Bahrain Revolution Refuses To Die

Stuart Ramsay, Chief Correspondent
Bahrain Revolution Refuses To Die

For the past 19 months or so, men and women in Bahrain have been protesting every single night of the week against the government and the kingdom's royal family for failing to bring about democratic change.

They are almost exclusively Shia Muslims and they march around their run-down villages shouting slogans before they inevitably veer towards a main road to be met by the police.

The demonstrations are broken up with tear gas and youths then replace the marchers and throw petrol bombs.

It is a depressing cycle of pointless violence that is masking legitimate concerns about Bahrain's future and tarnishing the right of people in their own country to protest.

The government, its security apparatus and the large, often vocal, British ex-pat community, amongst others, can hide behind the "Molotov cocktails" - citing them as proof that this is not an actual call for change, but an opportunity for a "ruck" with the police.

Few, if any, will venture into the poor villages that surround the capital or see the miles of anti-government graffiti painted over by the police.

If a lifestyle is under threat, those enjoying the good life have a tendency to do what they can to ignore some pretty stark facts of life.

The international community, the United Nations, Bahrain's own commissioned independent inquiry and pretty much every mainstream human rights group in the world, have concluded, without so much as a caveat, that Bahrain violated rights, tortured, killed and oversaw an utterly corrupt legal system during the "Arab Spring" demonstrations of 2011.

The government accepted, in as good a grace as it could muster, that the findings were about right and promised changes.

There have been some.

The police don't use live rounds any more. A substantial number of marches are allowed. The judiciary doesn't hand out ludicrously long sentences for "Illegal" gatherings, just shorter ones. Journalists can get visas and work, all be it with tremendous restrictions (I have been arrested three times in two days).

The constitution is being worked on and amended. Efforts are being made to introduce community policing. The government is promising a root and branch change in the way the country works and it will be overseen by the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has had the job for 42 years so he should be well qualified by now, one might hope.

That is the problem. There isn't much hope if you are Shia, the majority of the country, and don't have the right to own your own taxi, for example.

A really nice place with really nice people and a really tiny population (about 1.2 million and nearly half are foreigners) should be really nice for the whole population. But it isn't.

The disconnect between the elite and the masses is so remarkable it is hard to express in words.

The minority really don't "get it". They are failing to take on board what has been said and even agreed internally, in any substantive way and they will pay the price if they continue to ignore real grievances and real demands.

The main stream of political opposition does not want regime change but a proper stake in Bahrain's really quite bountiful pie.

Bahrain has done more than most to embrace "changes", when one compares it to the countries that make up the Arabian peninsula.

That the others are hopelessly far behind the curve does not make Bahrain's changes any less inadequate - they are just taking the heat for now. It will get hotter if it doesn't face and embrace some hard facts of life.

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