Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bahrain

Bahrain has become, in the course of the Arab spring, the symbol of repression and disappointment. Against the backdrop of the prolonged military intervention in Libya, Bahrain has become the basket-case of failed rebellion. Posterity will remember it as the people's revolution that was quelled by brute force indiscriminately. The Sunni regime in the country stands protected and ensconced by the military presence of Saudi Arabia.

The Khalifa regime in Bahrain has ruled the country since 1820. It came into power through a treaty with the British, the dominant military power in the region at the time. The king appoints half of the parliamentarians in the national assembly, and the prime minister (along with most cabinet ministers) is a member of the royal family, one of the richest merchants in the Arab world, and the world's longest serving unelected prime minister (since 1971).

As the pro-democracy demonstrations gathered momentum through February and March this year, Saudi contingents, under the banner of the Gulf Cooperation Council, descended upon the protests and retaliated against unarmed civilians at the Pearl Roundabout. The regime reacted with acrimony and cruelty - those shot and injured in the assault were refused access to hospitals and forcibly detained at the site of the military barrage.

Read in the papers today that a military court has sentenced four Shia pro-democracy protesters to death, and three others to life imprisonment. They were indicted yesterday for the killing of two police officers in the course of the demonstrations. They were denied any access to relatives, to legal counsel or representation.

In the course of the protests, at least thirty protesters have been murdered by the security forces. Who will be held accountable for the civilian death toll?

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