Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bahrain update

From Angry Arab's chief Bahrain correspondent:  "Something strange is happening. Bahrain rearrested Mohammad AlBuflasa. He was the uprising's first political prisoner. They kidnapped him and he went missing for a while until the government announced that they imprisoned him. They released him last July. He was very controversial because he was one of the few sunni salafis who openly supported the uprising and spoke at pearl roundabout, and even more extraordinary, he is a former army officer - remember that the regime only recruits loyalist families to the army. Sunni salafiis tend to be sunnis from an arab najdi background, whether tribal or not tribal. Because they share a common background with the royal family (as opposed to the baharna who are Bahrain's original inhabitants and the persian bahrainis), they tend to be staunchly loyal to the royal family. Most are actually not rich but they have guaranteed jobs in the army. Because AlBuflasa comes from this background, his speaking at the roundabout really pissed the regime off. However he was also one of the first prisoners of the uprising who was released. I think the regime realized that they went overboard because they were targeting members of what is traditionally thought of being their base. Now what is really interesting is that in the last few months, more people from this group have been criticizing the regime, the most prominent being Member of Parliament AlTamimi who openly called for the Prime Minister to resign. This was unprecedented - even AlBuflasa didn't go this far. I don't know how to read AlBuflasa's rearrest. After he was released he was forced to write a letter apologizing to the regime which was published in one of the pro-regime newspapers. Unlike high profile political prisoners who went straight back to openly criticizing the government Buflasa disappeared from the public eye. After a while he started tweeting but his tweets were limited to talk of unity and very vague criticisms. In the last two months or so, he became vocal again and started openly criticizing the government because he wasn't allowed to leave the country. At about the same time, AlTamimi called for the PM to resign and then his house was attacked in response to that. I think the regime is freaking out - it treated its base like shit (they had guaranteed jobs in the army but were otherwise very poor) because they thought that they would always be loyal to them no matter what (due to tribal allegiances). Now there are people from this base that are turning against them. Does this mean that there are more people that are silent? Does this mean that more people oppose the regime than we thought? Maybe, maybe not. A family member told me something really smart a few weeks ago - If someone isn't openly defending the regime (everyone in Bahrain is on twitter), then they are against the government. They might not want to overthrow the regime like Feb14 and they might even not want the same level of reforms that the legal opposition want, but they are definitely not loyalists. Otherwise they would be openly declaring their loyalty right?    
One more thing I remembered - attendance Gathering for the National Unity (jam3iyat alwi7da alwa6aniya), a loyalist group rally is support of the Bahraini-Saudi union was dismal. Where did all the government loyalists go? Well we know that a portion of them are part of the group of the Youth of AlFateh which is a splinter group of the Gathering for the National Loyalty that feel that the government is taking believe it or not too weak of a stance against the "traitors." But what about the rest who are not part of that group? Why was attendance so low? I mean the Saudi-Bahrain union is a central issue for the loyalists. So if very few of them attended, what does that tell you? Of course another problem with the Gathering for the National Unity (I think this is the english name for the organization but I'm not sure) is that they have no vision or goals other than opposing the opposition.
On the other hand, attendance opposition demonstration against the Saudi-Bahraini union was in the 10s of thousands.
There was a period of time that I started doubting that the opposition were the supermajority (always thought that they were the majority but was unclear by how much). I thought, especially because of political naturalization, that loyalists made up around 40% of the population. I think the number is much less especially if you count people who do not necessary support february 14 or the opposition but also do not support the government. This group is completely silentI (obviously there are people who support the opposition too that have been silenced but people generally know who they are).
I am not saying of course that the regime is weak. Far from it. They have managed to built a security apparatus that is completely loyal to the royal family. There is no chance of portions of the army defecting. On top of that you have the support of the US and Saudi Arabia."