FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bahrain’s New Symbol of Resistance

by RANNIE AMIRI

When tanks, bulldozers, U.S.-supplied Cobra attack helicopters and Bahrain’s trigger-happy security forces violently evicted peaceful protestors from Manama’s Pearl Roundabout last week, little time was wasted demolishing the 300-foot monument at its center.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency reported the circle needed a “face life” to “boost the flow of traffic.” The country’s foreign minister said, “We did it to remove a bad memory.”

We assume he also includes the memory of pro-democracy demonstrators who made the roundabout and monument the heart of their struggle for the last six weeks.

Now, a new symbol of their movement has taken its place.

It is first important to emphasize the protests’ non-violent nature. There were no troop defections to provide the people with weapons, as in Libya. This is Bahrain, where 90 percent employed in the 20,000-man strong National Security Agency are Jordanian, Yemeni, Pakistani or other foreign nationals. They are given expedited citizenship to alter the island’s demographics in favor of the minority Sunni population (who the al-Khalifa family regards as their natural constituency).

Sympathy with the plight of fellow countrymen, as when the Egyptian army refused to fire on those gathered in Tahrir Square, is non-existent in Bahrain, by definition.

The mainly Shia protestors have repeatedly stressed their purely political demands. They have not challenged the al-Khalifa regime with armed insurrection or coup. Instead, Bahrainis have called for an end to the policy of sectarian discrimination; fair and proportional representation in the executive branch, legislature, judiciary and security sector (from which the 70 percent Shia population are excluded); and equity in housing, healthcare and jobs.

The monarchy’s ferocious response reflects the threat they felt—not from the red-herring of Iranian hegemony—but from the end of absolute power.

After the second attack at Pearl Roundabout, a place that has seen no greater heartache or injustice has become the new face of resistance. In uprising’s early days, Fadel al-Matrouk was gunned down outside it while preparing to join the funeral procession of the revolt’s first martyr, Ali Mushaima.

It is the besieged Salmaniya Hospital, now under complete military control. Tanks block the emergency room entrance, masked gunmen patrol outside and checkpoints surround it. Ambulance drivers are prevented from transporting the injured, doctors and nurses targeted, and staff unable to leave or return for fear of their safety. All are accused of abetting anti-government fervor by simply performing their medical duty. Harrowing tales from personnel and patients alike have become commonplace.

From Time’s “Crackdown: Why Bahrain’s Military Has Taken Over a Hospital,” March 17:

It was supposed to be a routine trip from Sitra, a poor Shi’ite neighborhood here in Bahrain. On Tuesday an ambulance loaded with two paramedics, a doctor and critical patients was on its way to Salmaniya Medical Center, the island-nation’s largest hospital, when it was stopped by a group of 20 government soldiers. According to one of the paramedics, all passengers were ordered out of the car, the injured thrown onto the street. The paramedic was forced to kneel on all fours while they took turns kicking his head from side to side. The female doctor was commanded to strip, “so that we all may see your body.” When she refused, they beat her.

The AP reports on March 20:

It was just after midnight when armed men in military uniforms came to the hospital bed of Ali Mansour Abdel-Karim Nasser, who was injured by pellets fired during a clash with riot police. He said what came next was worse: he was bound, beaten and mocked in the hallway of Bahrain’s main state-run hospital.

“They came with guns and they said, ‘What’s wrong with you, why are you here?’ I told them I was shot and I showed them my legs,” said Nasser, whose legs and abdomen were peppered with wounds from pellets shot during a protest in a village on Sitra island on Tuesday.

“They cursed at me, ripped out the IV, pushed me off the bed and started kicking me.” Nasser said the six soldiers — whose faces were covered with black ski masks — pulled him to the hallway and tied his hands behind the back. He said at least 12 other patients were abused in a similar way.

Accounts by medical staff of last week’s raids confirm that the injured were prohibited from getting to the medical center and ambulances prohibited from leaving. Scores of the wounded have been removed and relocated elsewhere, and surgeons hauled off during operations. Drs. Ali al-Ikri, Mahmood Asghar, and Bassem and Ghassan Dhaif remain missing.

Although anecdotal, overwhelming corroborating testimony from eyewitnesses and treating physicians removes all doubt that egregious violations of international law, specifically articles of the 4th Geneva Convention pertaining to the protection of civilian hospitals, occurred. Human Rights Watch decried the detention of civil rights workers and physicians who spoke out against the abuse of civilians.

Patient, emergency and operating rooms in Salmaniya Hospital bear witness to the regime’s attack on the defenseless, weak and dispossessed. Their right to safety, security and dignity has been grossly violated. The indefatigable will of those working inside its encircled walls is mirrored by the will of residents in encircled villages, like Sitra.

The former Pearl Monument had a stone jewel at its apex, honoring Bahrain’s heritage in pearl cultivation. It was held up by six swooping arches of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries; the same countries who are now sending in troops to oppress the Bahraini people. In many ways, the monument’s destruction was fitting.

Bruised and battered Bahrainis will one day—and make no mistake, that day will come—erect a monument in tribute to the success of their long struggle and all those who fell during it. Its form might be unknown, what it will represent is not: freedom.

RANNIE AMIRI is an independent Middle East commentator.

 

 

 

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail