It was only three weeks ago that tens of thousands of demonstrators went marching through the streets of Bahrain. They were congregating at Pearl Roundabout, protesting at the embassies and camping out to hold their ground. Then, in a move that saw only tepid international condemnation, Bahrain’s king shipped in Saudi forces that had no qualms about massacring the citizens and obliterating the protesters’ holdouts.
Then a strategy was employed that defied all humanitarian, religious and international law, the Saudi troops marched for the hospitals. They entered the ERs, patient rooms, and the ICU looking for any patients that might have wounds that were inflicted through protests. It is said that those who carried such injuries were arrested, hassled, and forcibly transferred to military controlled areas.
One of the busiest ERs in Manama’s Salmaniya Hospital found its waiting room empty despite heavy clashes outside. This was because the Saudi military had set up checkpoints and systems outside the entrances to the hospital. In masks, they were seen threatening not only the injured, but those who were assisting them to the hospital. There were reports of military roaming the halls, harassing doctors and even beating nurses, refusing to let anybody leave. Because of this, many people with injuries, even ones unrelated to the protests, have refused to to go the hospitals out of fear of torture, execution or imprisonment. This could lead to a rise in casualties from otherwise perfectly treatable conditions.
However, for some families, avoiding the hospital hasn’t been enough to stop the threat. It is rumored that mass arrests are sweeping through neighborhoods each night with over 370 arrested by the government. The State of Emergency declared by the king has made going into people’s homes at 4am, and beating families senseless a perfectly acceptable military action. There have been reports of torture, sexual assault, and family wide threats. Currently dozens of people are considered “disappeared” with no information on their whereabouts or safety.
Beatings and detentions have been especially bad for those who dared speak to the media during the height of the protests. A number of opposition supporters who gave interviews have been hunted down and taken. Others, who have escaped the security forces, are said to be in hiding. As recently as last week, members of CNN were detained and an independent newspaper, Al Wasat, has been suspended indefinitely.
The King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, hasn’t had much to say during this harsh and brutal crackdown. Although in the beginning of the nation’s unrest he took a conciliatory tone, he now seems content to let the Saudi troops he commands ravage and destroy his country and its people. However, Bahranis, spurred on by funerals and antagonistic government measures, might be gearing up for round two. And just around the corner from Bahrain, Yemen, another Gulf country, is currently posed on the brink of revolutionary triumph. President Saleh, the 30-year, multi-term dictator of Yemen is under incredible force to step down and cede power to the opposition. If that occurs, it just might be enough to restart protests in the tiny island country. But for now, the people of Bahrain will continue to live in fear as their government. All while King Khalifa sits in his marble palace, ordering the torture and deaths of any citizen who dares to defy him and his kingdom.
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