The situation in Bahrain has escalated, while I have to admit to having tuned out over the last week or so. Perhaps, not coincidentally, events have escalated as the world turns its attention to the devastation in Japan. Then I receive random emails from my mum that include the words, 'rubber bullets, tanks, beatings, curfew, Martial Law, explosions' and so on. It is hard to imagine the Bahrain I once knew, is now virtually paralysed.
History is what's happening, as they say.
While my sympathies are with the people on the street, it saddens me that the entire opposition will be put to blame for every fucked up move some angry kid takes against their perceived enemy. Meanwhile, many people are conveniently disregarding, who originally instigated the violence and more importantly the history of the power structure and abuse of power in this country that is fueling such actions. These events have been a long-time coming. There is inevitably a lot of bottled up anger. It is not my place to tell young Bahrainis on the streets to take the high road or 'turn the other cheek' but I do hope they see that ultimately they'll gain more sympathy and progress their cause further, if they do.
At the same time it is impossible to tell what actions are being carried out by who. Misdirected dissidents or agent-provocateurs....? My sense is pro-democracy activists understand all to well that they won't get very far if they try to fight their way to freedom with a violent struggle. Their strength lies in their numbers and their continued civil disobedience in the streets, as the world watches and the ruling regime tries to figure out what to do. At this point, the authorities are likely resorting to all manner of tactics to paint the opposition as violent extremists. Thankfully, the international media is not yet buying it.
I really hope Iran is not fueling any dissent in Bahrain. I hope the mobilization of Saudi and UAE armed forces won't push the dissidents towards fundamentalist Islam and Iran, polarizing people any further. It would be tragic if Bahrain became the battleground for Shi'a and Sunni or Arab and Persian to hash out their disputes once and for all. This has to remain a democratic struggle, a class struggle. There should be no room for ethnic and religious conflict in this struggle. Maybe that is what the Al-Khalifas are banking on?
Genuine Democratic progress is going to be messy. It is time for the West to acknowledge this. The days of the US and UK propping up totalitarian regimes who best serve their interests are over. The game is up.