It's been a very rough week for Bahrain, instead of reveling in end-of-year celebrations and hilarity, we've had demonstrations and public unrest instead, and that's not showing any signs of dissipating in the run up to the country's second parliamentary elections scheduled for October 2006.
This most recent spate of troubles started when the authorities apprehended a leading dissident cleric at the airport on his return to Bahrain from the holly Iranian city of Qum where he is now based. Ayatollah Shaikh Mohammed Sanad was also one of those exiled off the island due to his political dissent before the new King took the reigns and worked toward repatriating all exiled dissidents and released all political prisoners signaling the start of a new era in Bahrain, this of course resulted in a lot of good will at that time, particularly in 2001 with the various announcements of sweeping political, administrative and the promise of constitutional reforms.
Fast forwarding to 2005 unfortunately shows that the good will has almost completely dissipated, thus the rise in animosity between the people and their government highlighting various ills the country suffers from like the high figures of the unemployed, and the various subsequent laws which limit freedoms as is the case with Law 47 (Arabic) that deals with the Press, and Law 56 which equates torturers with their victims.
Shaikh Mohammed Sanad highlighted these problems and demanded that the UN step in with a referendum to ascertain the populace views in the continued rule of Al-Khalifa family in Bahrain (Arabic). In this charged atmosphere his apprehension at the airport was all that is required to ignite this new wave of violence when more than 300 of his supporters congregated at the airport demanding his immediate release. The protest was peaceful and good natured to start but that soon gave way to violence which resulted in some airport property destruction and a scuffle between the security forces and demonstrators which resulted in the police using force to disperse the crowd.
Over the next few days those responsible for the violence at the airport were identified and presented to the Public Prosecutor to await trial. So far some 15 people have been arrested. Those arrest created even more demonstrations by their supporters to demand their immediate release. No more violence was reported. However all national papers carried denunciations of these latest troubles and Ayatollah Shaikh Sanad himself has denounced the violence at the airport and asked his supporters to abide by the law and not to resort to any violence in his support.
Needless to say, the majority of Bahraini blogs discussed this issue comprehensively:
Manama Republic highlights the fact that most of the nation's newspapers seem to be concerned with shattered glass rather than broken bones and bruised bodies and gives a good profile of Shaikh Sanad as well as his take on what happened at the airport.
Silly Bahraini Girl is not surprised by what's happened at the airport however, stating that what has happened is an indication of Bahrainis now entering a revolt phase against the government and Bahrainis “will take no nonsense from anyone, especially those uniformed mercenaries, who are threatening unarmed people with their batons, rubber bullets and tear gas.”
Dreamer is livid and echos Manama Republic's concerns in that some Bahrainis along with newspapers seem to be more bothered by shattered glass rather than broken bones and shows pictures which did not make it into the national press coverage of the incident.
Ali Abdulemam who also runs the popular BahrainOnline.org forum (banned and blocked in Bahrain) and who was arrested in 2005 and jailed for 2 weeks along with his two sub-admins, has an interesting perspective on his blog which is written exclusively in Arabic in which he looks back at the last five years of the political situation in Bahrain and concludes that the king has successfully isolated the country's prime minister from effective rule, a state he has not experienced since he was appointed to that position by the late Amir of Bahrain more than 30 years ago.
Mahmood has a couple of articles reflecting on the state of affairs in Bahrain, in the first he laments the absence of the rule of law in reference to the Bahrain International Airport riot and gives a background summary of Shaikh Sanad's position and political demands, and then follow up with another connected article when the Shaikh Sanad, the person in whose behalf people rioted at the airport, gets a first class invitation to the Ministry of Islamic affairs and gets his demands met by the government. Thus he asks if this is the most effective way to get the government's attention.
In other news, Bahraini novelist Ali Al-Saeed attends the Golden Jubilee of the discovery of the Delmon Civilisation by a Danish Expedition. Ali encourages everyone to attend, because: “The exhibition is a marvel and I was surprisingly impressed with a) the exhibits, b) how they are displayed, and c) the information accompanying them. There were even multi-media sources with documentaries, television interviews and sound clips, complementing the various rare and fascinating items collected from the excavation team and the expedition.”
The Joker selects the Bahraini personality of the year: Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, a woman's right activist who has been in the news lately and had all but one case against her dropped for defaming Shari'a judges whom she claimed were corrupt and incompetent. The Joker also gives us his insight in the burgeoning stock market and the waves of IPOs hitting the Gulf countries throughout 2005 and invites us to imagine the repercussions if the bubble bursts.
We seem to have unfortunately lost a re-blogging site, News re-Blog Blog‘s team have announced their goodbyes and reflect on their journey with their blog and offer insights into the Bahraini blogosphere and main stream media. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their efforts and wish them much luck with their future endeavours.