That itty bitty thing that is almost completely obscured by the Shuttle’s rudder is the archipelago of Bahrain. Not only one of the smallest kingdoms in the world, but also one of the smallest countries therein. Period.
But ask any Bahraini about his country and you will be forgiven for thinking that they hail from one of the largest, most powerful, most vibrant countries on God’s Earth. Maybe the Universe even!
Small or big doesn’t matter much, though, when you try to understand the political upheaval that we continuously go through. From one scandal to the next. From one demonstration to the next. From one threat to the next. From one disaster to the next. Quite tiring of course, but it seems to have become our stock in trade. We’re getting used to it.
The latest fracas was signalled by the controversial MP Jassim Al-Saidi who issued one of his infamous outputs – never self thought or instigated, some contend – by demanding that Bahrain should turn the military loose on “the agitators who harbour ill for this country and its blessed leadership and are absolutely instructed to wreak chaos by outside forces” – or words to that effect. The press and the opposition reacted as expected to this “test balloon”. But the signal was loud and clear. Someone high and mighty was getting pissed off, and the suggestion was supposedly made to “do something” about the situation.
I guess the usual riot police convoys of twos upgraded to six (at least) for the past few weeks was not enough, or someone rightly decided that they were still ineffective and cannot control the various skirmishes in some Bahraini villages. So, the common and tried and trusted solution must have been to the lines of “let’s throw more power at the problem and hope that those kids and villagers will be controlled.”
More power was needed – common wisdom demanded.
Malkiya – a village on the western shores of Bahrain, the mother island, had some beef with officials. Someone was burying the sea and cutting them off from enjoying it or going out in their boats to make a living. They decided to protest.
We can’t have that. They were given the wall, and now they think that their station has been elevated, and that any time they go on a demo the government or officials or the community or those in power would acquiesce and give them what they want. What rubbish. We can’t have that. So off on a demo they went. They got “dealt with” this time and I think a 13 year-old boy even saw the inside of a prison cell for a while. The community in Bahrain went ape-s*it and those nefarious human rights activists and pseudo-politicians demanded his release. He was eventually. Unharmed I think. But others are still languishing in cells awaiting their just desert.
While all of that was happening, the 8 Bahraini teachers who were accused of being “foreign spies” by the Saudi authorities and imprisoned – without charges – were rescued as their release was secured by His Majesty on a recent visit to Saudi where he personally intervened, the next day they were home safe and sound and restored to their jobs with back-pay. Complimentary pictures and whatnot were taken with high officials and His Majesty of course to offer thanks and unstinting loyalty by the eight for their release.
But was it just a day or two before, or after – I dinna ken – about 5 who demonstrated and allegedly stole a weapon and burnt a police car in December last year were handed their sentences ranging from 1 to 7 years for their troubles, while 4 were acquitted. It was their villages’ turn to go out and demonstrate; one, we are told, had a collection of 117 Molotov cocktails, a few tyres and various other paraphernalia stashed in a deserted house presumably awaiting to be used on the day the court decisions are handed down against the December rioters. Needless to say, the efficiency of the police prevailed once again, and the four will soon be joining their compatriots for breakfast, lunch and dinner of luscious and healthy dal and khobbiz.
His Majesty the King, may Allah bless him, has had enough of this tit-for-tat; thus, he invited the editors-in-chiefs of all the papers and vociferously and verbosely harangued those agitators who sullied the name of Bahrain in the international community and specifically advised them not to bother with such machinations. He reminded those who choose to knock on the doors of foreign powers asking for help in their nefarious causes to destabilise the kingdom of the fact that those very powers were the instigators of Abu Ghraib, and that they don’t care much for the causes they champion. He suggested that if indeed they do have a qualm about the situation in Bahrain, then they are better served attempting to resolve it here, in Bahrain, using the available constitutional and citizen rights means. He also warned against harsh and personal criticism against people, respected Bahraini families and other personages. I’m not sure what was happening there, but I suspect that it might have emanated from one of the infamous forums because I daren’t think that any newspaper would publish such insults.
Barely a day after that meeting, the prime minister issued a (verbal?) edict to stop any development work in any village or location used by demonstrators to damage the infrastructure, burn tyres and carry on with their illegal activities. The Civil Service Bureau – not to be out-done – unilaterally decided to fire any of its employees who joins unlawful and unauthorised demonstrations.
Suddenly, the king’s points raised with the journalists were taken to the inside pages, and the new new crises took their rightful space on the front pages. With pictures. And the discussion in the inside political pages – and those were many in every paper – were dedicated to reactions against what is now termed as the collective punishment visited against errant villages and domiciles; while the king’s very valid points were left for the columnists to talk about, taking less than 1/16th of the space – or less actually – than the other new new things.
So we get to today. Karadzic’s apprehension news is given a couple of centimetres on the front pages, and those are occupied by his hippy-like hairdo and Noel-esque beard, Albasheer’s head is sought by the ICC but the effervescent and wholly useful Arab League and the similarly described African Union won’t have that – and we know why don’t we? Any one of their members could be earmarked next! In Bahrain – that thing behind the Shuttle’s rear – a few poor souls who demonstrated against their company arbitrarily deducing from their wages and had the misfortune of having their mugs appear in the paper got fired by their erstwhile firm, the nurses want to go out and demonstrate for better wages and conditions are being corralled and called traitors for even considering such a thing.
Ah well, it’s only proper then that dictionary.com’s word of the day sums up the whole situations described rather succinctly; vituperation.
I think I’ll just go home now, switch off, and watch Monty Python. That, my friends, is more real than this reality!
Picture credit: NASA Johnson Space Center – eol.jsc.nasa.gov
this is image: ISD_highres_STS101_STS101-718-27_2
thanks to Mike Knight for the heads up.