August 18, 2018

Bahrain declares state of emergency

Hello everyone we have come from Saudi Arabia to save you all. Aren't there supposed to be cheering crowds throwing flowers in our path?

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain has asked the head of the military to guarantee security across the country, after declaring a three-month state of emergency, following weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations.

The state of emergency comes a day after troops from neighbouring Gulf States were sent to Bahrain to help deal with the unrest.

The government is now clearly feeling empowered with foreign help that they can subdue the largely Shia majority who are seeking political freedom.

Protesters are still blocking roads into the financial centre in Manama. Clashes in recent days have seen at two people killed and over 200 wounded.

The BBC has spoken to a Bahraini doctor who was at the accident and emergency department at one hospital who said there were “many, many casualties”.

“People are coming in with bullet wounds and injuries caused by rubber bullets. There are hundreds of people,” he said. “We received one major case – a man whose skull had been split open by something.”

Two other men were in a serious condition after being shot in the eyes, while a third had been shot in the back of the head, the doctor said.

“We were at the health centre in Sitra, and they shot at us. The doctors and nurses were all scared because the windows were being broken and we could hear the shooting. This is a disaster,” he added.

He said police and soldiers – both Bahraini and foreign – had seized six ambulances, and then used them to attack protesters.

“The paramedics were kicked out, and they took the ambulances. They went everywhere in them and they were shooting people.”

Despite the Bahrain security forces having overwhelming firepower superiority and massive support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, the protesters continue to demonstrate.

In situations like these, when blood has been spilt, there is no going back for many of the protesters. They feel that to back down os a betrayal of those already matyred in the cause.

About 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and a further 500 from the United Arab Emirates were deployed in the capital, Manama, on Monday at the invitation of the government.

The opposition groups are not united in their aims. The more moderate, Shia Opposition Alliance wants a constitutional monarchy and other democratic reforms. More radical groups are demanding the ovethrow of the centuries old, Sunni royal family.

Of real concern is the stance of Iran. As a major Shia power in the region, they have denounced the use of troops from neighbouring Gulf states in Bahrain as “unacceptable”.

“The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.

In turn, Bahrain has recalled its ambassador to Iran in protest at Tehran’s “blatant interference” in its internal affairs. It is a pity that Bahrain does not see the influx of foreign soldiers and police as blatant interference in its internal affairs.

The United States is being particularly silent on the issue, only sending envoys to promote talks. To be fair they don’t have much choice.
Bahrain is a major ally and houses an important US military base. On the other hand America cannot be seen to be opposing a majority movement for change that has democracy has its core objective.

Even George W Bush was all for democracy in the Middle-East.