The UK-based newspaper The Independent has published an article in which it reviewed the popular uprising in Bahrain ten years later its outbreak in central Manama in protest of the kingdom’s tyrannical rulers.
The article, written by Patrick Cockburn, stated that the Bahrain revolution was inspired by the spirit of the revolutions that swept the Arab region. Autocrats were toppled after millions of protesters took to the streets chanting, “The people demand the downfall of the regime.”
“There was nothing phoney about this mass yearning for liberty and social justice. Vast numbers of disenfranchised people briefly believed that they could overthrow dictatorships, both republican and monarchical,” said Cockburn.
Crueller and more repressive than ever
“We are the ones who will kill humiliation and misery,” recalls the 20-year-old poet Ayat al-Qurmzi, speaking to thousands of protesters in Manama, Bahrain’s capital.
Cockburn recalled the Bahraini 20-year-old poet Ayat al-Gormezi as she recited: “We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery,” speaking to thousands of cheering protesters in Manama, the capital of Bahrain.
“We are the people who will destroy the foundations of injustice,” She added.
But these foundations, according to the author, were stronger than she hoped. “The dream of a better tomorrow expressed by herself and millions during the Arab Spring in 2011 was to be brutally dispelled as the old regimes counter-attacked.”
He added that old regimes “reasserted themselves, or where they had fallen, they were replaced by chaotic violence and foreign military intervention.”
Out of the six countries where the Arab Spring had the greatest impact, three – Libya, Syria, and Yemen – are still torn apart by endless civil wars.
In two of them – Egypt and Bahrain – state violence and suppression are far worse than in the past, according to Cockburn.
Democratic protests in Bahrain started on February 14 and were centered on the Pearl Roundabout in central Manama. They lasted a month before ” they were savagely crushed by the Bahraini security forces backed by 1,500 soldiers from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.” says the author.
Ayat, a trainee teacher, was arrested, jailed, beaten with an electric cable and threatened with sexual assault and rape. She was only released after an international outcry.
Others in Bahrain suffered much worse and some died under torture, according to an international commission of inquiry. Doctors at the hospital that treated the injured protesters were a special target of interrogators from the Bahraini security services.
False accusations and charges against protesters
One consultant who had been severely beaten over four days said: “It was bizarre. They wanted to prove that all the violence came from the protesters or the hospital.”
They demanded that he confess that blood from the hospital’s bank had been thrown over injured protesters in order to exaggerate their injuries. They also claimed that an intricate piece of medical equipment was in fact a covert device to receive orders from Iran.
The same backlash was happening throughout the Middle East and North Africa, with rulers using mass imprisonment, routine torture and summary executions to crush dissent.
According to the writer, repression not only affected places where the Arab Spring had been at its peak, but spread throughout the region, which is home to 600 million people.
Terrified rulers sought to eliminate the slightest hint of dissent in fear it could become a threat to them.
“Could the Arab Spring have ever succeeded against such odds?”
The question, he asserts, is of great importance today because persecution by regimes, aptly described as “looting machines” on behalf of a tiny elite, is no less than it was in 2011.
Even more people now live crammed into houses with sewage water running down the middle of the street outside while their rulers board yachts anchored offshore.
“But the anger and hatred was not enough 10 years ago and it will not be enough in the future. I strongly sympathized with the protesters then, though I never gave much hope for their chances of permanent success, ” he concludes.