On the tiny island state of Bahrain an intelligent, highly politicised Shia majority is ruled by an actively sectarian Sunni ‘king’ and his mercenary police force. To ensure minimum fraternisation, and to shrink the Shia majority, Sunni Arabs from such countries as Syria, Jordan and Yemen are awarded citizenship after loyal service in the police.
Bahrain was known to Sumerians as Dilmun, a possible location for the Garden of Eden. Today it’s known to Americans as the home of the Fifth Fleet, one of the more essential bases for guarding the Gulf. It’s linked by causeway to Saudi Arabia, which provides it with security and thousands of drunk young men on Thursday nights. It is likely that Saudi Arabia would intervene if Bahrain went the way of Egypt.
Unlike other Gulf countries, Bahrain has always been notable for its angry mass demonstrations against assaults on Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. Not surprising, then, that February 14th’s Day of Anger attracted a wide section of Bahraini society, including Sunnis. There’s nothing sectarian about the protestors’ democratic demands – one of their chants is Not Sunni Not Shii Just Bahraini – but we can expect sectarian mobilisation by the regime and Saudi-owned media if protests continue, as they doubtless will. The Bahraini people will be described as an unwitting front for Shii-Persian assault. For this reason, the Iranian leadership would do well to remain silent as events unfurl (Iran’s comments on the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, after all, have been inaccurate and propagandistic.)
Police killed a protestor yesterday. At his funeral this morning they killed another man. And there are reports of a child also shot dead.
There’s information on state repression at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. Photos of the Day of Anger here. Media coverage is not great (Jazeera’s home base Qatar is swimming distance from Bahrain – we’ll see if this means anything), so follow on the facebook page, and in Arabic.