Pearl Roundabout was home to massive protests in Manama in February 2011. More than 200,000 people took to streets to call for substantive administrative reforms. Saudi Arabian intervention in Bahrain uprising took place only one month after the set-off of the rise. On 14 March, and decided by Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the intervention started with 1000 (or 1200) troops with vehicles directing for Manama, the capital of Bahrain by Saudis. “wheeled, light-armored vehicles with roof-mounted heavy machine guns” rushed for the center of protests to suppress the peaceful protests and dissidents by thousands of people in the capital.
The intervention was at the request of Al-Khalifa, Bahraini ruling family, who found no way to oppress the protesting people and control the streets. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia did the mission for various reasons. Bahrain had already been Saudis’ trading partner and loss of oil fields, investment, and processing plants was not desirable for the invading country. Besides, Saudis would lose “the key conservative Sunni ally.”
A major part of Bahrain’s population is Shia, while its rulers are Sunni. However, while the protests were started by Shia in February 2011, the Sunnis who wanted democracy and personal freedom joined the movement soon. What Saudis most feared about Bahrain’s movement was a domino effect in which the protests and potential reforms would cross the borders to other Arab countries of the region including their own monarchy. Concerned about the effect of change in Bahrain and its influence in Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, then the king of Saudi Arabia, did what he could to halt the movements towards democracy in Bahrain.
Abduction, torture, and murdering more than 40 citizens during the military intervention was the heir of Saudis for Bahrain. In 2014, more than 5000 Saudi and Emirati forces and 7000 us troops were reported to be posited near Pearl Roundabout, the center of protests. The Role of western countries, especially US and UK in arming and encouraging Saudi intervention is of great significance.
The United States hosts “United States Navy Fifth Fleet” in Bahrain since 1947. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are two of the main customers of American arms in the region. Besides, US and UK provide the two countries with professional military trainings. The modernization program and public order enforcement measures consecutively by US and UK has been done for long years and for sure aided Saudis in oppressing the Protests in Manama. The double standard used by western countries on democracy and human rights in different countries made the British Parliamentary member Jonathan Edwards say:
This is the shocking face of our democracy to many people in the world, as we prop up regimes of this sort… it is intensely hypocritical of our leadership in the United Kingdom.
These and other events indicates that the United States and its western allies do not find democratic movements in the Middle East in line with their aims in the region. The use of Saudi as a regional shield to hinder the public movements was a strategy to slower losing their influence in the region.
Saudi intervention helped Al-Khalifa and its forces revitalize their strength and restart arrestments and incarcerations of political and human rights activists. Prosecution and long detentions reduced the possibility of imminent reform in Bahrain. Religious influential persons in the country were either house arrested, or put to prison to hinder any possibility of the rejuvenation of the movement.
The latest one of these was Sheikh Isa Qassim, the Shia cleric who has been given a one-year sentence to prison. This takes place after last week’s meeting between Donald Trump, the US president, and Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain King in Riyadh in which the former expressed his full military and financial support for the ruling monarchy in Bahrain. The sentence was objected by some freelance writers and independent human rights organizations while others preferred to keep silent.
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