Bahrain is a country in the Persian Gulf which has had political instability for the last three decades. This is because the country is a monarchy under the rule of a king who takes up all the country’s resources and wealth. There have been protests in the country, which led to the uprising of 2011 that is still ongoing. The Bahraini uprising did not receive a lot of media coverage compared to the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Western countries did not intervene in Bahrain.
Nepstad (2010) evaluates the role that the Bahraini forces played in 2011 in the uprising which led to further violation of human rights and hence more protests. The protests in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya received a lot of media coverage and Internet popularity. Bahraini nationals saw this as a chance to redeem themselves and promote democracy in their country. However, this was not the case as far as the police and the military were concerned. The protesters were highly motivated to push for a political revolution while the government intended to remain in power with the existing constitution. The military raid at the Egyptian Embassy in Manama during the gathering of the Bahrainis proves that the country’s forces were highly against the uprising. The protests could not thrive since very few of the country’s police and military personnel defected to join the protesters. Government forces were already in power hence had better living conditions than ordinary citizens did. Nepstad also proves that government forces in Bahrain could not take independent sides in the protests. Police officers or military officers who defected to the protestors’ side were shot on sight. Thus, government forces helped maintaining the king’s country by torturing protestors who had public influence. Different leaders of protesting groups such as the Haq Movement were tortured or went missing. The military also organized attacks on different protestors’ strongholds to discourage any more protests. The US military bases in the country supported the Bahraini army. The Bahraini citizens had expected that the international forces such as NATO would come to their rescue only to realize that the uprising was not publicized to the rest of the world.
Wright (2008) in his article “Fixing the kingdom: Political evolution and socio-economic challenges in Bahrain” gives the historical preview of Bahrain to determine what really caused the Bahraini Uprising. In this article, Wright gives a historical account of the uprising since its formation. The country has been under the rule of a single royal family The House of Khalifa since 1783, after it was invaded by the Bani Utbah. Later, in 1926, the country became a British Protectorate with the British attempting to crate a democracy. The country gradually changed in the early 21st century to challenge the status quo. Bahrain changed from a monarchy to an independent state in 1971 and held a democratic election two years later. However, the current Emir suspended the constitution in 1974 and dissolved the elected assembly. The Emir was Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa who led the country back to a monarchy with deterioration in human rights. In this period, the country’s state of human rights changed to those of oppression by the royal family. The country is oil rich, and thus all the natural resources ended up with Emir. The situation only changed after Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa became the Emir in 1999. He reinstated the constitution but still had wide executive powers as the king. Tensions have been increasing since then with the Haq Movement taking protests to the streets other than pushing for parliamentary reforms.
Kawaic (2012) in his research article attempts to establish how the monarchy has influenced the rise of the uprising due to its obstruction of democratic reforms even with a democratic constitution. He points out that the monarchy has violated the human rights of Bahraini citizens since the regime change in 1975. According to Kawaic (2012), human rights organizations have identified that the monarchy has applied different methods to discourage public protests including systematic torture. Human rights deteriorated especially after 2007 when the late Emir feared that the influence of the international situation was threatening his monarchy. People were beginning to demand for a regime change as well as democratic processes in the country. Thus, Emir used the military to discourage protests. The Shia people in the country were complaining of discrimination. This is because the government was bringing in the Sunnis from other countries in the gulf and making them Bahraini citizens. The government also controlled the electoral districts against the majority. The monarchy did not act on the Shia majority’s grievances. Rather, it used military interventions to silence them. The majority did not have any civil processes to air their grievances hence took to the streets.
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Magdalena (2010) continues narrating the actions that pioneered the protests in Bahrain. She says that that the success of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt motivated the Arabic community in Bahrain. The majority in the country are Arabic Muslims from the Shia community. Their religious unity was a key advantage in starting the uprising. Their Muslim counterparts from Egypt and Tunisia had managed to overthrow their governments with the support of foreign governments. Thus, the Shia were confident that they would succeed. The leaders used social media sites such especially twitter and Facebook along with other online forums, text messages and emails to organize and stage protests in pursuit for regime change. The youth all agreed to stay in the streets in an orderly and peaceful manner until their government changed its policies to give room for democracy or step down altogether. There were several groups that supported the revolution. They included the Haq Movement, the National Democratic Action Society as well as the Bahrain Freedom Movement. These organizations demanded for political reforms by organizing different protest with some leading to engagement with the police and the military. Some members of the groups were arrested and some even tortured to discourage the protests.
