North Africa has greeted 2011 with a big banner with “CHANGE” written in blood and courage, with the martyr Mohammed Bouazizi manifesting the burning flames of frustration and rage in his heart all over his body, sparking a popular revolution and turning Ben Ali’s regime into ashes. Those winds of change carried the warmth of freedom to the Nile and Egypt since January 25th has erupted with massive unprecedented protests in their brave brave quest to “un-president” Husni Mubarak and dissolve the Emergency Law that has crippled Egypt over the last three decades.
People around the world are glued to Al-Jazeera on their TVs and Twitter and Facebook on their laptops and mobiles. Despite the clamping down of Twitter and Facebook from the 2nd day of protests and the unbelievable steps of closing down the internet and mobile phone networks entirely on Friday January 28th, social networks have been alight with second-by-second developments from people on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez via faxing and landline calls later tweeted on their behalf.
As we bid farewell to January, February also has dates set for Yemen (February 3rd) and Bahrain (February 14th). I would like to just focus on Bahrain in the rest of this post.
A few days ago, a Facebook Page and Twitter account popped up calling for a Bahraini Revolution on February 14th. The significance of the date is that it was the day when Bahrainis voted on the National Charter referendum in 2001 and only to find it “modified” a year later after Bahrain officially turned to a constituional monarchy. The Facebook Page has over 2,000 fans and is quite active at the time of writing. The Twitter account on the other hand has a modest 50 followers so far. Now the success of a Tunisia/Egypt-esque revolution is and never will be defined by the number of people joining a Facebook page but rather by the 100s of thousands who go out in the street and demand their rights without fear and do so peacefully.
As much as I admire these people’s urgency for change and justice to prevail, taking the sidibouzid route will not reap the rewards of Tunisia and Egypt as the situation in Bahrain is quite different on many levels.
- Both Tunisia and Egypt have great problems with growing unemployement and poverty within their peoples. Bahrainis, despite facing some unemployement woes, have not reached the point of widespread poverty which eventually lead to revolution.
- Tunisia and Egypt’s armies and police are of their own countrymen and we’ve all seen the images of Tunisians consoling crying policemen in Tunis and Egyptians taking photos with and kissing soldiers on the streets of Cairo. Bahrain, on the other hand have an influx of naturalized soldiers and policemen who at best do not have any connection or affection to the Bahraini people and that is quite evident by the almost weekly clashes with riot police since the mid 2000s.
- Despite branding itself as a country that’s tolerant and promotes inter-faith dialogues, Bahrain still finds itself in sectarian strife with mistrust and indifference towards eachothers causes turning into the norm whereas as we’ve seen in Egypt, with the Egyptian Muslims volunteering to be human shields around Copt churches after the Al-Qidiseen church was bombed on New Years and seeing Christians offering to ensure the safety of people praying Friday prayers in mosques on January 28th.
- Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrain is a relatively young country with a much younger democracy. Though influenced by the government, the shape of our parliament shows us where our loyalties and ideologies lie, and people need the courage and mentality to look at people not by sect and name but by skills and merit.
Amongst other factors such as the US Navy Fifth Fleet in Juffair etc may hinder a Tunisia/Egypt-esque popular revolution.
Reading through the Bahrain February 14th Revolution FB Page, some points are promising but the overall content sends too many mixed messages to be even considered to be serious as one update says “No Sunni, No Shia, Just Bahraini” yet the next uploaded video clearly shows Shia clerics and processions calling for “Thowra” (Revolution) over a Azza beat. Another example of mixed messages is this poster calling for peaceful protesting without burning or blocking streets yet is covered with what looks like dripping and splattered blood (WTF).
The poster also calls people not to carry any flags other the Bahrain flag, but on the other hand encourages people to confront with riot police in the case ‘They started it’ – though I’m sure the organizers don’t mean it in that way but it certainly can be read that way!
Yes, Bahrain needs change and our people must have a bigger say in how the country is run and have an elected Prime minister to whom can be held accounted for when corruption is found and not rectified.
But Bahrain needs not a revolution of regime change at this moment of time, rather a revolution to UNITE BAHRAIN’S PEOPLE and install a mentality of meritocracy and social harmony in them! Reminds me of Dr. Ali Fakhro’s speech during Waad’s 2010 election campaign when he said:
“We ask the people living in Jidhafs and Dimistan (shia villages) to come to Muharraq and support their brothers and sisters in causes that affect the people in Muharraq, and vice versa, we ask the people of Muharraq to go down to the villages of Dimistan and Jidhafs and support their families in the causes that affect those areas”.
Although our government doesn’t really like the idea of unity between Sunnis and Shias, with the blocking of the anti-sectarian campaign site for “Just Bahraini” we need to re-ignite a similar campaign and may Allah help us in succeeding in doing so (maybe with the help of social networks )