Bahrain – næste store urocenter?

Demonstration i Bahrain.
Demonstranter i Bahrain tirsdag d. 15. februar. Fotografi: Mahmood Al-Yousif.

Bahrain er som en lille og ganske velhavende østat i Golfen en helt anden slags land end Egypten. Men tag ikke fejl: Det ulmer, og utilfredsheden med det indspiste og korrupte kongedømme er, som andre steder i den arabiske verden, kraftigt forstærker af inspirationen fra Egypten og Tunesien.

Mandag angreb myndighederne en demonstration med tåregas og hagl, og en demonstrant blev dræbt. Da omkring ti tusind mennesker i går ville begrave ham, angreb politiet igen og dræbte endnu en demonstrant. Folk er vrede, og tusindvis af mennesker har nu slået sig ned i Manamas centrale “Pearl Roundabout”, som de har omdøbt til “Tahrir Roundabout”. Oprindelig krævede de blot reformer og en ny regering, men efter de to drab lyder kravet: “The People Want to Overthrow the Regime“, som Mahmood fortæller:

Arriving at the Salmaniya Medical Complex – the main health facility in the island and in which the mortuary is located, I noticed three police jeeps with some ten or so riot police milling about just opposite one of the entrances of the hospital nearest to the mortuary. I paid them no heed as I thought that they must’ve been there as a token force and they won’t dare do anything when the funeral cortege passes by in an hour or so. I carried on and went in to the mortuary and joined the several hundred mourners already present there, with a lot more pouring in as time went by. The atmosphere, though tense, remained peaceful with occasional political and religious chants. Once the body was brought out, the crowd galvanised and started moving in an orderly and peaceful fashion to the main exit. The plan was to bury Ali Abdulhadi Mushaimi in the nearby village of Jiddhaffs’ cemetery, just a few kilometers away.

But as we arrived at the gate to exit – and I was almost at the front of the mourners – the tear gas was fired at us and live bird-shot too was fired into the crowd, the latter was the ammunition whcih was used to kill Ali Mushaimi, the person we were carrying to his final resting place. I didn’t know it at the time, but another martyr was mowed down not more than ten meters ahead of me. Fadhel Almatrouk now joins the pantheon of fallen Bahraini martyrs. I suspect that he won’t be the last. The people of Bahrain have paid dear with their lives over decades fighting for their rights and will continue to do so until their rightful demands are met.

Unable to breath and faced with an inordinate use of force against unarmed civilians, the cortège driver decided to drive away from that exit and attempt to get out another exit on the other side of the hospital. People were scrambling about trying to protect themselves and show respect to the deceased at the same time; however, even that was not to be. The so called security forces encircled the protestors between the original exit and the one at the far end and started shooting tear gas at us inside the hospital grounds. Some protestors out of anger and frustration started lobbing stones at the police, but when I shouted at them to keep it peaceful with another phrase taken from our brothers in Tunisia and Egypt (سلميه سلميه) others took up the cry and prevented demonstrators from resorting to violence.

Tåregas mod demonstranter i Bahrain. Foto: Mahmood Al-Yousif.

The tear gas was choking us. With eyes streaming and lungs on fire, we sped off after the cortege to continue to be faced by the riot police and their liberal use of tear gas. The avenues and lanes around the hospital were saturated with people walking away in the direction of the chosen grave yard, but coughing and trying to cope as much as possible with the poisonous atmosphere. People, though, were stopping and helping each other. Some producing tissues to help wipe away eyes and others sharing their water or offering a helping hand when needed. The atmosphere, though charged, was still determined. We are going to do good by the fallen martyr.

Several international journalists were in attendance, from Reuters to the New York Times – both of which interviewed me along with several people in the crowd. Wa’ad’s Ebrahim Sharif and MPs from the main Al-Wefaq political party were in attendance and they too were interviewed by probably all journalists present. The common denominator to most of the answers were the need for real reform of the government, the constitution, addressing corruption and attending to the people’s needs.

By the time the body was interred, people streamed out of the area in the direction of the capital Manama, specifically to the Pearl Roundabout, a main landmark celebrating the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council, but now rechristened by the protestors as “Bahrain’s Tahrir Roundabout” with people camping there under make-shift tents complete with their blankets and necessities fully intending to stay until their demands are met. From the latest pictures I’ve seen, there must be considerably more than ten thousand.

Bahrain er et lille land, og demonstranterne er oppe mod kolossale odds. Styret slår ned med jernhånd, og som overalt i regionen har regeringen forsøgt at bestikke borgerne med indrømmelser og økonomisk kompensation, og Bahrain har selv forsøgt sig med at sende en engangs-check på 2500 dollars til samtlige husstande.

Men det er ikke det, det handler om: Folk vil have deres frihed, også i Bahrain; eller, som Mahmood formulerer det: “They will not stop and they should not stop until basic demands are met: respect for human rights, better political and economic rights and proper freedoms of the press, expression and personal freedoms along with a representative government and parliament rather than the sham we currently have.” Måtte de få det snart.

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