Lou (2008) gives an account of the first days of the protests and the way the monarchy denied the requests of the protestors. The leader of the political reforms forum, Ali Salman, had sent a letter through all the media stations to the king to urge him to cooperate with the people’s agenda before it led to a worse scenario. This was only a few days after the king had made some concessions to the public such as the will to free children that had earlier been arrested in August following a government crackdown due to the increase in social expenditure. The protest can be seen to start from Manama. This was in February when hundreds of Bahrainis gathered in front of the Manama Egyptian Embassy to express their support to the Egyptian revolution. The protestors saw that such revolution was important in their country to assist in bringing social justice in the country where democracy was unheard of. The king, threatened by this action, gave a public speech with an offer to give a thousand dinars to every household to celebrate 10 years of constitutional change. Most families used these funds to organize more protests.
Mabon (2012) examines the relationship between Bahrain and its neighboring countries in the Persian Gulf. This is because there were several claims that the protests in Bahrain were a result of Iranian influence. The Saudi Arabian government strongly supports the King of Bahrain. The US also has different military programs there; these include the US Fifth Fleet as well as the Naval Support Activity. The US Department of Defense believes that Bahrain is important for military operations to counter Iran’s military power in the Persian Gulf. Mabon states that Iran has always wanted the control of Bahrain as its province. However, human rights groups found that the people of Bahrain prefer freedom other than control by Iran. Thus, one cannot claim that Iran was organizing the protests in the country. The fact that the US did not intervene in these protests with its military already in the country shows that there were personal interests. The Saudi Arabian government also did nothing to intervene. The two countries have been in strong support for the king since he gives them a good position to attack Iran. This may be one of the reasons why they did not intervene and blamed Iranian protestors as the influence for the uprising.
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Mullin (2012) compares the coverage of other uprisings in the Arab Spring with the coverage of the Bahraini Uprising. The article states that media coverage in Bahrain has been confusing and controversial. Different media houses such as CNN and Al Jazeera have reported violence and death incidences by both government officials and protestors differently. Each media house seemed to have its own story since the beginning of the uprising. Journalists from both Bahrain and international news houses have said that it is difficult to gain access to allegations of bias as well as protests to the differences in reports from two main Arabic news sources in the country, Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera. The government of Bahrain denied requests from different news stations such as Associated Press and Reuters to investigate the situation in the country. This has led to questions on the true state of the protests with the little information available having differences and controversies. Bahraini authorities have also detained international journalists in addition to denying them visas. The journalists gave lists of people whom they were to interview only to find that they were either missing or had already received threats not to give any information.
Matthiesen (2012) examines the effects of the Bahraini uprising in the country. This article gives the current situation in Bahrain according to recent media as well as government sources. Following the protests in 2011, the government has banned the use of social media and has blocked Facebook accounts for any protest suspects. The government has not shown any signs of responding to people’s demands for a democratic constitution with little or no interference from foreign governments. The government has also banned media stations and newspapers that have publicized any messages from protestors including their websites. After the uprising, reports show that more than 300 Shia Muslims have been detained without trial with more than 15 protestors gone missing. The most active protestors and leaders have gone into hiding in the country and in Iran. The government has also blocked the use of several Google sites such as Google Earth, which showed the estates of the royal family in comparison to those of the citizens. The government has evicted all Lebanese nationals in the country claiming that the information is dangerous if released to the public. The article shows that the situation in Bahrain is worse than the media actually reports, which could get worse in a time when the Arab Spring has become successful.
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In conclusion, a literature review of these scholarly sources shows that the situation in Bahrain is actually worse than the media have reported. Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf, has critical importance for nations in the region in the contention for power. The country is the closest link between the world and Iran. The international organization has been slow to act in response to the Bahraini uprising. The small island’s control has geostrategic and geopolitical implications and thus different organizations have been slow to act in as far as the uprising is concerned. The country’s position between Iran and Saudi Arabia is also a key consideration in determining the way forward in the uprising. This is because the domestic politics in Bahrain are influenced by both powerful countries which make it difficult to determine external pressure. However, the government can incorporate a democratic monarchy such as the one in Saudi Arabia to ensure that future uprisings do not occur.
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