Finally, a royal kingdom is getting its due. And if it falls to the protesters, there’s no telling what the regional consequences will be.
Bahrain is the tiniest country in the Middle East, a royal island ruled by the al-Khalifa family (at this time, His Majesty Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa) and highly dependent on it’s oil reserves. Bahrain didn’t have much going on during the initial stage of the Arab Spring, from the looks of the current events the Bahraini protests looks like they could blow up into a full-blown revolution.
Whereas the Egyptians had Tahrir Square, the Bahrainis have Pearl Square, which has been the focal point for the protests (and is also the site of some pretty interesting architecture, a sign of Bahrain’s oil wealth) since they began back in March 2011. In the past, it was mostly the Shiite minority protesting (recent bombings that left a handful of people dead in Manama were accused by the government to be the work of Shiite Lebanese group Hezbollah), but now everyone has joined in. The recent wave of protests has garnered more international attention than previous attempts, as the government continues a crackdown on protests that is anything but just: not only were protests banned, but 31 people had their citizenship revoked, the reasoning being that the government has the right to revoke citizenship of anyone who “causes damage to state security,” cites a New York Times article on the subject.
I would understand the whole “damage to state security” idea if not for the fact that these protesters, like thousands of other protesters across the world in the past two years, are peaceful. Instead of listening to it’s people, the government has turned tear gas on protesters. After all that has happened, I really don’t understand why the remaining Old-Guard governments of the Middle East continue to behave this way towards protesters. Spraying a peaceful crowd with tear gas is not the answer, nor will it make the protesters stop and retreat; if anything, it incites them.
If Bahrain’s king falls, what will this mean for the rest of the Middle East? More specifically, what will it mean for the kingdoms of the region, in particular the Gulf States of nearby tiny Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates or (of course) Saudi Arabia? The fall of a King has a much different tone to it then the collapse of a government, since kings rule by some supposed dynastic legitimacy from God. Bahrain might seem inconsequential, given it’s small size, but a full-blown revolution
There is a real air of change in Bahrain. It is the first kingdom nation in the Arab world where the people are not backing down, no matter the consequences. They’re no longer demanding just laws and equal treatment and the end of corruption, they’re also demanding the end of the king. If King Hamad al-Khalifa has any sense, he’ll either step down or do something much more radical, something no Arab leader has yet to do: listen to his people and implement true change.