Bahrain Updates (& elsewhere)

This is an email I send out to my friends, I’m posting it now for latest Bahrain updates.



Bahrain police brutally raid sleeping protest camp, several reported dead


Headlines for February 16, 2011


Bahrain Army Cracks down Hard on Protesters, kills 4, wounds 95

from Informed Comment by Juan

Bahrain’s king, Hamad Al Khalifa, ordered troops and tanks into Pearl Square in downtown Manama in the early hours of Thursday morning. They fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and used batons to clear the hundreds of demonstrators who had decided to stay the night in the square, killing four protesters and injuring 95. About 50 tanks were reportedly on their way to the site on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, thousands of protesters had come out to mourn the second of two dissidents who had been killed by police repressing earlier demonstrations.

Aljazeera English covers what happened during the day on Wednesday:


Then the military decided to move in to crush the dissident forces.

Then Aljazeera English on Wednesday night delivered the bad news:


The differences between Bahrain on the one hand and Tunisia & Egypt on the other are legion. But the strong ethnic and sectarian divide between the minority Sunni king and the majority Shiite population is key here. The military that crushed the mostly Shiite protesters on Thursday morning is Sunni. The secret police are Sunni (and sometimes even expatriate Pakistanis & etc.) If the Shiites got what they wanted, i.e. more democracy and a weaker monarchy, then the interests of the Sunni ruling class would be profoundly endangered.

In Bahrain’s case, the interest of the Saudi state in backing the Sunni monarchy, and fear that the Shiites would favor Iran, complicates the story regionally. Saudi Arabia is very wealthy and very nearby (a causeway connects the main island of Bahrain to the Saudi mainland, across which Saudi expatriates come in, and act as a support for the king against his own Shiite population).

Tunisia and Egypt are much more unified populations, mostly Sunni and Arab. The military in neither place was afraid that if the strong man was overthrown, some alien ethno-sectarian group might take over that would imperil the prerogatives of the existing Establishment. Nor were there big regional geopolitical divides, though of course the far rightwing Likud government of Israel preferred that Mubarak remain as strong man. It was not powerful in Egypt, however, while Saudi Arabia is powerful in Bahrain.

Both Tunisia and Egypt were class-based movements, protests of the blue and white collar workers. While economic grievances are important in Bahrain, they are being reworked as sectarian grievances, since most of the rural and small-town poor are Shiites.

There is still no guarantee that the Sunni government will succeed in repressing the movement of the Shiite majority for more democracy in Bahrain, but determination to use force against protesters does raise the cost of activism significantly, and sometimes can tamp it down.



Jordan’s dirty hands in Bahrain

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
A source in Bahrain sent me this: “of course there is a whole contingent of Jordanian military consultants as well as soldiers [in Bahrain], who either work for Bahraini security or are permanently seconded by the Jordanian army. They even live in a separate exclusive suburb in the country and do not mix with the Bahrainin people, unlike Jordanian expats working in the country who live among the Bahraini population. It is more than likely that they were involved in the massacre this morning in Bahrain.
You can post this without using my name,”



Bahrain police brutally raid sleeping protest camp, several reported dead

It’s no longer only one location in the Bahrain capital as the police move in to crush the protests. Al Jazeera:

An Al Jazeera correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, said on Thursday that “clashes were no longer limited to one place…they are now spread out in different parts of the city”.

There were also reports of dozens of armoured vehicles moving towards the Pearl Roundabout, the protest site that was raided by the riot police.

Heavily-armed police stormed the traffic circle while the protesters camping overnight were asleep.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Salmaniya hospital, the main medical facility in Manama, Maryama Alkawaka of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said that she saw dozens of injured demonstrators being wheeled into emergency rooms early on Thursday morning.

