The flame that arose in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen ended up igniting in Bahrain on February 14, 2011. For weeks the protests took place in defiance of the iron fist of the Al Khalifa, the Sunni royal family that has ruled for more than three centuries. the tiny 765-square-kilometer island and a majority Shiite population. A decade later, relentless repression has erased any aspiration for change. The more than 100,000 Bahrainis who took to the streets during the Arab Spring are completely exhausted by a decade of brutal repression,” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, admits to News Agency. from exile, he tries to denounce human rights violations. “However, if anyone believes that the government no longer fears the democratic ideals that inspired the protesters, look at the prisons where the leaders of the uprising languish.
The kingdom – which houses the US Fifth Fleet, the barracks from which maritime traffic is monitored through the strategic Strait of Hormuz – has survived the street pulse thanks to the combination of Western complicity – mainly, from Washington and London from which It was for decades protectorate – and the military intervention of the neighboring countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which applied themselves thoroughly in the repression, alarmed by the contagion in their marginalized Shiite minorities. During the decade, a dense silence has reached that awakening that had as its epicenter the Pearl Square of the Manama financial district, where the protesters had camped for weeks. In March 2011, an army of bulldozers destroyed the monument that presided over the crossroads. “The fate of the square symbolizes the government’s attempt to suppress and erase even the memory of the protests. What was once a place for peaceful gathering, hope and progress are now just concrete and asphalt,” says Regional Deputy Director Lynn Maalouf of Amnesty International.
This week, while the security forces were tightening control in the streets to avoid any attempt to remember, the 500-page report drawn up at the end of 2011 by an international committee of jurists that tried to shed light on the repression disappeared from the website of the government commission. The government blamed it on “a technical error.” The investigation documented the deaths of at least 19 people between February and April at the hands of the security forces; the arrest of thousands of protesters and the systematic torture in prison. Far from accepting its conclusions, the monarchy of Hamad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa redoubled the persecution. The presidency of Donald Trump since 2017 raised the strategy, with the prohibition of independent media, the outlawing of opposition parties -the two main formations have disappeared-, the arbitrary arrests of representatives of civil society -from lawyers even journalists – and the massive revocation of nationality. Up to 990 Bahrainis have lost it since 2011.
My nationality was withdrawn and I am still a stateless person with refugee status in Germany, “says Yusuf al Huri, a Berlin-based Bahraini human rights activist.” I have protection. I have faced members of the Bahraini royal family who have visited Germany, “he slides. Dissidents have tried to keep their claims and complaints alive while the Bahraini court has opted for the sport to try to whitewash the traces of repression. The family Real owns the Bahrain McLaren cycling club and last year it acquired the Córdoba Football Club.
Accountability is completely absent from the ephemeris. Macro trials and the end of the moratorium on capital punishment have marked the decade as state surveillance on social media has sent hundreds to jail for posting a simple tweet. Last year the authorities released Nabeel Rajab, a human rights defender who became the face of the protests. Since then, he has not spoken in public. Eleven of the members of the group baptized as “Bahrein 13” remain behind bars.
“The Bahraini state has crushed the hopes and expectations aroused by the massive protests ten years ago, responding with brutal repression over the next decade, enabled by the shameful silence of Bahrain’s western allies, especially the UK and the US,” he laments Maalouf. The million-dollar sales of Western weapons have not stopped as medical malpractice and mistreatment raged through the kingdom’s prisons and the courts handed down hefty sentences against alleged perpetrators of plots by Iran. The only structural changes have been for the worse, with the outlawing of parties, the closure of the media and new laws that have further closed the space for political participation.