Friday, February 18, 2011

Bahrain a domino?

While the scaremongers have in the past often warned of the domino theory it hasn't actually happened. But it does look as though it's happening this time.

And where it's happening has taken world leaders by surprise. Especially in the west, where successive governments have propped up, financially and otherwise, the regimes which have now gone or are under threat.

First we had Tunisia, then Egypt and there's increasing unrest in Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Yemen, Bahrain...

In the west they're usually lumped together and believed to be the same. But while they have in common the fact that they don't have democratic political systems, they're actually quite different from each other. Absolute monarchies, life presidents, secular, Islamic republic...

They also have very different economies, very different wealth, very different societies.

Currently they do have in common the fact that large numbers of the people want change. And they want change because they want a better deal, a better life.

In the poorer countries the unrest is mostly about standards of living and jobs. In the wealthier such as Bahrain it's mostly about politics. Much as in Northern Ireland it's politics dominated by religion - Catholics vs Protestants, Shia vs Sunni. Although interestingly there are reports of Sunnis joining the Shias in the demonstrations demanding changes.

I'm hearing a lot of surprise that modern westernised Bahrain, with at least half the population being expatriate, is included in the current wave of unrest. But in fact there's long been unrest there, it's been a fact of life for many years.

I remember on my second visit back in the late seventies seeing huge piles of sandals and flip-flops in the streets. In answer to my question I was told that there had been large demonstrations the night before and the demonstrators can run faster from the security forces if they kick off their sandals. From the amount of footwear I could see it must have been a good-size demo.

Coming back to my hotel after dinner I saw Public Defence units on most street corners and intersections and plenty of street patrol vehicles.

But while protests in Bahrain are far from a new phenomenon they do seem to have intensified since the success of unrest elsewhere in the region. In that sense I guess they are part of the domino theory.

The response of the authorities has intensified too with, sadly, people being killed. Reports are saying seven so far, including tragically a two year old girl. Well over two hundred are said to be injured.

Apart from any moral rejection of that, in practical terms it's simply counter productive. The more you brutalise people the more they will rebel against you. By doing it you create more pressure for change. It's a mistake all authoritan regimes make and they never learn from past examples.

Protestors say that riot police stormed their encampment while they were sleeping, firing tear gas and birdshot and beating them with clubs.


The government has said there will be an investigation into the deaths. I'm sure I'm not the only person sceptical about how effective and transparent the investigation will be.

Nothing short of bringing to justice those responsible on the ground and those who gave the order will suffice.

Even that may not be enough to stem the predictable reaction by the people to the violence.

9 comments:

Dave said...

Interesting how the Arab folk seem to have found a united voice lately. Even though the iunrest may have been going for decades (BH that is) I don't think we've seen it so loud & widespread before....watching with interest back in Oz Seabee...

Seabee said...

Ah, you're back in Oz Dave. Me too at the moment, glad to be back except for the usual February humidity.

Mich said...

It's funny how the West always seems to be caught by surprise, ever since the late 70s and the Islamic Revolution! Interesting times ahead. Great post :-)

Luke said...

Is there any chance of anything happening in the UAE?

I assume not, given that say the underpaid and overworked are all expats.

Paraglider said...

Excellent summary. Bahrain feels very close to 'home' here in Qatar. Very sad to see such gratuitous (and futile) violence doled out by the goons. But this one's not going away.

Dave said...

Seabee, I am back in Oz permanently - After 5 years I was so frustrated and annoyed about the way things are done in the UAE I knew it was time to leave. I will continue to check in though to see what is happening across the other end of the world...

Seabee said...

Are you affected by all the water up there Dave?

Dave said...

Yes Seabee, my home town is Toowoomba where I own property and my family live. The damage is considerable and the cleanup is estimated at two years. Roads are still impassable due to damage, shops are being renovated and the whole town looks exactly like a natural disaster has occured.

But the towns folk are optimistic and life goes on. There are more jobs here than can be filled at the moment too which is good for the local economy.

Seabee said...

Yeah, it's becoming difficult to get a tradesman down here apparently, they're all heading north where the jobs and money are.