Live update from Bahrain

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
A comrade who should remain anonymous: “The following numbers are straight from the hospital in Bahrain

  • 5 dead, 2000 young adults injured, 400 elderly injured, 250 women injured, 70 children injured… 300 of the mentioned in critical condition
  • Police have attacked ambulance crews
  • blood donars heading to the hospital attacked.  Only people that can safely go to the hospital are doctors and nurses with IDS
Also twitter feed of army tanks in capital:”

Split in the royal family in Bahrain?

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
Again: I can’t reveal the source:  “From people connected to high people in the government and wish to remain absolutely anonymous.  Please spread the word:

– There is a split within the royal family.  Khalid bin Ahmed and Khalifa bin Ahmed are on one side and the King and Shaikh Salman on the other.  The extreme violence are Khalid Bin Ahmed (head of the royal court – sectarian and racist responsible for political naturalization scheme) and Khalifa Bin Ahmed (minister of defense).  Sources are saying that the King no longer has full control.  There are outside forces (I’m guessing Saudi Arabia) pushing for these two to take over and for Nasir Bin Hamed (one of kings sons) to take over position of crown prince
(again please I need to be completely anonymous if you post – sorry I keep repeating this – we now feel we are in a war)
Thank you so much for your help”

Where is Aljazeera in Bahrain?

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
A source that I can’t identify sent me this from Bahrain:  “do not quote

Got home half an hour before the attack. I’m in absolute shock. Four confirmed dead, and hundreds injured, with around 100 army tanks on the street, they are raiding homes and arresting people. There was no warning before that attack and they did it Israeli-style, attacking at 3am while half the people were asleep and the other half chilling out. The mercenaries that they use have been trained in one policy : shoot-to-kill. The King and his government have blood on their hands. The US and the international community has blood on their hands, because they gave the green light for this to happen.
Aljazeera left us to get slaughtered. If we had a live satellite link up they wouldn’t have dared do this. Shame on Hamad bin Khalifa and the double-standards.”

From Aljazeera English

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
The source does not want to be cited by name: “Dear As’ad,

You might remember that I work for Aljazeera (English), and the network is being criticized heavily for its lack of presence in Bahrain. I see many people are upset Aljazeera didn’t have a satellite link covering the Lulu Roundabout crowd, as they did on Tahrir Square.
We’ve been covering this story nonstop since it happened before dawn this morning. I’m not sure what the Arabic channel is doing, I haven’t had a chance to watch it, but so far we’re working exactly the way we did when covering Egypt. We’ve been talking to witnesses and protesters on the ground and putting them on air nonstop, and are still going. That’s exactly how we covered Tahrir. It should be worth noting though that Aljazeera has been banned in Bahrain for a while now. We’re using unnamed reporters, but its hard getting more in as Bahrain has also ceased giving visas on arrival.
You don’t have to publish this (if you do please don’t use my name of course) but I thought you should know that there has been no deliberate attempt to tone down the coverage.”


Defying Government Repression, Yemeni Protests Continue for 6th Day

YemenAnti-government demonstrations in Yemen have entered their sixth day as student demonstrators were beaten by pro-government supporters armed with batons, stones and daggers. The protesters are calling for the immediate resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country for three decades. The protests have forced President Saleh to cancel a trip to Washington, D.C., scheduled for next month. Yemen is a key ally of the United States in the region, and President Obama is proposing to bolster strategic ties. We speak with Iona Craig, a journalist based in the Yemeni capital Sana’a. [includes rush transcript]


“The Regime is Running Scared:” Algerian Forces Crack Down on Pro-Democracy Protests

AlgeriaAlgeria has also seen a recent wave of protests. Witnesses say riot police have blocked a planned march in the capital Algiers and arrested hundreds of demonstrators. “The regime is running scared,” says Algerian blogger and activist Elias Filali. “I have never seen a heavier police presence in my entire life.” [includes rush transcript]



The New Republic of South Sudan

Why has there been no news on the new republic of South Sudan which was brought into being with enthusiastic US support?  The forces of the government there killed more than 200 people–mostly civilians–in southern Sudan but the news did not make it into the press in the US.  I don’t expect celebrities to speak out against the forces of southern Sudan and their massacres.

