Well things ended in Bahrain about as bad as they could. It is truly astounding that Bahraini security forces would crack down so hard on a peaceful assembly while all the world was watching. At about 3am on Thursday morning, the police broke up the camp on the Pearl Roundabout with tear gas, rubber bullets and shot pellets. So far there have been two reported deaths, dozens of injuries, missing children, and further attacks in Shi'a villages and even hospitals. I'm not sure how the ruling regime can realistically talk its way out of this one. Bahrain will never be the same. It has been amazing to track live Twitter feeds from a variety of sources. Even those that didn't necessarily sympathize with the dissidents' cause are shocked at the response this morning.
The Bahraini government makes few moves without consulting the Saudis, Brits and Americans. I just wonder who knew this was going down. I'll be curious to see the international response in the coming hours.
From what I understand, opposition groups figured they'd get a few more days of peaceful assembly before the international media got bored and then there would be a crack down. They had no idea the ruling regime cared so little about what the rest of the world thinks of it.
Years ago, when Bahrain was still an Emirate I met the Amir, Sheik Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa. I was hitchhiking home from the beach with a few friends and he drove by and saw us. He had driven by and seen us. His driver beckoned us and we went over to chat with him. He was barely five foot tall, friendly and smiling.
'Where are you from?" He asked.
'UK.' I replied.
'Oh. Very good. I am friends with Queen Elizabeth.' He said, or something to that effect.
'Do you like my country?' He inquired.
'Of course.' I said.
'Tell me what you like about it.' He pushed.
'It is a beautiful a place and people are friendly.' I said.
'Let my gardener give you a lift home.'
That was my one and only brush with a monarch.
His son Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa is now King. A man of moderation and progressing thinking, so its said. King Hamad yesterday announced that he was devastated that two protesters had been killed in a peaceful demonstration. A day later, his security forces made it brutally clear they don't really give a fuck.
As I cycled home tonight in the driving sleet, I have to be honest I had an incredibly hard time processing what was happening at The Pearl Roundabout. It has been over ten years since I've set foot on the island of Bahrain. I have had many confusing memories come flooding back, including my brief meeting with the last Amir. And I have to admit, I feel a tad filthy.