Pearl square was not just the focal point of democracy protests in the tiny Kingdom of Bahrain. The Pearl statue was a symbol of the nation. It became a symbol of the regime’s tolerance for dissent and mass demonstrations. And it was of course a symbol of the yearning for democracy and mass participation, a la Tahrir Square.
When the protests escalated to the point where protestors shut down the financial district, the regime decided to shut down the non-violent movement by force. They tried to paint the protestors as Shi’ite rabble rousers who were being instigated and supported by Hezbollah and Iran. Saudi Arabia and the other Arab petro-dictatorships in the peninsula sent in a two thousand troops to support the security crackdown. All this was, of course, authorized by the Obama administration. At least six people were killed in street battles between the hired guns of the regime and the protestors. In a seminal action of psychological warfare against its own population, the regime destroyed the statue. The message was crystal clear: dissent will not be tolerated anymore.
Despite the terror of the police state, the movement for democracy has not completely lost steam. The regime feels so threatened by online mobilization that they have arrested hundreds of online activists. This includes the prominent anti-sectarian blogger Mahmood al-Yousif. His website is still up and running: mahmood.tv.
Activists have called for a ‘Day of Rage’ this Friday, i.e., tomorrow. I don’t know what we will witness. Will there be a total security lockdown, preventing any significant protests in Manama? Will there be a huge turnout followed by a bloody crackdown? Will the regime allow peaceful protests at all??
All we know for sure is that the status quo disappeared with the Pearl statue and Bahrain will remain in purgatory till there is regime change. The sooner the United States comes to grips with this reality the better.
[Update: The New York Times has finally decided to file a report on the chilling state terror underway in Bahrain.
“… a 60-year-old plumber, was found dead in a garbage bag, 100 feet away from his car.”
“With Saudi troops now in the country to support King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, Bahrain has taken on the likeness of a police state. There have been mass arrests, mass firings of government workers, reports of torture and, on Sunday, the forced resignation of the top editor of the nation’s one independent newspaper.”
“26 people have been killed, most in the past three weeks since Pearl Square was cleared. More than 300 have been imprisoned, and at least 35 people are missing.
Two political prisoners who were released have said that many detainees have been tortured with electric shocks, beatings and sexual abuse, said Mohammed al-Maskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. As many as 800 workers have been fired from the government and companies partly owned by the government, apparently on the suspicion that they had attended the rallies, said the lawmakers who resigned in protest. And scores of university students have lost government-sponsored scholarships.”
Pax Americana indeed.]