Friday, May 06, 2011

Repression in Bahrain

Toby Jones notes Bahrain's ongoing crackdown on dissent:
"An eerie silence and a paralyzing sense of fear currently grip Bahrain. Since mid-March, when tens of thousands of protesters last took to the streets demanding political reform, Bahraini security and military forces have engaged in an ongoing, systematic, and brutal campaign to crush the country’s pro-democracy forces. The crackdown has been sweeping and shocking. Dozens of activists have been killed. Hundreds more have been imprisoned and tortured. Bahrain’s leading independent newspaper, al-Wasat, is expected to close down on May 10.

"Provocative government actions belie claims that all the monarchy seeks is to re-establish law and order. It is apparent, instead, that the government is using martial law to carry out a vendetta against those who challenged the authority of the ruling al-Khalifa. Checkpoints have been set up to harass the country’s Shi’i citizens, who make up the majority of Bahrain’s native population and of its political opposition. Security forces have laid siege to the island’s hospitals and arrested scores of medical personnel, in what appears to be an especially inhumane and spiteful kind of intimidation. For weeks police and pro-regime supporters roamed the streets of Shi’i villages destroying cars and other property. Those who supported the protests now fear leaving their homes, lest they be publicly accosted or, worse, arrested and disappeared.

"The regime is also taking dramatic steps to quiet critics. Authorities have targeted newspapers, journalists, and bloggers in order to stymie public criticism, to control reporting about the scale of the crackdown, and to frighten into silence those who might speak out. In the last few weeks Bahraini blogs and twitter feeds that are normally vibrant have gone quiet, stunned into submission by the brutality of what is happening around them."

Jones goes on to note in more detail the silencing of potential reporting on events in the island kingdom, as well as the predictable assertions that the largely Shi'ite opposition was pursuing a sectarian agenda. I suspect that in the background of the latter is the fear among Sunnis that Bahrain could become another Iraq, which is now led by a sectarian Shi'ite government with over one million mainly Sunni refugees still in other Arab countries.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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