Despite two years of mass protests and calls for political, institutional and social reforms from Bahrain parties of the opposition, al-Khalifa regime continues to defy the odds, clinging onto its autocratic ways with all its might.
EU, US deaf to and dumb on Bahrain agony Bahrain, an almost insignificant island kingdom lost in between its two giant neighbors — Iran and Saudi Arabia — represents a great geo-strategic advantage in the region as it sits directly before the Strait of Hormuz, the world oil route, a axis point in between the Asian block and the Middle East.
While Bahrainis, like their Tunisian or Egyptian counterparts could have hoped to topple the old regime of al-Khalifa, the remnants of monarchial era which the people of Bahrain feel has outgrown their democratic aspirations, Bahrain’s very strategic position has meant that foreign powers have worked to prevent the island from slipping away from their control.
Just as Saudi Arabia does not wish to see toppled any of the Persian Gulf monarchies by fear it could set a dangerous democratic precedent right at its very door and thus shift the power balance in its disfavor, the United States has no interest in losing control over its most military strategic position in the region.
One needs to remember that the US 5th Fleet is the only foreign military power which is patrolling the Strait of Hormuz. Should a new regime arose in Bahrain, Washington would stand to lose its advantage in the region, something it is not prepared to do, especially since it would most certainly mean losing out to Iran, its news immediate target.
And as Bahrain’s fate becomes prey to foreign powers’ agenda, it is its people who are being held hostage, the victims of yet another politically motivated atrocity; betrayed by the very powers which claim to stand for justice and democracy, when indeed they only seek to serve their own neo-colonial ambitions in a region where control rings with world domination.
Although tiny in proportion, Bahrain represents a key strategic advantage to whichever power will successfully manage to gain control over its government.
While Bahrain achieved its independence from the British Empire in 1971, it lost one master to fall under the yoke of another, Saudi Arabia, preventing its people from achieving their political and social aspirations.
If for now Saudi Arabia has managed to retain its hold over Bahrain’s government through its sponsorship of al-Khalifa, Iran has however increased its influence over the people of Bahrain — religiously, politically and ideologically.
With a majority Shia population and thus strong cultural and religious ties to Iran, Bahrainis have always felt the pull of Tehran, a power which unlike that of Britain, Saudi Arabia or even the US has never sought to impose its vision but rather act as a regional partner, a benevolent supporter of its people.
But beyond pure politics lies the whole important matter of regional survival and relevance. Iran needs Bahrain to be free of its shackles if it is to loosen the net weaved by the US in the region. Surrounded by US military base, Iran sits very much alone while Washington works ifs propaganda machine ahead of military move against the Islamic Republic.
Should Bahrain claim its victory against autocracy, Iran would appear the clear winner. The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s political vision would not only come to pass but political Islam would rise against the western democratic model and lay waste decades of neo-colonialism.
Human rights violations
As noted by Mariwan Hama, a fellow at the Human Rights Watch campaign group in June, “Human rights record in Bahrain remains abysmal.”
Despite the issuance of many reports, recommendations and statements from various international institutions, rights groups and committees, al-Khalifa regime has but intensify its crackdown on protesters, using terror charges and engineered sectarian violence to justify despicable acts of violence against its citizens.
Despite King Hamad’s claims of reform and the organization of a National Dialogue Conference aimed at solving Bahrain crisis through a political consensus, the kingdom is clearly heading down the road of greater repression.
Countless political and rights activists are languishing in jail in the most abject living conditions , stripped from all rights, prisoners are treated like animals ready for the slaughter.
Houses, businesses and places of worship have been raided and desecrated by the security apparatus to instill fear and force the public to submit to its government’s will.
Public and religious figures, among him prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Qassem, have been unjustly targeted by the regime.
As noted by Human Rights Watch, freedom of association does not fare any better than freedom of speech, the government recently sent to parliament – where most members are the king’s men – a draft law that allows authorities to take over and dissolve, more or less at will, organizations whose leaders criticize government officials and policies; and severely limits the ability of groups to raise money.
Unregistered organizations are ‘illegal’ and joining one is a criminal offense under the penal code.
In May, parliament amended the Public Gathering Law to ban demonstrations near ‘lively places, and places that have a security nature’, in essence establishing a ban on all future potential demonstrations.
Only recently, Bahrain stood dumbfounded before the vile logic of the regime repressive system, when it learned how the security forces denuded a young female activist, Rayhan al-Moussawi before witnesses, violating every code of moral, ethic and religion.
Two years after the publication of the Bassiouni report – Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry – the international community has stood idle before al-Khalifa’ systematic and ongoing torture policy, positioning itself at odds with its own self-proclaimed democratic values.
Back in 2012 when US officials were asked why they chose to ignore Bahrain violence while slamming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his alleged human rights violations, Vice-Admiral Mark Fox, the commander of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet summed up the situation in a few simple words, “They are a long-term partner and a very important piece of our ability to do our mission.”
To which then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton echoed, “Our countries have many shared strategic interests and a relationship that includes decades of working together to defend regional security … In this context, it is essential for Bahrainis themselves to resolve the issues identified in the report and move forward in a way that promotes reform, reconciliation and stability.”
The European Union and the Obama administration have made a splendid art of double standards by imposing sanctions on Tehran’s rulers for their human rights violations and taking military action against the Libyan dictator while failing to address the appalling repression of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain.
Instead of condemning the Bahraini government’s oppression of its citizens and backing the protesters’ legitimate demand for a constitutional monarchy, the EU and the US have confined themselves to vacuous statements without taking any action proportionate to the gravity of the political crisis in Bahrain.