No? Can’t guess? Well let me put your mind at ease. These were the riots which paralyzed Athens to commemorate the death of 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos. Fatally shot by a police officer after a minor altercation. Once the news spread of this incident, within the first hour of the young man’s death, demonstrations took place in his neighbourhood; these escalated to full riots which lasted several days. During that time youths engaged police and private property with stones, sticks, furniture, firecrackers, molotov cocktails and whatever else they could lay their hands on (see pictures here).
Those riots were not contained within the boy’s neighbourhood, but spread very quickly to Athens which was paralyzed for several weeks, then to many other European cities in solidarity against police brutality. The Greek prime minister and many other officials came out to offer not only their condolences to Alexandros’ family, but clearly and unequivocally condemned the police for this loss of life. While there is no doubt that some extremist/anarchist elements took advantage of the situation and escalated the violence, but the fact is that the protesting majority were not maligned by the government for their “unpatriotic” behaviour. They – shockingly for us – seem to have done the opposite and stood by them and by their democratic right to demonstrate against the killing, police brutality, corruption, unemployment and other grievances.
Over the following few weeks, Bahrain will celebrate it’s 39th Day of Independence. The betting, judging by the past few years, various people will take to the streets to demonstrate their grievances; all the way from the forgotten sufferers from torture in the past through to families of allegedly wrongfully accused and imprisoned youth due to their political activities – normally demonstrating here and there for various causes and to those who will want to celebrate the various martyrs of this great country. I suspect that again based on recent history, these will be dealt with severely by the state security apparatus.
Wouldn’t it be great if the government this year adopted a more benevolent approach? How about allowing those people with grievances to express them publicly, demonstrate and use that as a celebration of our democracy within our national celebrations? Sure, if demonstrations do turn violent and threaten life and damage property the perpetrators must be dealt with within the spirit of the law, but for goodness’ sake don’t preempt events by lobbing tens of tear-gas cannisters and shoot the crowd/demonstrators with bird-shot!
Bahrainis normally are quite docile, not choosing confrontation by default. I don’t think that the majority of us want a regime change, what the vast majority want I suspect is just for their voice to be heard and their grievances attended to. We all know that the parliament is incapable of relaying these matters, let alone work to resolve them. Parliamentarians not only lack legislative teeth, but are busying themselves and are mired in their own sectarian and divisive practices. They are beyond useless. Maybe the demonstrations and other peaceful methods of dissent should be tolerated by the leadership in order for them to actually hear the voices and use the presented opportunity to quickly and courageously addressing them for the better of this country. I’m sure that they’re striving for social justice, equality and good living for the citizens of Bahrain as explained and encapsulated in the Vision 2030, so let’s just be a bit more patient with each other this December. Listen. And enter into a good national dialogue.
Where else do we have to call home by this good country? Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, sit, and talk. It can’t be that complicated.
I wish everyone in Bahrain and fantastic National Day and I hope the attendant celebrations be peaceful and much fun.