Egypt Situation Still Explosive

from Informed Comment by Juan

The military government of Gen. Mohammad Hussein Tantawi, the minister of defense, has taken important steps toward mollifying the Jan. 25 protest movement, but it is not clear that these measures can succeed in forestalling further clashes and severe conflicts in Egypt.

The government has appointed respected jurist Tareq al-Bishri to head a committee charged with amending the 1973 constitution, which had been subject to large numbers of changes that benefited the ruling National Democratic Party. The committee working on these amendments, aimed at creating a framework for free and fair parliamentary elections in late summer or early fall, includes a Coptic Christian and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a major element in the opposition. Bishri is known as a pious Muslim, not an extremist.

Human rights organizations complained that the committee had no women on it, was not representative, and had a distinctly conservative cast.

The government says that the amended constitution will be produced within 10 days and then put to a national referendum within two months. The swiftness with which it is working, and the resort to a mechanism for popular affirmation of the constitution, both received some acclaim even from sections of the protest movement, though other branches of it are unconvinced.

The military has also just pledged to meet another major demand of the protest movement, to abolish the emergency laws that have suspended civil liberties for nearly 30 years before Egypt goes to the polls in the fall.

France24 has video


Among the big changes being contemplated is moving Egypt to a form of government more like that of Britain, i.e. a parliamentary system with power vested in a prime minister who comes out of the elected legislature. As it is, Egypt more resembles France and the US, in having an independently elected, powerful presidency whose prerogatives curb those of parliament (or Congress). The presidential system in the Middle East has often deteriorated into dictatorship and presidents-for-life. Democratization theorists in the US agree that this move would be a good idea.

The constitutional changes are not putting food on anyone’s table, and workers are continuing to strike, in defiance of military strictures. On Wednesday some 10,000 textile workers at al-Mahallah al-Kubra went on strike. Bank workers, transportation workers, even police and ambulance drivers, have engaged in work stoppages and have demanded better wages and working conditions.

Euronews has video on the strikes:




The latest from the military council ruling Egypt

from Jonathan Wright by Jonathan
Here are some generally reassuring remarks by members of the ruling military council, published in the state newspaper al-Ahram on Wednesday. The council, as part of an attempt to reach out to the public, spoke to the editors of all Egyptian newspapers – state, private and opposition party. By the way, I stopped buying al-Ahram about a year ago because it was no longer worth reading most of the time. Now it’s changed 180 degrees, but I suppose that’s what state papers do when there’s a sudden change at the top. After dismissing the protest movement for many days, the banner headline on Feb. 12 was “The people overthrow the regime”. The remarks by the military are either a clever deception or evidence of a surprising openmindedness, probably the latter. I give them raw for lack of time:
Citizens have the right to get angry, rebel and work to overthrow the regime, but no one has the right to try to bring down the state. The armed forces are not seeking power and do not wish to stay in power. They are fully aware that the current situation imposed itself on them against their will.
We are trying hard to finish our task before six months are up, so that our term of work does not exceed that period.
The supreme council hopes to finish its mission and hand the state over to a president who is elected properly and freely in a way that expresses the inclinations of the people and to an elected legislative and executive authority properly elected by the people, so that we have a democratic republic.
For such a process to succeed, there must be a calm atmosphere. The current atmosphere of unrest, strikes and disturbances does not help in reaching that objective.
The Youth Revolution was clean and all its demands were natural, but now everyone everywhere is looking for a role. Thugs, highwaymen and  thieves are looking for a role, and that is an obstacle to progress.
Every sector has the right to claim whatever it sees due, but this is not the right time for that, though they do have the right to make their demands.
The economic situation is difficult and the daily losses as a result of disruptions to business are dissipating our resources and will lead to economic collapse if they continue, so we cannot meet the demands of citizens who see their demands as a right.
It is important that people confine themselves to accusations announced by the public prosecutor, because giving the impression that everyone is a thief has a demoralising effect, and we are at a delicate stage during which the people’s morale must be maintained.
There are strict controls over the movement of private planes, and steps to prevent people smuggling money abroad.
We do not have a magic wand to eliminate corruption, but we will not allow any new corruption. Ninety perecent of what has been published about corruption in the old regime is not true.
All citizens hope the police force will get back to work and everyone is suffering greatly from the absence of the police. The armed forces cannot stop houses being burgled because tanks cannot be used for that purpose. The neighbourhood watch groups cannot prevent thuggery, so everyone must support the return of the police.
Before January 25 we had supporters and opponents of the regime. Now there is no longer a regime to either support or oppose.
Everyone must understand that former president Mubarak is gone and we must not come out and revile him in public or make up stories about a man who has a history of military and civilian achievements and who had a great role, and who also made mistakes.
The president gave up power and saved the country from a disaster the extent of which only God knows. If he had not done so, disaster would have struck and people would have killed each other. He should be given credit for giving up power and for staying in Egypt.

