In the Middle East; a Dictator, a Riot & a Race
There is currently a man who inherited power from his father, practices a sect of Islam that only a minority of the country’s inhabitants practice and is using his country’s military to quash a popular uprising against him, and he’s getting away with it. He isn’t Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria who is currently under intense pressure from the United Nations, Arab League and European Union to put an end to his country’s violence. His name is Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain. King Hamad took over power from his father, Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, in Bahrain in 1999 as Emir. He was only declared King of Bahrain in 2002, an honor bestowed upon himself. King Hamad, a Sunni Muslim, rules over about 1.25 million people, nearly 70% of which are Shi’ites. The Shi’ite population face a sectarian-apartheid in Bahrain in which they are not allowed to hold high political offices and are not allowed to serve in the police or security forces. In fact Sunni Muslims from other Arab countries are brought in and given citizenship to fill roles in the military. These security forces are being utilized by King Hamad to quiet the popular uprising against the implemented sectarian-apartheid.Taking cues from other Arab Spring protesters the majority Shi’ite population took to the streets last year and called for greater rights and true democracy. Last February, four days after the protests began the Sunni armed security forces conducted a night raid to clear the roundabout in the Bahraini capital of Manama that held the Pearl Monument. The largely Sunni security forces utilized stun grenades, clubs, tear gas and birdshot to disperse the crowed. Over 600 people were injured and 4 people were killed due to close range use of birdshot. Isa Abdulhasan Ali Hussain, 60, died after being shot in the head from close range and 22-year-old Mahmood Makki Abutaki was shot in the back from close range, at the morgue medics pulled out around 200 pellets from his chest and arms. The Bahraini’s have labeled this violent crackdown as “Bloody Thursday”.
So why isn’t King Hamad being pressured by the UN Security Council, the Arab League and the US? The Bahraini monarchy are considered friends to the West. The Peninsula Shield Force, containing forces from the countries of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and of course Bahrain, which are all helpful allies of the West, sent forces to help stop the uprising. The Shi’ite protesters have received verbal praise from both Syria and Iran, states with large Shi’ite populations, and regimes that are looked down upon by the West. The US in particular has interests in Bahrain. Located in Bahrain is a US Navy base, which is home to the US Naval Forces Central Command as well as the US Fifth Fleet. Also, in February of 2012 almost a year after Bloody Thursday, President Barack Obama announced his plans for a new arms deal with Bahrain worth $53 million, to Congress. Even the Bahrain Grand Prix, a Formula 1 race, was held last weekend amid large protests.
The uprising and crackdown look set to continue, now with brand new weapons from the US and a mostly blind eye from the normally outspoken UN Security Council. King Hamad was bold enough to make himself a king; does he have the audacity to step down on his own as well?