The double standards of the Western powers are once again quite evident from the Bahrain conflict.
Made up of 36 islands, with an area of 707 square kilometres and population of 718306, the Kingdom of Bahrain is situated on the western side of the Persian Gulf, between Saudi Arabia to the east and Qatar to the west. More than two-thirds of its people are Shia whereas the Sunni rulers are not more than 25 per cent.
Besides this, the majority Shias have always complained of not getting their due share in employment, education and the distribution of national wealth. They insist with the help of reliable facts and figures that the size of their majority is being systematically reduced in the country, by deliberately bringing in Sunni professionals, workers and even mercenaries from other countries, including Pakistan. The police which has always played a key role in the suppression of opposition is said to be dominated by such foreigners. Thus, until a few years ago, the Shia population in the country which was almost 70 per cent has now been reduced to 60 per cent. In the past few decades, their have been intermittent civil disturbances, protests and demonstrations, calling for greater political freedom, granting of basic human rights, more access to information and a greater role in government affairs. But instead of addressing such genuine grievances, during his 37 years of authoritarian rule, Isa bin Salman Alkhalifa resorted to the use of brutal force to crush the opposition. When in 1994, serious clashes erupted calling for the restoration of the dissolved National Assembly, in the hope of hushing up the matter, he started lengthy negotiations with some opposition leaders. But after several months, the talks ended up in failure and he ordered a major crackdown against the opposition activists. This massive operation involved arbitrary detentions, torture and persecution of prisoners and forcible exile of hundreds of opposition supporters, without giving them the right to appeal against their exile. A large number of opposition sympathisers were fired from their jobs, without any crime. Such harsh tactics provoked further violence and during the next few years, students, civil rights activists and even women had frequent skirmishes with the law enforcing authorities in the capital Manama.
When in 1999, the Emir died of a heart attack, he was immediately succeeded by his son Hammad bin Isa Alkhalifa who, realising the need for reforms, released a large number of political prisoners, granted citizenship to hundreds of stateless Shias and paved the way for the formation of a bicameral legislature consisting of Consultative Council (To be nominated by the King) and the Chamber of Deputies (to be elected by popular vote). However, the 2002 elections were boycotted by the main Shia and secular groups. They decided to take part in the 2006 elections and for the first time, a Shia candidate was appointed as Deputy Premier. But such half-hearted reforms failed to satisfy most of the people and they again took to the streets in their thousands as a part of the pro-democracy movement currently going on throughout the Middle East and the Arab world. But as usual, the Bahraini authorities blamed Iranian agents for being behind the violence and ordered the expulsion of a number of Iranian diplomats. Moreover, in order to crush the insurgency, they asked help from Saudi Arabia which is the main ally of the West and arch rival of Iran in the region. In response, it readily sent its 500 troops to Bahrain, a move which is bound to escalate tensions in the region and further flare up the proxy war that has been going on between Iran and Saudi Arabia for quite some time in the whole region.
The double standards of the Western powers are once again quite evident from this conflict. Apparently, they project themselves as the most vocal advocates of political freedom, human rights and democracy all over the world. Under the umbrella of the United Nations, they acted swiftly to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya for the protection of its ordinary civilians. But their lukewarm response to the on-going injustices, atrocities and violation of human rights in Bahrain clearly reveals that they have no sympathy for the majority of Bahrainis. Their inaction against the country’s dictatorial regime means that indirectly they are supporting it only because it is one of their most important allies in the region in their confrontation with Iran. In other words, those who vigorously chant the slogan of ‘majority is authority’ are willingly allowing a minority to permanently subjugate the majority, only because it is suited to their own vested interests.