Riots rock Libya; protesters call “day of rage”

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

Hundreds of protesters clashed with police and government supporters the night of Feb. 15 in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, after human rights lawyer Fathi Tarbel was arrested. Police used water cannon and teargas against what began as a protest begun by relatives of prisoners killed in a 1996 massacre who were demanding the release of the lawyer. Opposition supporters have called for a nationwide “day of rage” on Feb. 17. Several journalists and longtime dissident Idris al-Mismari are reported detained. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were all briefly blocked, as were AlJazeera and al-Arabiya television. State TV showed crowds of pro-government supporters shouting slogans in Tripoli’s Green Square. Reports of two killed in the street fighting could not be confirmed. (The Guardian, Feb. 16)

read more




Manama: A US-Saudi accord

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
The US had to plot the repression of Bahrain to appease Saudi Arabia and other Arab tyrants who were mad at Obama for not defending Mubarak to the every end.  (Of course, the man did what he could, but the people’s rage was overwhelming).

“Deep differences” between pro-US dictatorships and anti-US dictatorships

Even the New York Times noticed: “Dealing with other countries in the region is more complicated, however, particularly if they are strategic allies — which was true of Egypt and which prompted criticism that the White House was initially reluctant to put more pressure on such a crucial partner. The same complexities apply to Bahrain, an island state that is home to the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet.   Two protesters have been killed in Bahrain. The authorities also blocked a video channel that was carrying images uploaded by demonstrators in Pearl Square, a traffic circle the protesters have dubbed Bahrain’s Tahrir Square.  But on Tuesday, Mr. Obama did not mention the violence in Bahrain and chose to draw his distinction between Egypt’s successful uprising and the 2009 crackdown in Iran.

“What’s been different is the Iranian government’s response, which is to shoot people and beat people and arrest people,” he said.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton drew a similar distinction in a speech on Tuesday on Internet freedom. Both Egypt and Iran temporarily shut down the Web and cellphone networks, she said.  In Iran, she said, “after the authorities raided homes, attacked university dorms, made mass arrests, tortured and fired shots into crowds, the protests ended. In Egypt, however, the story ended differently.”  In addition to those two countries, Mrs. Clinton listed China, Cuba and Syria as other nations that have censored Facebook and other social networking services.  A senior administration official said the White House had been consistent in calling for all these countries to respond to the demands of their frustrated young people, to allow them to assemble freely and to avoid violence.  But the official said there were deep differences between Iran and Bahrain.”

As Mideast “Rolling Revolution” Grows, U.S. Denounces Iranian Crackdown — But Stays Silent on Key Ally Bahrain

Go-out2011 is shaping up to be an historic year in the Middle East and North Africa with the populist uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and the massive street protests across the region. Libya, Bahrain and Iran are the latest countries to be hit by a wave of popular protests. While President Obama has openly criticized Iran’s crackdown on protesters, he has said nothing critical about Bahrain, a close U.S. ally, where two protesters have been killed since Monday. We speak with Human Rights Watch researcher Faraz Sanei. [includes rush transcript]


promoting democracy in Egypt?

