By John Ballard
The results of the Arab Spring have been uneven at best. Tunisia may be a model, Libya a hard-fought win of sorts, Egypt a work in progress -- but Bahrain is a microcosm of the core challenge, oppression wrapped in the calm, confident civility of complete tyranny. Yesterday's column by Nick kristof comes with a video documenting the most recent example of official evil on the part of Bahrain's royal family. And yes, that little country is one of the most important allies of the US in that part of the world. Nothing I can say will be more powerful than this video and Kristof's column.
This is not kristof's first appearance in Bahrain. He was there at the outset of the protests (which in Bahrain have been in progress much longer than the start of this year's activities in the Arab world.) He has also come to know the Alkawajah family and the details of their activism which are now being carried on by the second generation.
The problems of Bahrain are sectarian, not economic. There is not a complicated matrix of details. The country is run by a Sunni royal family and with the same irrational impulses that animate bigotry worldwide, they despise Shiites simply because they exist. Anything else only dilutes the simple truth of that short explanation.
The repression is ubiquitous. Consider Zainab al-Khawaja, 28, whose husband and father are both in prison and have been tortured for pro-democracy activities, according to human rights reports. Police officers have threatened to cut off Khawaja�s tongue, she told me, and they broke her father�s heart by falsely telling him that she had been shipped to Saudi Arabia to be raped and tortured. She braved the risks by talking to me about this last week � before she was arrested too.
Since the government has now silenced her by putting her in jail, I�ll give her the last word. I asked her a few days before her arrest about the proposed American arms sale to Bahrain.
�At least don�t sell them arms,� she pleaded. �When Obama sells arms to dictators repressing people seeking democracy, he ruins the reputation of America. It�s never in America�s interest to turn a whole people against it.�
Detained: Activist Zainab al-Khawaja (Right) screams while being arrested during a protest in Abu Seba village, north of Manama.
Link here to a photo-essay about women activists across the Middle East.