Friday, February 22, 2013

Bahrain Update

From Angry Arab's cheif Bahrain correspondent:
" This is a good blogpost analyzing the recent Wall Street journal article on the Khawalid  (in fact the khawalid are this blogger’s specialty). Abdel Hadi Khalaf, as I have pointed out to you before, is a Bahraini leftist dissident and academic based in Sweden. I hope you get to meet him some day because you would really like him. The recent discovery of the Khawalid by the Western media is quite interesting. They are quite late as usual. Bahrainis have been talking about them for some time now, at least since the mid-2000s, and especially when the Bandar Report, detailing the regime’s political naturalization program. The King, which has the image of a reformist in the West, allowed the Khawalid to operate freely in Bahrain ever since his ascent to the throne while at the same time, allowing the Crown Prince to implement his economic reform projects (which may have actually accelerated the uprising as it lead to an increasing gap between the rich and the poor – Kind of like Bashar AlAssad economic reforms which Bassam AlHaddad talks about in a Jadaliyya article). This was extremely smart. As Bahrain implemented political naturalization and became increasingly repressive and sectarian, it also became more economically liberal. Political naturalization/sectarianism and the crackdown on dissent were the Kings insurance plan just in case the people aren’t satisfied with Bahrain’s economic reforms. As the same time, the economic reforms allowed the King to portray himself as a reformist. It is a stroke of genius I have to say but unfortunately for him, February 14, 2011 came along. Of course the sectarianism that the Khawalid nurtured among ordinary sunnis in Bahrain against the shia was quite useful during the uprising and the regime was able to portray the uprising as a shia threat against sunnism. Sunnis who participated in the uprising were placed on a list of sunni traitors and many of the prominent ones were arrested and severely tortured. Indeed, the sectarianism that resulted is quite unprecedented. During the intifada of the 1990s, I never heard derogatory terms such as safawis, majoos, rafidha, awlad almutaa etc. uttered in Bahrain. They are quite common now and you even hear these terms used on national television and in loyalist newspapers. Of course the rise of salafism and wahabism in the Arab world has made this even worse as has the role played by the sectarian government of Iraq. We never had religious extremists in Bahrain (well if we did they were a minority and were mostly ignored) and now they are extremely powerful. I can’t see this ending unless the entire Arab world moves away from political Islam.
Back to the Wall Street journal article, the new twist is the focus on the anti-western sentiment of the Khawalid. I like how the West nurtures the rise of these people and then all of a sudden freak out when they end up being anti-western. Of course so long as America’s interests are secure no one is going to care. After all the anti-western sentiment displayed by the Khawalid is all talk and for public consumption and is kept in check by the strong alliance between the regime and the US and Britain."