“US aid “covers as much as 80% of the [Egyptian] Defense Ministry’s weapons procurement costs,” estimates CRS.  What about aid to Egypt intended to promote democracy? Oh yeah, that. It’s been cut in recent years, and since 2009 has sat at about $20 million annually. Most of that has gone to Egyptian-approved government-to-government projects.  The bottom line here is that the impact of US democracy efforts in Egypt “has been limited,” in the words of a recent State Department Inspector General report.”

Obama pushes for democracy in Yemen: impressive

“The United States aims to spend $75 million to double the size of a special Yemeni counter-terrorism unit, a U.S. official said on Monday.”



Obama pushes for democracy in Jordan

“With protests rocking the Middle East, the Obama administration is reaching out to King Abdullah II of Jordan, trying to reassure a badly shaken ally of its support even as it calls for greater political freedom across the Arabworld.”

Innocents abroad

“After Mr. Davis shot the men, he photographed their bodies and called for help on his cellphone. An S.U.V. from the American Consulate in Lahore rushed to the scene and knocked over a motorcyclist who later died…The police investigation said that the S.U.V. carried a fake license plate. Some gear fell from that vehicle as it sped away, including 100 bullets, four battery cells and a piece of cloth with an American flag stamped on it, the report said.  In Mr. Davis’s car, the gear included the Glock pistol and ammunition, a variety of flashlights, a long wrench, and a small packet of what is known as naswar, a mild narcotic commonly used in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan adjacent to Afghanistan, the police report said.”



Anzalone: The Muslim Brotherhood Myth

from Informed Comment by Juan

Christopher Anzalone writes in a guest column for Informed Comment:

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood & the Demonstrations: Fact vs. Fiction

Since the start of mass popular protests by Egyptians against their country’s autocratic government, headed by the aging president Hosni Mubarak and his new vice president, Omar Suleiman, a great deal of attention has been paid to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun). Attention on the opposition movement has been particularly heavy and skewed in the United States where pundits from both the left and the right breathlessly claim that the Brotherhood is poised to take over Egypt in a repeat of what happened in 1979-1980 in Iran and erroneously tie the Egyptian movement to Usama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda Central. Much of this analysis is based on fallacies and conjecture rather than fact.

The claim that al-Qaeda emerged seamlessly from the Brotherhood is the most egregious claim that has been made. Pundits who make this claim point to former members of the movement such as al-Qaeda’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Salam Faraj who founded militant jihadi-takfiri groups that declared Muslims with whom they disagreed to be apostates. A fact that it usually left out is that these individuals left the Brotherhood after it swore off the use of violence to achieve its ends. Al-Zawahiri, who had been an Brotherhood activist at age 14, was particularly bitter about the movement’s “betrayal” of “Islamic principles” and in the 1990s he wrote a lengthy monograph harshly criticizing it entitled The Bitter Harvest: The Muslim Brotherhood in 60 Years. For its part, the Brotherhood frequently condemns al-Qaeda in its public statements and positions.

The ghost of Sayyid Qutb, perhaps the Brotherhood’s most well-known member, is another recurring connection used to paint the movement as inherently militant and radical. The Egyptian litterateur-turned-Islamist revolutionary ideologue was imprisoned for a decade by Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasir’s government and eventually executed by it in 1966. Journalists and pundits looking for an easy answer to the “root causes” of jihadi-takfiri groups such as al-Qaeda frequently point to Qutb and the medieval Hanbali Sunni jurist Ibn Taymiyya. Although Qutb was clearly a revolutionary and radical thinker and the Brotherhood’s position toward him has been ambiguous in many ways, past analysis of Qutb and his thought have been based on, at best, a shallow reading of a fraction of his many writings.

