Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bahrain: From a new awakening to a divided nation

Five months after protests began, Patrick Cockburn reports from a nation where revolt and suspicion still simmer below the surface

".....Bahrain, with a population of 1.2 million, half of them Arabs, should have been the one place in the Arab world where compromise was possible between rulers and ruled, and between Sunni and Shia. Instead it has joined places like Beirut and Jerusalem, with communities polarised and hate and suspicion filling the air. The shock of what happened is all the greater because Bahrain regards itself as one of the most liberal and best-educated countries in the Gulf. Unlike nearby Saudi Arabia, women drive cars and hold important government jobs.

The simple explanation for the human disaster that is consuming Bahraini society is that the government over-reacted. The Khalifas felt their rule was under threat as long-established despots across the Arab world were overthrown. They treated moderate reformers as if they were professional revolutionaries. Without any evidence, the authorities demonised Iran as the hidden hand behind the demand by the Shia for an end to discrimination. "The Sunni community here was told that it faced an existential threat and equal citizenship for Shia meant an end to the Sunni," one Shia political activist says. They believed it....."

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