The President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama on military intervention in Libya said, “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries but United States of America is different. Wherever people want to be free they will find a friend in the United States.”
I wonder what happened to the America’s wide opened eyes when it came to Bahraini civilians. The demonstrations of people in this tiny gulf nation were crushed and severe punitive measures were taken against the dissented voices. Inspired by the successful uprisings in neighboring Tunis and Cairo, there were anti-government protests demanding regime change and democracy in the Bahraini capital Manama too.
It all started on February 16, 2011 when people took to the streets and flocked at the heart of the capital — the Pearl roundabout. The protesters decided to cling to the square until their demands were met. Eventually temporary tents were erected, satellite television antennas were installed and food kiosks were set up to make people comfortable.
But the first night at the square turned into a nightmare when the defiant regime ordered crackdown, and at around 3 AM the riot control vehicles with heavily armed security personnel surfaced onto the square and began recklessly shooting at the demonstrators, consequently killing four and injuring hundreds of them. The corpses and the injured were taken to one of the biggest medical facility in the country — the Salmaniyya hospital where autopsy was conducted and injured victims of the ignominious act were treated.
Gradually the hospital turned into a state of emergency as clamor continued on the streets and as did the regime’s brutal measures to crush them, resulting into rapid surge of injured protestors.
The hospital’s ambulances were prevented from reaching injured protestors and any uniformed medic found treating demonstrators were attacked. One of the medics of the Salmaniyya hospital Dr. Saadiq Al Ekri was handcuffed and beaten. His ribs and nose were broken and allegedly policemen pulled his pants down and humiliated him, all because he treated the injured dissidents.
The Bahrainis seemed determined not to relinquish their demands despite continuous desolation. On February 23, 2011, Bahrain held its largest march in history and that led the Bahraini king to travel to Saudi Arabia and asked for their help to put an end to this unprecedented development. Saudi Arabia too seemed keen to dismantle any such development in its backyard and subsequently in an ominous move led a Gulf Co-operation Council military force into Bahrain on March 14, then started a vociferous campaign by the coalition forces to completely decimate the democratic dreams of Bahraini civilians.
Most of the opposition leadership was taken away and over 1000 protesters were arrested. Many were detained without charges and allegedly killed.
One of the government official appeared on the state television with a message for the countrymen, “The work of these traitors will not pass without punishments. The arm of justice is long; it will catch them wherever they go. No matter how long they hide in their darkness, the eyes of security are open and justice will have no mercy on them. It will track them down.”
Definitely in the subsequent days the security forces tracked those so blamed “traitors”, specifically targeting the prominent figures in the country, who actually just demanded the democratic rights. They included football star striker Alaa Hubail and 24 other sports heroes. Moreover, 47 medics and nurses of the Salmaniyya hospital were also arrested.
The people were barred from any public meeting and were only allowed to have funeral processions. The government also demolished many Shia places of worship claiming they were built illegally.
The country’s Shia majority population has been ruled by the Sunni royal family since the 18th century with absolute power.
So to summarize, as witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya there were deadly crackdown on peaceful protesters in Bahrain as well. Many lost their life, human rights were out rightly abused, politically motivated detention drive was carried throughout the country, and the detainees were subjected to harsh and inhumane torture in the detention centers. The residents of places with demonstrations against the regime were continuously tortured physically and psychologically, and arbitrary arrests were made. Their homes were raided at the dead of night while they were sleeping. They were beaten up and threatened to be charged with treason.
Didn’t the people of Bahrain want to be free from the autocratic rule of the Khalifa family? Then why didn’t they find a “friend” in the United States?
Was it perhaps because America’s Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain, and it is in the interest of the United States for the Khalifa regime to stay in power? Because as far as the political scenario in that country is concerned no one except the Khalifas have a say in the political life of Bahrain.
So how could the United States of America risk its significantly important military presence in the region? If they do so, Iran which doesn’t even hosts a US embassy on its soil will strengthen its influence, showcase its growing military power and propagate its policies in the oil rich region which are often pronounced as anti-western. Is this what America is scared of?
And let’s not forget that the United States of America’s best friend in the region is Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain is a strategic partner of Saudis being part of the Gulf Co-operation Council. How could the US anger a country (Saudi Arabia) which is the second largest exporter of crude oil to them? After all, oil tops the list of United States foreign priorities.
But why only Libya?
In fact, the question is not all about why the Bahraini people did not find a “friend” in the United States, but the real question is: why is it that only the Libyans found a “friend” in the United States?
There were similar demonstrations in many different countries in the region. People lost their loved ones, were forced into exile and evicted from their own land. But why did the United States and its allies shower its “blessings” only on Libya?
It forces me to wonder whether it was seriously out of “friendship” and the so claimed “humanitarian concerns” for the civilians of Libya or was it because of Libya’s vast oil reserves under the perceived anti western long time ruler Col. Muammar Qaddafi?
As a matter of fact, Col. Qaddafi’s profile lists many anti western and anti Israel participation and initiative since 1969 when he came to power, and even before. As a student in 1956, he took part in anti Israel protests during the Suez Crisis. As soon as he gained power he immediately ordered the shutdown of American and British military bases, including the strategic Wheelus Air Base.
In 1980s, the Colonel acquired chemical weapons drawing censure from the United States and its allies among many other nations. Moving a step further he embarked on the pursuit of nuclear weapons and tried to persuade India and China to sell a nuclear bomb to it; however he ended up signing a nuclear peace pact with India. The countries like the United States, France and Britain, who apparently claim prerogative over nuclear weapons, severely rebuked any such quest by Col. Qaddafi.
The Libyan-Western relationship took a sharp down turn in 1988 when two high ranking Libyan intelligence officials were accused in the Lockerbie bombings in which more than 250 people died. The incident shook the international community and Col. Qaddafi was alleged of committing state sponsored terrorism.
So, as it is evident from the above mentioned bywords, Libya under Col. Muammar Qaddafi threatened and proved detrimental for the USA’s interests in a region which is of paramount importance for its energy and natural resources needs. Then how could the US manage not to strive to a leeway provided to them by the unrest in a country which did not always necessarily endorse its policies. As a result the United Nations resolution 1973 passed, Libyan territory shelled, the regime toppled and the ruler caught alive, dragged on the streets, molested and killed like a bandit.
So now the question is, do you still think the West is really concerned about the value of human life in Libya? If it is, then why not in Bahrain?