John Calvert, a professor of Middle East history, has written what will become the standard scholarly study of Qutb, Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism. Rather than study only one segment of Qutb’s life and thought, Calvert examines his entire life and tracks the evolution of his thought. Calvert points to the ambiguity of much of Qutb’s writings as one of the causes for their use by extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and Egypt’s al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group), the latter of which has since renounced violence. Far from being an apologia for Qutb, Calvert’s book takes a holistic approach to examining Qutb’s life and thought. He and other scholars also point out that Hasan al-Hudaybi, the “general guide” of the Brotherhood during Qutb’s lifetime, wrote an influential book entitled Preachers, Not Judges in which he was critical of many of Qutb’s ideas. Ultimately, though Qutb was certainly a radical, revolutionary Islamist thinker his ideas alone did not create al-Qaeda and like-minded groups. As Calvert shows, many of these groups actually take positions that are contradictory to what Qutb was arguing. Al-Qaeda is instead best seen as a group that has taken selectively from a myriad of different sources, including Qutb and Ibn Taymiyya, and combined them with positions espoused by ideologues such as al-Zawahiri to create a new, hybrid ideology.

Longtime scholars of the Brotherhood have cast doubts on exaggerated claims that the movement will be swept into power in a post-Mubarak/post-authoritarian Egypt. In fact, many doubt that the movement has the power to take over the entire country even if it wanted to. The Brotherhood, though the oldest and arguably best organized opposition group in the country, currently suffers from a number of ills. First, it is beset with a generation gap between the older generation of leaders, such as the current general guide Muhammad Badi‘a, and a younger generation that has sought to change the movement’s policies on a host of issues including the role of women in leadership positions and Coptic Christians. The Brotherhood is in fact no longer the dominant force that it was in the past. As a movement it has lost a lot of credibility in recent years after allowing itself to be co-opted by the Mubarak government says Khalid Medani, a professor of political science and Islamic studies at McGill University who has conducted extensive field work in Egypt including interviews with the movement’s members representing various veins of thought within it. Despite remaining the country’s largest formally organized opposition group the Brotherhood is failing to attract many new members, he says.

Although it eventually decided to participate in the January 25 demonstrations in Egypt the Brotherhood only announced its decision two days before. Its endorsement was also far from enthusiastic. Following the unprecedented size and staying power of the mass popular demonstrations against the Mubarak’s authoritarian government, the Brotherhood took a much more proactive approach in supporting the demonstrators. To date it has released eight official statements, including three signed by Badi‘a. In them the movement has been careful to not claim leadership of the demonstrations and instead says that it is simply one party among many that make up the opposition. Observers on the ground have noted that the Brotherhood is not the most visible or powerful voice represented among the hundreds of thousands to millions of demonstrators who have defied government curfews and violence to continue calling for their civil and human rights.

The Brotherhood has joined other opposition groups and demonstrators in calling for the resignation of Mubarak, the abolition of the “emergency law” that has been in place since 1981 when Mubarak came to power, the holding of new elections that are actually free and fair, the release of all political prisoners, substantial amendment of the constitution, and the prosecution of government officials who have ordered the use of violence against the demonstrators. The movement has also been careful to explain its decision to enter into cautious talks with the government, which is increasingly under the public direction of Vice President Suleiman. Thus far, the Brotherhood remains unconvinced by the government’s claims that it is trying to address the popular will of the Egyptian people.

Although it is far from being a force for social or political liberalism, certainly of the kind that is desired by progressives in the U.S. and Europe, the Brotherhood is also not the all-powerful Islamist bogeyman and twin sister of al-Qaeda that it is often portrayed as. Facing its own internal divisions and problems of legitimacy among the Egyptian public, the Brotherhood is unlikely to be able to “seize control” of the country even if it wanted to. Its internal problems are recognized by no one more clearly than by the Brotherhood itself, which has been careful not to further alienate the Egyptian people who have collectively led the popular uprising against authoritarianism that continues to defy an aging autocrat’s decrees even in the face of extreme state violence.

Christopher Anzalone is a doctoral student in the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University.



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