Counter-revolution in Bahrain
An eerie silence and a paralyzing sense of fear currently grip Bahrain. Since mid-March, when tens of thousands of protesters last took to the streets demanding political reform, Bahraini security and military forces have engaged in an ongoing, systematic, and brutal campaign to crush the country’s pro-democracy forces. The crackdown has been sweeping and shocking. Dozens of activists have been killed. Hundreds more have been imprisoned and tortured. Bahrain’s leading independent newspaper, al-Wasat, is expected to close down on May 10.
Provocative government actions belie claims that all the monarchy seeks is to re-establish law and order. It is apparent, instead, that the government is using martial law to carry out a vendetta against those who challenged the authority of the ruling al-Khalifa. Checkpoints have been set up to harass the country’s Shi’i citizens, who make up the majority of Bahrain’s native population and of its political opposition. Security forces have laid siege to the island’s hospitals and arrested scores of medical personnel, in what appears to be an especially inhumane and spiteful kind of intimidation. For weeks police and pro-regime supporters roamed the streets of Shi’i villages destroying cars and other property. Those who supported the protests now fear leaving their homes, lest they be publicly accosted or, worse, arrested and disappeared…
In early April government officials took aim at Bahrain’s largest independent newspaper, al-Wasat, and accused it of “deliberate news fabrication and falsification.” Al-Wasat’s editor Mansoor al-Jamri resigned in an effort to deflect criticism from the newspaper. Instead, al-Jamri and two of his staff members will likely face a politically motivated trial. Al-Jamri was replaced with the pro-government Obaidly al-Obaidly. On April 5 authorities arrested Karim Fakhrawi, one of the newspaper’s founders and a member of the opposition political society al-Wefaq; on April 12 Fakhrawi died mysteriously while in police custody. On April 22 police extended their assault on al-Wasat by beating and arresting the columnist Haidar Muhammad al-Naimi, whose whereabouts and fate remain unknown. In light of these pressures, members of al-Wasat’s board of directors and the paper’s investors have reportedly decided to cease publication as of May 10.