Tragic situation in Bahrain is going on
Civil unrest in Bahrain is going on. This week the Manama regime has taken action against protesters in the town of Diraz – at least five people were killed, dozens wounded and more than 280 people arrested. The Bahraini people has continued to protest against the government led by the king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, demanding democratic reforms and realization of their legitimate claims.
Last protests are a kind of reaction to the US president Donald Trump´s meeting with the king and his support to the Bahraini regime and at the same time to repression against opposition leader figure, Sheikh Isa Qassim who is a representative of Shiite majority in the country. The government stripped the cleric of his citizenship last June and several days ago he was condemned to one-year´s imprisonment with probation. Diraz, where the last crackdown happened, is the Qassim´s hometown.
A new wave of protests started in 2011 as a part of the so-called Arab spring. Whereas in some countries protesters found zealous support from the West, in Bahrain did not. Reasons are clear – Manama regime is an ally of the US and demonstrates are supposed to be conducted by „hostile” Iranian authorities. It should be stressed that Bahraini government has close relations with Washington over a long period. An American naval presence has existed there since 1948 and Manama has provided the US a military base in Juffair since 1990s. The US Fifth Fleet headquarters has been placed here with around 6.000 military personnel. Nevertheless, the close collaboration is not limited to military one as in 2004 the United States–Bahrain Free Trade Agreement was signed. Thus, the amicable meeting between Trump and the king is easily understood.
On the other side, the massive discontentment of the Bahraini people is comprehensible as well. According to the 2010 census, 1.2 million people live in the country, more than 70 percent of them being Muslim (Bahrain also has a rather numerous minority of native Christians who constitute about 14.5 percent of the total population). Whereas approximately 70 percent of the Bahraini Muslims are Shiites, the ruling family of Al Khalifa is Sunni. In 2010, about half of the government was composed of this family. They have endeavoured to minimise influence and power of Shiites who are perceived as a potential threat and an instrument of Iranian politics. The same view is shared by Riyadh which in 2011 undertook military intervention based on the invitation from the Bahraini government´s side. The intervention was supported by the Gulf Cooperation Council in which the main role is played by the Saudi Arabia whose aim is to suppress Iranian and Shiite influence in the region. No Western country took appropriate action against the intervention which was a repetition of older one from 1990s. Let´s remind that since 2015 another Saudi-led military intervention has been going on in Yemen. Its roots and reason are similar. The West keeps silent and Washington supports Riyadh actively and openly.
"The battle for the defence of religion is not over, it has just started." – Bahraini clerics´ statement
Oppression of the Bahraini people led to discontentment and resistance which has already lasted for several decades. The Manama regime is aware that real democratic reforms would lead to the end of its dominion, therefore they will do anything to avert such a scenario. The struggle in Bahrain is not just a struggle between two religious groups, between oppressors and oppressed but also a geopolitical struggle. In any case, we should remember everyday acts of violence against innocent people and repressions against Shiite religious authorities in the head of Isa Qassim.