Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Bahrain Crackdown

Yesterday, Bahrain's government used force to disperse the protestors at Pearl Roundabout:
"The Bahraini government yesterday announced it had restored order in the country after Bahraini forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, cleared protestors from the Pearl Roundabout in Manama and elsewhere and imposed a 12-hour, nationwide curfew.

"The country had almost ground to a halt after a month of protests, and reports in recent days suggested demonstrators had begun putting up ad hoc checkpoints as talks between the government and opposition figures failed to get off the ground.

"But the violent crackdown - three protesters and three police were killed and hundreds wounded, security forces were reported to have prevented ambulances from reaching hospitals and opposition leaders were rounded up and arrested - is at best likely only to provide temporary calm."

Troops from several GCC nations, led by Saudi Arabia, entered Bahrain prior to the crackdown. Although they do not seem to have participated directly, their presence may have freed the Bahraini forces from other duties to do the job. It was certainly important as a symbolic move.

Marc Lynch fears it will set off a new wave of sectarian animosity:
"The response of the Bahraini regime has implications far beyond the borders of the tiny island Kingdom -- not only because along with Libya it has turned the hopeful Arab uprisings into something uglier, but because it is unleashing a regionwide resurgence of sectarian Sunni-Shi'a animosity. Regional actors have enthusiastically bought in to the sectarian framing, with Saudi Arabia fanning the flames of sectarian hostility in defense of the Bahraini regime and leading Shia figures rising to the defense of the protestors. The tenor of Sunni-Shi'a relations across the region is suddenly worse than at any time since the frightening days following the spread of the viral video of Sadrists celebrating the execution of Saddam Hussein.

"The sectarian framing in Bahrain is a deliberate regime strategy, not an obvious 'reality.' The Bahraini protest movement, which emerged out of years of online and offline activism and campaigns, explicitly rejected sectarianism and sought to emphasize instead calls for democratic reform and national unity. While a majority of the protestors were Shi'a, like the population of the Kingdom itself, they insisted firmly that they represented the discontent of both Sunnis and Shi'ites, and framed the events as part of the Arab uprisings seen from Tunisia to Libya. Their slogans were about democracy and human rights, not Shi'a particularism, and there is virtually no evidence to support the oft-repeated claim that their efforts were inspired or led by Iran.

"The Bahraini regime responded not only with violent force, but also by encouraging a nasty sectarianism in order to divide the popular movement and to build domestic and regional support for a crackdown."



Blogger Shirley Dockerill said...

I think this article might be of use too:

6:31 AM  

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