Last night, the Bahrain authorities launched a savage crackdown on protesters in Manama. Here are just two eyewitness accounts from a raid on Pearl Roundabout, the symbolic heart of the protests:
- Mohammed Al-Maskati (human rights campaigner)
- Miguel Marquez (audio recording of the ABC reporter being beaten)
- Martin Chulov (Guardian correspondant)
Horrific photos are emerging this morning, depicting the injuries of hundreds of protesters who faced brutal beatings at the hands of both the military and state security forces. I won’t post them here – some are truly horrific – but if you want to see what the Bahraini state unleashed on its people last night, the images are not difficult to find on Twitter. In a single night, 4 died and over 300 were injured.
As was the case in Egypt and Tunisia’s revolutions, the international response continues to be cautious. The Obama administration has taken an almost identical public stance to that adopted during the final days of President Mubarak: calls for the regime to ‘respect protesters‘ have been tempered with a warning that ‘both sides must refrain from violence’. Such prudence would seem to reflect a growing acceptance within the Obama camp that America’s star is fading in the region. After all, last night’s brutal assalt on Pearl Roundabout came only hours after the US statement had been released.
But whilst I do not wish to overstate the agency of western powers in what are essentially domestic uprisings, more can and should be done. The limited impact of US condemnations can be partly attributed to their unwillingness to publicly humiliate those they consider key strategic allies. If Obama is to make good on the sparkling rhetoric in his Cairo speech 2 years ago, a re-evaluation of the administration’s dogged adherence to traditional allegiances is clearly necessary. The world is changing and America’s strategic considerations must evolve accordingly. Failure to do so will result in American power becoming increasingly irrelevant in the eyes of a slew of emboldened dictators, many of whom owe their longevity to decades of American support. I’ll leave you with a reminder of Obama’s words in 2009, draw what conclusions you will.
But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.
– – –
For more information on America’s strategic interests, here’s a good article from today’s Guardian.