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decorArab spring: Saudi Arabia calls the tune

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Pas de « printemps arabe » pour Bahreïn

by Hassane Zerrouky

No "Arab Spring" for Bahrain

Translated Wednesday 29 June 2011, by Harry Cross and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Three months after the suppression of the uprisings by the Saudi army, eight Shiite activists who had aroused opposition to the Bahraini monarchy have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

More than three months after the intervention of the Saudi military – it began on the 14th of March, with the objective of saving the Bahraini monarchy’s rule over 1.2 million inhabitants, 60% of whom are Shiites - heavy prison sentences were issued against the main animators of the widespread protests. Eight opposition leaders, including Hassan Mushaima, leader of the Haq party who returned from exile during spring; Abdel Wahab Hussain, leader of the (Shiite) Wafa party; and the human rights militant Abdulhadi al-Khawaja were condemned for life. Twenty-one others, including seven still on the run, were given sentences ranging from two to fifteen years. Among them, Ibrahim Sharif, leader of the Waad movement, a secular left-wing grouping, received five years. All were accused of having “formed and directed a terrorist group with the aim of undermining the Constitution and the monarchical regime”, of “having been in contact with foreign terrorist groups”, of agitating “in the interests of a foreign country and proceeding to commit hostile acts against the Kingdom of Bahrain” and of having collected funding for this group! In reality, these opposition figures called for a pacifist break with the Al Khalifa dynasty (members of the Sunni minority who have been in power for almost two centuries) and the inauguration of a republic. Meanwhile, the principal opposition movement, the Wefaq, has proclaimed its support for a constitutional monarchy.

It is a verdict to “reassure the majority of the population of Bahrain that their security will not be allowed to be compromised by violence or attempts to overthrow the regime”, as indicated, in apparent seriousness, by a communication from the Authority of Informational Affairs, a governmental body. And this, before announcing that “The government hopes that the forthcoming National Dialogue will be an opportunity once again to unite the country and emerge with a broad consensus that will see further progress in a process of reforms”!

After the announcement of the verdict, described as a “shock” by the Wefaq, manifestations were held in numerous Shiite localities throughout the country. The United States, which has its Fifth Fleet installed at Bahrain, declared itself “concerned by the severity” of the punishments. And yet, did they not close their eyes during the Saudi military intervention, supported by the member states of the CCASG (Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf), to save the Bahraini monarchy? And did this same CCASG not support the NATO intervention in Libya? In reality, the inauguration of a parliamentary monarchy at Bahrain would have constituted a dangerous precedent for the petro-monarchic allies of Washington. It was therefore necessary to bloodily crush this uprising and to deprive Bahrain of its “spring”!

The Waad: authorised and secular party

Banned until April, following the repression of the protests in favour of democratic reforms, the authorities of Bahrain have lifted their ban on participation in politics of the only secular, left-wing party, the Waad. This is what was indicated last Saturday by Radhi Al Moussawi, spokesperson for the Waad. This good news did not prevent the sentencing to five years in prison for conspiracy of the party’s secretary general, Ibrahim Sharif.

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