While the majority of the world celebrated the start of the new year with champagne, fireworks, parties, and friends, the people of Bahrain took to the streets hoping to let the world know that the revolution that was started almost a year ago hasn’t died.
Since the government of Bahrain is reluctant to allow foreign journalists in, and the American government is somehow more reluctant to air the story, the best way to get the scoop is from the people of Bahrain themselves, and the easiest way to do that is Twitter. Though there are many Bahraini’s with Twitter accounts who actively tweet about the actions of protesters and the oppressive government, @AngryArabiya, AKA Zainab al-Khawaja, is by far the most active and prolific Bahrain “tweeter” I’ve found. Nearly all of the information in this post, pictures included, have come from her. Indeed, this is mostly a summary of her accounts of the events that took place on New Years Eve, and January 1st.
Warning: graphic images to follow.
As the dawn was breaking on the American East Coast, and thousands of people were filling Times Square for the New Years Eve bash, the people of Bahrain were taking to the streets in their villages to peacefully protest the monarchy that continues to oppress them. As @AngryArabiya drove through villages, she commented on how no one seemed to be in their homes, that everyone – men, women, children and the elderly – had taken to the streets in a peaceful, pro-democracy demonstration.
A hopeful family flashes @AngryArabiya the victory sign. They believe, eventually, that their continued protests will gain the attention and support of countries like America.
Poets and scholars spoke to the crowds with inspiring messages to unite all groups and sects together against the regime that holds them all down. After only a few hours, the riot police arrive and begin systematically attacking villages and targeting homes. Almost immediately after the riot police move in, reports of injuries and arrests begin to circulate. Afraid of their behavior being documented and shared with the world, the police start taking phones, including stopping the car of a deaf man, screaming at him and his two daughters and taking all of their phones.
The police spared no one. A 15 year old boy, Seyed Hashim, was shot multiple times at close range with teargas canisters. He was hit on his neck, and in his chest, causing him to bleed from his mouth. At least 4 of his fellow protesters, (3 boys and 1 woman) tried to get to Hashim, but each time they tried they were shot at. The police peppered the ground with teargas to keep everyone back. Finally, one man managed to get to Hashim, but even he was pelted with teargas and beaten severely enough to end up in an ICU.
Hashim's face and head wound after he was prepared for his funeral.
His chest wound
15yr old Hashim next to his friend, 14yr old Ali. Killed within a month of each other by teargas marked "nonlethal". The boys are now buried next to each other.
Infuriated by the actions of the riot police, the protesters stood firm and refrained from any sort of violent retaliation. Still, the police continued to fire teargas into the crowds.
This amount of teargas is not unusual, and is, in fact, a common sight as protesters refuse to be discouraged and take to the street daily proclaiming, "down, down, Hamad".
The next day, January 1st, was Hashim’s funeral. The police had shut down the roads leading to the village where the funeral was being held, and told people at roadblocks that they were not allowed to attend the funeral. Soon after the funeral procession started the riot police arrived, firing teargas into the crowd of mourners. One mourner was shot in the head with teargas, as he was trying to urge a group of women to move back, for their safety. For his concern he gained a fractured skull. The nearest hospital was a private hospital, and when he arrived, they refused to treat him. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon, since doctors can be arrested and tortured as enemies of the state for treating injured protesters. The man had to be driven to a large public hospital in a nearby city.
Since many people who wanted to attend the funeral were kept away by riot police road blocks, towns held separate memorials carrying symbolic coffins to honor the boy who was killed. They too were attacked by riot police, resulting in more serious injuries.
Undeterred, the services and protests carried into the night. Protesters had their evening prayers in the streets by candlelight, in a haze of teargas.
Protesters praying by candlelight side-by-side.
Bahrain is an ally of America. The people of Bahrain are educated, many of the protesters are lawyers and doctors, it isn’t some African backwater where tribal fighting has gone on for ages. The capital of Bahrain is a “real” city, with high-rise bank buildings. The people that are being arrested, tortured, and killed are innocent people who believe that they have a right to democracy and refuse to be ruled by an oppressive monarchy any longer. They are willing to die because they believe that freedom is a right due to all human beings. I can’t really think of anything more American than that. But America’s role in this is much worse than indifference.
The nonlethal weapons that are killing their children are made in America and sold to Bahrain with our government’s consent. There is currently a proposed sale of $53 million to lethal weapons to Bahrain. This can’t happen. Please contact your representatives and let them know that it will betray everything that America claims it stands for if this sale goes through.
America, “World Police”, seems readily available to invade most foreign countries where we perceive – or in some cases maybe manifest – oppression as long as we can benefit. What about the people of Bahrain? Bahrain is a strategic ally in the Middle East, populated with educated people and professionals, not Islamic extremists. They are looking to America, the champion of all things Democracy, for salvation. In return, their children are being killed by teargas labeled, “Made in America”. Be sure that if the people of Bahrain get their way and become a democracy, we will have made ourselves a sound enemy. Not only that, but we will have proven the world, and especially those in the Middle East, right. America is not actually out to help the “little guy” overthrow his evil oppressor. We’re opportunistic imperialists, exploiting the circumstances of those who may or may not want our help in order to gain something for ourselves. If that’s the case, what’s left about America to believe in or be proud of?
How much worse will it be for Christians if this turns out to be the case? Our beloved America, “founded on Christian principles” stalwart guardian of family, freedom, and the inalienable rights of all people, is proven to be a greedy imperialist, willing to throw innocent, democracy-seeking people under the bus because it’s convenient for us. America is known the world over as a “Christian” nation. The actions of our government in response to Bahrain should have all American Christians enraged. The government represents us, the people, to the world by their actions and inactions. Let your government know what a poor job they are doing of representing you, and if they don’t change their ways, remind them that they can easily be replaced. With “politician” being the only good job left in this country, that should be a pretty forceful threat.
Spread the news about the revolution in Bahrain, and the role that America is playing in it. It is not in mainstream American news. It’s our right as Americans to know how our country is representing us to the world – the media and government shouldn’t be able to keep us in the dark about that. Keep yourself informed by following people like @angryarabiya on Twitter, and searching the internet for news. There are independent Bahraini news groups and individuals who risk their lives to try and get their story to the world. Don’t let them labor in vain.
As always, continue to pray for the people of Bahrain who take to the streets daily to demand their God-given rights. God is stronger than their oppressors, and He can set them free.
Read the new Foreign Policy article titled “Bahrain’s Revolutionaries” for a good “behind the scenes” look at how all the protests are being organized and the effect they’re having.