Police State Terror in Bahrain - by Stephen Lendman
Last summer sporadic protests began. By mid-February, major ones erupted. Demonstrators held firm against King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa's regime. Repression and several deaths were reported from live fire.
Anti-government protesters occupied Manama's Pearl Roundabout, Bahrain's equivalent of Cairo's Tahrir Square. They demanded democratic elections, ending sectarian discrimination favoring Sunnis over Shias, equitable distribution of the country's oil wealth, and resignation of the king's uncle, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, prime minister since 1971. They also want political prisoners released and state terror ended.
For weeks, many thousands defied government demands, braving police attacks with tear gas, beatings, rubber bullets, live fire, arrests, torture, and disappearances.
On February 14, Canada's National Post writer Peter Goodspeed headlined, "Trouble in tiny Bahrain (population 1.2 million) carries big implications," saying:
If Bahrain becomes democratic, people throughout the region will be inspired to demand it. As a result, "the ramifications for US foreign policy could be severe. Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet," the Pentagon "station(ing) 15 warships, including an aircraft battle group, in the very heart of the Persian Gulf."
"The island state off the coast of Saudi Arabia provides Washington with a perfect base from which it can protect the (region's) flow of oil, keep an eye on Iran and support pro-Western monarchies against potential threats."
On March 14, fearing uprisings against their own regimes, over 1,500 Saudi Arabia-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) military and police security forces invaded Bahrain guns blazing. They attacked peaceful protesters, arrested opposition leaders and activists, occupied the country, denied wounded men and women medical treatment, and imposed police state control in support of the hated monarchy.
The Obama administration was very instrumental in their coming, to prevent the possibility of emerging democracy in Bahrain or elsewhere in the region.
News of the intervention, however, brought larger crowds to the streets. They occupied the Pearl Roundabout, set up barricades against vicious attacks, and persisted against fierce repression.
On April 1, Bahrain's al-Wefaq party, its largest anti-government opposition, claimed security forces arrested over 300 protesters since mid-March, dozens still missing. Prominent blogger, Mahmoud al-Youssef, was among the disappeared, taken into custody on March 30.
Tanks were positioned at prominent sites. Police checkpoints were set up throughout the country. Unidentified gangs, believed to be plainclothes security forces, conducted nighttime raids on homes in poor Shiite neighborhoods. Residents reported assaults and confiscations of their property.
In short order, Pearl Roundabout protesters were violently routed. Since mid-February, perhaps dozens were killed, hundreds injured, and many more arrested, tortured, and disappeared.
Bahrain Human Rights Center (BHRC) head Nabeel Rajab said several dozen masked men raided his home in mid-March, "threaten(ing) to rape me and one man was touching my body. They hit me with shoes and punched me with fists. They were insulting me, saying things like, 'You're Shiite so go back to Iran.' "
Blindfolded and arrested, he was beaten for two hours, then released. Another gang returned a few days later, threatening him and journalists present at the time. Extreme repression quelled protests and strikes, but anti-regime opposition persists. One man fired from his teaching job said:
"We cannot stop. We might go quiet for a bit to mourn the dead and treat the injured and see those in jail, but then we will rise up again."