Bahrain, Ya Bahrain
I was crying on the way from work. My tears could not stop. How could anyone attack people as they slept? … At a traffic light, a policeman approached me. He thought I was crying because of the red light. I told him – massacre in Bahrain. His response?
You’re Bahraini? You have family there? We are all family, I replied.
I have tired of people assuming that only someone from a particular country would be impacted by actions there. I have tired of people asking me: Are you Egyptian? And when I say no, they say, ah, so you’re interested in politics, then? sigh…
I have been – and continue to be – inspired by Tunisia and Egypt, inspired by the rising up of the people and by their success in expelling a dictator. I am inspired by the protests in Bahrain and Yemen and Algeria and Libya … Many of us are…
I could make the argument that what happens throughout the Arab world does impact us here in Lebanon. I could make the argument that democracy there brings stability here. I could argue that with the change of the government in Egypt – even if in facade only – Israel will be uneasy and thus less likely to attack Lebanon, as a colleague of mine at the university stated today.
Yet, that is not what inspires me. That is not why what is happening – there – is relevant – here.
It is important because people are rising – first and foremost. It is important because when people rise up against injustice, they break their own chains of fear and inspire us all to rise up against injustice. And, yes, the closer the revolt for liberty, the greater an impact it has. And, yes, when those organizing and protesting are Arab, it means even more to us here in Lebanon.
After all that, we then can discuss the political and economic impacts these revolts may have in Lebanon.
Tunisia and Egypt: inspirational.
Bahrain: inspirational – and heartbreaking.
Bahrain is cursed – yes cursed – with the occupation (a foreign army can never be a ‘presence’) of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. And cursed to be surrounded by dictatorships (diplomatically called “Kingdoms” or “Sheikhdoms) and thus to be surrounded by others who fear – fear – a rise from their own people.
But the heartbreak is that people can kill other people in their sleep, can attack ambulances and doctors and nurses, can execute people after they have been handcuffed, can beat others to death. It makes little difference the identity of these killers – and in this case there was definitely a Saudi hand in the killing, as well as numerous Saudi tanks.
From various news reports and various tweets from Bahrain, here is a summary:
Before the attack, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior stated: “assembly at Pearl Roundabout is not legal and is causing traffic jams and hurting people’s interests.”
Thousands had been gathering in Pearl Roundabout – renamed Tahrir and Marytr Roundabout by protesters. They felt safe. Spirits were high.
At 2.45 am, hundreds of police surrounded the camp. They attacked the pro-democracy protesters – without warning – with simultaneous firing of tear gas, live bullets, and sound grenades. Some protesters were killed in their sleep.
One witness referred to the attack as ‘hell on Earth’.
As reported by the NYT,
“Some of the people admitted to the hospital with injuries had been handcuffed with thick plastic restraints, made to lie down, then beaten, the doctors said. A witness, who spoke in return for anonymity, said he had seen two people shot dead as they slept.”
Paramedics and ambulances were refused entry. Other paramedics were attacked by the “police.” Nick Kristoff, NYT columnist in Bahrain, said he interviewed 10 ambulance paramedics who had been attacked by the police. One Bahraini ambulance driver told him a Saudi army officer held a gun to his head — saying he would kill him if he helped the injured. (See: here for more from Kristoff and follow his tweets.)
Al Jazeera English corespondent stated that police attacked nurses and doctors at Pearl roundabout, 20 police beat 1 doctor.
A nurse told Kristoff that she saw a handcuffed person beaten by police and then executed with a gun.
Journalist Nazeela Saeed said that she saw a protester shot in the head.
Kristoff writes that that 600 injured protesters were brought to one hospital. (How many were brought to other hospitals – such as the Mission Hospital?)
Doctors and nurses have protested. (See here) They protested at the Salmaniya (Public) Hospital – calling for the resignation of the Ministry of Health. They then marched to the Roundabout.
It is unclear how many people have been killed in this massacre. The Bahraini Ministry of Health has stated that 3 have been killed and 231 injured. But how would they know for sure? Other reports from the protesters state that at least 6 have been killed. How would they know for sure either?
