|"Shia Muslims protest during a funeral in Sitra, Bahrain. The island nation is convulsed by hatred." (AFP/Getty Images)|
By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent, May 15, 2011
"'Let us drown the revolution in Jewish blood' was the slogan of the tsars when they orchestrated pogroms against Jews across Russia in the years before the First World War. The battle-cry of the al-Khalifa monarchy in Bahrain ever since they started to crush the pro-democracy protests in the island kingdom two months ago might well be 'to drown the revolution in Shia blood.' Just as the tsars once used Cossacks to kill and torture Jews and burn their synagogues, so Bahrain's minority Sunni regime sends out its black-masked security forces night after night to terrorise the majority Shia population for demanding equal political and civil rights. Usually troops and police make their raids on Shia districts between 1am and 4am, dragging people from their beds and beating them in front of their families. Those detained face mistreatment and torture in prison. One pro-democracy activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, brought before a military court last week with severe facial injuries, said he had suffered four fractures to the left side of his face, including a broken jaw that needed four hours' surgery. The suppression of the protests came after Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Co-operation Council -- also known as the 'kings' club' of six Gulf monarchs -- sent 1,500 troops to Bahrain to aid the crackdown, which began on 15 March. It soon became clear that the government is engaged in a savage onslaught on the entire Shia community -- some 70 per cent of the population -- in Bahrain. First came a wave of arrests with about 1,000 people detained, of whom the government claims some 300 have been released, though it will not give figures for those still under arrest. Many say they were tortured and, where photographs of those who died under interrogation are available, they show clear marks of beating and whipping.
There is no sign yet that King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa's declaration that martial law will end on 1 June is anything more than a propaganda exercise to convince the outside world, and foreign business in particular, that Bahrain is returning to normal. The repression is across the board. Sometimes the masked security men who raid Shia villages at night also bulldoze Shia mosques and religious meeting places. At least 27 of these have so far been wrecked or destroyed, while anti-Shia and pro-government graffiti is often sprayed on any walls that survive. The government is scarcely seeking to conceal the sectarian nature of its repression. Defending the destruction of Shia mosques and husseiniyahs (religious meeting houses), it claims that they were constructed without building permission. Critics point out that one of them was 400 years old. Nor is it likely that the government has been seized with a sudden enthusiasm for enforcing building regulations since the middle of March. [...]"