The pro-democracy rally at Bahrain’s Lulu Roundabout was brought to a violent end at 3am this morning when police launched a brutal assault against what at that time were mostly sleeping protesters.
Was this one of the “difficulties along the way” down “the democratic path that Bahrain is walking on” for the nation Hillary Clinton described as a “model partner” for the US less than three months ago?
When security forces launch a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, killing five, injuring hundreds and then the government prevents ambulances reaching the injured, there’s only one way this can be described: state terrorism.
And when the state in which this is occurring, Bahrain, is of preeminent importance to the US government because it serves as the base for the US Fifth Fleet and US naval operations in the Gulf, this becomes US-back state terrorism.
Mealy-mouthed statements from the White House on the need for “both sides” to exercise restraint and avoid violence, do nothing to disguise American complicity as yet again Washington attempts to shield one of its allies.
Here’s some of what the New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof has reported in the last few hours:
- At hospital in #Bahrain. 600 brought here w/ injuries as of 8 am, more since. Beatings, shotgun pellets, rubber bullets.
- Nurse told me she saw handcuffed prisoner beaten by police, then executed with gun.
- Abt 10 ambulance paramedics attacked by #Bahrain police. I interviewed them, saw their injuries.
- #Bahrain govt has ordered ambulances to stop going out, hospital says.
- 1 #Bahrain ambulance driver told me #Saudi army officer held gun to his head, said wld kill him if helped injured.
- Witnesses say #Bahrain police cursed Shia as they attacked peaceful demonstrators. I haven’t found 1 Sunni victim.
- Crowd growing at main #Bahrain hospital, chanting slogans against royal family. Will govt attack them here?
- In morgue, I spoke to brother of 22 year old killed by police shotgun blast. He says King Hamad must step down.
Maryam Alkhawaja from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights tweets that “several Bahraini officers are being prosecuted for refusing to take part in violence against peaceful protesters.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International provides the following chilling account of torture conducted by the Egyptian army, just days before Hosni Mubarak stepped down:
An 18-year-old secondary school student from Cairo told Amnesty International that he was tortured after he was arrested at about 1500hrs on 3 February 2011 by soldiers near Tahrir Square:
“I was walking with a friend towards the square when soldiers stopped us and asked for our IDs. They seemed to be suspicious of my friend, because he holds a UK residence permit. They took us to the area museum which is controlled by the army and held us there in an outdoor area. After some while we were blindfolded and handcuffed and I could not see what happened to my friend. I could only hear him screaming and believe he was severely beaten. I was only slapped in the face but not severely beaten while held at the museum.
“That night we were transferred to another location about 30 minutes away from Tahrir Square. When we got out we had to lie down on the floor and were beaten. Then I was taken for interrogation where they insulted me and my family. They said things one should not say. They took off my handcuffs, because they ordered me to take off my clothes, except my underwear, but I remained blindfolded. Then they handcuffed me again and tied my legs. They put a chain or rope to my legs and lifted me up, so that my head was hanging down. From time to time they would let me down into a barrel that was filled with water. They told me to confess that I was trained by Israel or by Iran. They also put electric shocks to my body and I fainted. This continued for several hours. After the torture finished I was so exhausted that I slept for hours.
“The next day I was taken in a group of about 30 people to another location, which – as I learned later – was Sign al-Harbi [a military prison at El Heiksteb, northeast of Cairo]. When we got out of the vehicle our blindfolds were taken off and soldiers started beating us with whips and truncheons. There are still scares on my back from the beatings. We were lead to our cells where I soon fell asleep. They kept beating us, including when we went to the bathroom. The last days of my detention I refused to eat to protest against the treatment. Finally we were released. They left us on the road to Cairo and told us to walk back.”
He was released with hundreds of other detainees from the military prison on 10 February 2011. Amnesty International delegates interviewed him several days later when scars were still visible on his back.
During an era in which Americans have been told that the threat from terrorism should be preeminent among this nation’s national security concerns, the gravest omission in public debate on this issue has been consideration of the relationship between state-sanctioned brutality and terrorism.
We have been led to believe that terrorism arising in the Middle East is spawned by extremist Islamist ideology while overlooking its much more transparent secular roots: the willingness of autocratic rulers to use violence as an instrumental and indispensable tool through which they can exercise and sustain their power.
When the word “stability” gets bandied around as though it was describing a condition of civic calmness and social order, we should remember that when someone has a gun pointed to their head they are able to sit in perfect stillness — this is stability under the threat of violence, the condition in which most people in the Middle East have lived for generations.
Where violence provides the backbone of governance, should we be surprised that similar forms of brutality would be adopted by some individuals and groups that want to challenge their rulers? And should we imagine that when these rulers are counted as America’s friends, that the US could provide its support with impunity?
What we should really marvel at is the fact that people across the region are now rising in their thousands driven, in part, by the audacious idea that non-violence can overcome violence.