When doctors were finally allowed to attend to wounded in the roundabout, they were not allowed to look into 8 freezer trucks kept by the army. Eight freezer trucks!
A Bahraini doctor told The Guardian that there was a refrigerated truck outside the hospital, which he fears the army used to remove more dead bodies, meaning that the death toll could be higher than reported so far.
Where are those trucks?
Have the dead bodies been removed by the security/police/military/mercenaries? Reports — from tweets from Bahrain and from Press TV – are stating that “There are trucks with refrigerators taking dead bodies to Saudi Arabia to cover the evidence” From Bahrain, an activist tweeted that “dead bodies are being taken to Saudi Arabia via the King Fahad Causeway in refrigerators and passing without being checked.”
There are 60 people reported missing – including children. Their whereabouts are unknown.
The Bahraini State TV claims that protesters had swords, guns, and ammunition. No weapons were shown during the confrontation, though. And, logically, would children be taken with their protesting families if the families were armed?
If the Bahraini government is so certain of its innocence, why is it detaining journalists and taking their equipment?
If the Bahraini government regretted the earlier attacks against the protesters – which killed at least 2 – then why attack again?
As Kristoff commented, “King Hamad had claimed he regretted violence, then he unleashed it on sleeping protesters. He disgraced himself.”
The Bahraini government has lost its credibility. There is both anger and shock in Bahrain.
A few other points…
- Bahrain was regarded as a “major non-Nato ally” by Bush in 2003 (and incidentally regarded as a “model for the region” by Hilary Clinton in December 2010)
- Had this massacre been in Iran or in Syria, what would the US gov’t have done or said? Thus far, Obama has said nothing about the massacre. According to a senior US state department official, Clinton has “telephoned her Bahraini counterpart. She expressed deep concern about recent events and urged restraint moving forward. They discussed political and economic reform efforts to respond to the citizens of Bahrain.” (Source – Guardian). “Deep concern”? Could the language be softer?
- Yes, of course, Bahrain, the model of the region, the ally, the base of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, must ensure that democracy be silenced so that US governmental interests continue … continue to oppress people regionally here and deprive people in the US of much needed public welfare.
- Some of the weapons used are from Britain. As stated by Peter Beaumont in the The Guardian today: Former Labour minister Denis McShane has dug this out from the Department of Business’s report on weapons exports. In the third quarter of 2010 the British government agreed to export licences to Bahrain for this equipment. Bear in mind that the third quarter of 2010 coincides with the elections in Bahrain and the crackdown on Shia opposition groups that saw some 250 people arrested and jailed. Here’s what was approved: “CS hand grenades, demolition charges, demolition devices, exploding simulation devices, fire simulation equipment for small arms ammunition, illuminators, military devices for initiating explosives, signal flares, signal hand grenades, smoke ammunition, smoke canisters, smoke generators, smoke hand grenades, stun grenades, tear gas/irritant ammunition, tear gas/riot control agents, thunderflashes, training anti-aircraft ammunition, training hand grenades.” (Source: House of Commons Library.)
By the way, Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary, was also “greatly concerned..” and stated that “we would strongly oppose any interference in the affairs of Bahrain by other nations or any action to inflame sectarian tensions between Bahrain’s Sunni and Shia communities.” Hmm… so Britain’s interference is not from “other nations”?
Ban Ki-Moon was “disturbed” and the French foreign minister “regret[s] the excessive use of violence.”
Such strong language…
Nevertheless, it was people that shot those protesters …
I am always shocked by the atrocities committed by people. I hope to never be numb to such cruelty.
Yet, I must say… The martyrs in Bahrain, the protesters in Bahrain, and the beautiful potential of Bahrain deserve more than mere tears. They deserve our solidarity.
Here in Beirut we will be protesting on Saturday at 11 am in front of the Bahraini Embassy. (I wish it could be sooner).
And the protest is only one start.
What is needed – always needed – is to continue the struggle. Be inspired. Be angered. Be saddened. But continue.
Rania Masri is a Lebanese-American, and an assistant professor in Environmental Sciences at the University of Balamand in Beirut, Lebanon. Her writings are featured in Green Resistance (teaching, organizing, and eco-thinking).