Oh, Bahrain. Seeing the news of Bahrain unfold is a bewildering experience. The outward appearance is so different from what is really happening. Reporting of the great benevolence of the king is just window dressing and bears little resemblance to the reality of the situation – and still, the west continues to court the Bahrain royalty.
On Wednesday, King Hamad arrived in New York in order to address the United Nations General Assembly. http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=313838 His address covers “international developments, the Mideast Peace process, the Palestinian issue and Bahrain’s contribution to the international peace-keeping efforts. He will also spotlight Bahrain’s internal affairs, continuing reform and modernisation and the rule of the law.” Excuse me – the words peace and King Hamad do not fit in the same sentence. This same king has an army and police force that continues to systematically harass, shoot and arrest most of its citizens. Perhaps the second part of his address tells it all. He will continue to modernise and reform in the way he sees fit and use the rule of law to punish those who might think democracy is a better idea.
But moving on – some more crazy making news. Bahrain has created a special fund to compensate the victims of the unrest earlier this year. A National Victims’ Compensation Fund will pay people who were “materially, morally or physically harmed” by security forces or public officials during protests this year. Those who were injured while helping victims will also qualify for compensation. Specialised courts will judge each claimant. Well, well. Now isn’t this interesting. Those involved in the ‘unrest’ are still being harassed, some are still in prison and many, including the medical professionals who helped the injured are waiting for trials in military courts. No-one who was involved in the democracy movement would go near a ‘specialised court’ without fearing that they would be riding on a tiger. However, those who did not take part may indeed, find they are compensated for loyalty to the king.
OK – and here is some more funny news. The king has issued a decree that an addition $1.03 billion will be spent in the next two years for wage increases for government employees. This is amusing because there are still thousands who are without jobs having been fired, many from government positions. So who is going to benefit?
But here is some real news of what is going on in Bahrain. Last weekend there were huge protests before and after the burial of Seyyed Jawad Ahmed Hashim Marhoon in Sitra. Marhoon died after tear gas was fired into his home and he developed breathing difficulty. “Tens of thousands marched chanting anti-regime slogans in the funeral. Thick clouds of tear gas, rubber pellets and stones covered many of the streets as police clashed with angry protesters.”
Just yesterday traffic was disrupted in the central business district by protesters who used vehicles to block traffic and slowed down the traffic significantly for about three hours. The protest was aimed at putting pressure on the government ahead of the by-elections this weekend. The by-election is the result of the al-Wefaq opposition group’s resignation earlier this year in protest over the crack-down. According to Khalil al-Marzouk, a party official, al Wefaq is boycotting the by-election “The 40-member parliament had lost its legitimacy since the mass resignation, and “we will not be a part of this parliament as it does not represent the will of the people”. Reference and photo from Al Jazeera.
This weekend heralds more clashes while the by-election takes place. Tomorrow, Friday 23 September is being called ‘the Day of the Return’ and pro-democracy protesters will try to return to the Pearl Roundabout. Oh yes, sorry, it’s now the GCC traffic lights and it is surrounded day and night by tanks and soldiers. I have heard that to protect the roundabout from occupation tomorrow, more troops and jeeps are being brought in from Saudi Arabia. My thoughts are with the people of Bahrain.