“The only thing the monarchy has been fighting is the people of Bahrain and their quest for democracy and human rights. It is the monarchy’s eagerness to tear at the fabric of Bahraini society to maintain its stranglehold on power that has fueled unrest. It is the monarchy’s unwillingness to share power democratically and tolerate dissent that has always been the central grievance of the people.”
Soon there will be no empty walls in the villages west of Manama, capital of the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain. Graffiti calling for the king’s overthrow are crossed out by the authorities every day, only to reappear somewhere else, until the walls are entirely covered by black splodges. Police vehicles sit at the entrance to every village. Even in the shiny, built-up areas of Manama many residents grumble. “There is no freedom, no justice and no democracy,” complains one man.
Bahrain, where a Sunni monarchy has long ruled over a Shia majority, saw a brief flickering of Arab spring protests in February 2011. The biggest were brutally put down with the help of troops from neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Yet smaller protests have continued. Violent clashes erupted on December 6th when the government hosted a jamboree of security and military officials from the region (Bahrain’s 40-person delegation included people close to the Shia opposition). Youths in several villages threw stones and Molotov cocktails; security forces lobbed back tear gas and sound bombs.
In Arabic, she recites a poem favored by father who is also another activist in custody in Bahrain and then dedicated the message “to the brave people of Bahrain who I miss greatly, and to all freedom-loving people of the world.” She translates the poem into English, “If one day, the people desire to live, then fate will answer their calls, and the night will begin to fade away, and their chains to break and fall.”
New York Times columnist Nick Kristof is not being let into Bahrain as the nation is claiming Kristof is on a blacklist. He tweets his time in the airport, suggesting ways to get into the country - creating a Kardashian sex video (she was let into the country earlier this year), parachuting in or even flying in as Santa Claus. Keep in mind that Bahrain has been named an ally of the United States.
Update: Kristof is leaving in the morning, flying out of Bahrain.
“We stopped at an open, remote place. I was led out of the car, and there were at least 20 vehicles at the place. There were special forces, dressed all in black, with assault rifles. ‘We have orders to kill you,’ an officer said. ‘If you do not give us the information we want, we will kill you very slowly. But before you tell us everything, we’re going to have some fun.’ They started hitting me and asking about my cousin again. ‘We’re going to quarter you,’ they said. Then they tied my arms and legs to two jeeps that slowly drove in opposite directions.”
If you read something today, please have it be this Storify of tweets from a letter by Zainab Al-Khawaja (@angryarabiya), a prisoner in Bahrain arrested for trying to visit her jailed activist father Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. Curated and posted by NPR’s Andy Carvin.