “vital” to US national security interests. Its
proximity to Saudi Arabia adds to its umbrella of repressive regional
and international protection.
News of an imminent unity between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia could not
come at a better time for the House of Khalifah. The two ruling
families would enjoy having a larger kingdom with double the
repression. The House of Khalifah knows that they have lost support
with the bulk of the Bahraini population. Only force can keep them in
power – some form of power, because the Saudi military intervention
basically put the House of Saud in charge of Bahrain.
But the Bahraini youth won’t take it sitting down. They have
courageously kept up the pressure and have been transcending the
waffling Wifaq, which is never sure what it wants, and which is too
timid to even criticize Saudi Arabia and its intervention in Bahrain.
Bahraini youth are likely to press on, but they won’t be portrayed as
heroes in the Western press.
Western media and governments don’t even bother with the story of
Bahrain. David Cameron came up this week with the standard Western
response to a threat to a client of the US. He said Bahrain is not
Syria. He should have added that Saudi Arabia is Sweden.
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