Extraordinary Documentary on Bahrain

8 Aug

The entire piece is worth watching (h/t to Nada AlWadi.).


Three questions that arise for me:

1). NEGOTIATIONS. Should the protesters have allowed the opposition to negotiate lesser terms than full abdication? Some gains are better than none, and some progress may have allowed the opposition some breathing space to figure out next moves. See Maciej Bartkowski and Les Kurtz on how to negotiate transitions.

2). CONFRONTING FOREIGN TROOPS. What can civil resisters do to confront foreign troops or mercenaries, as were present in Bahrain and Libya? My initial reaction is that they should avoid playing that game entirely. In other words, they should shift to more dispersed methods, like strikes, that remove the opportunity for the imported troops to crack down. Although it’s true that expats from Asia make up the majority of the labor workforce, Bahraini nationals make up 43% of the workforce, which is largely concentrated in the public sector and in the petroleum industry. As in Iran, if oil workers or civilian bureaucrats withdraw their support from the regime through a general strike, it could be crippling to the state. Although I haven’t seen the political profile of the oil workers, it wouldn’t surprise me if they are generally regime loyalists, which would preclude that possibility. But there are likely to be dissenters among them. The other option is to simply retreat, wait, regroup, and when the foreign troops go home, relaunch. Foreign powers like Saudi Arabia might be willing to take decisive action like this occasionally, but I highly doubt they are willing to do so regularly.

3). GLOBAL INFLUENCE. Although the film is clearly critical of the United States and others for standing idly by while the Bahraini regime had its way with the uprising, the question remains of what exactly foreign powers could have done to help the opposition. Although it no doubt improves morale to know that the world is on your side, what precise tools could foreign powers have used to intervene and change the course of the conflict? The United States could have denounced the regime even more harshly, and stated its support of the campaign more clearly, but would that have truly helped the strategic position of the movement? After all, nonviolent campaigns that succeeded between 1900 and 2006 mostly did so without any support from foreign powers, although they may have been inspired by other successful nonviolent uprisings.

I welcome discussion.

3 Responses to “Extraordinary Documentary on Bahrain”

  1. Nada August 8, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Dear Erica,,
    Thank you so much for your thoughts on this documentary, and I should probably tell you that it was a beginning of diplomatic clashes between Bahrain officials and Qatar “the owner of Aljazeera”. The Bahraini government has sent an objection letter to Qatari officials on this documentary. I read that Aljazeera took it off the air today, however it’s still available in their website..
    You can read more on this if you are interested in Justin Gengler’s blog http://bahrainipolitics.blogspot.com/

    As for your analysis, here are my comments:
    1) Negotiation: it was so hard for the Bahraini Opposition to negotiate on behalf of the movement or the protesters, although they were all in the same boat, but it was so clear that the protesters or “ 14 Feb Youth” own the movement, not the Opposition. They Opposition was basically following the movement, not the other way around. With that said, and understanding where those young guys come from, it’s so hard for them to even negotiate, or allow anyone to negotiate on their behalf. The whole essence of this movement was built on a history of lack of trust of the government; they went out because they felt there is no point in negotiation or working within the system “as the Opposition was trying to do for the past 6 years”.
    2) Confronting foreign troops : is impossible in Bahrain for several reasons : First : the Saudi army and even the Bahraini police forces are all oriented around one idea , that those protesters are Shiaa and they should be attacked. They represent a very radical Islamic school led and empowered by Saudia Arabia. That explains why they have demolished several Shiaa mosques in Bahrain after the crackdown. I would agree with you on the second technique: wait, regroup and then relaunch. This is happening now and ppl are waiting for the troops to leave the country.
    3) Global influence: Thank you so much for noting the fact that nonviolent campaigns actually succeed even without international support, because in Bahraini scenario we don’t expect the United States or any country in the west to take a serious action, which have been really disappointing. As what an American analyst told me last week “ if you guys in Bahrain are waiting for the United States to do something to help you, you will be waiting for a long time”.


    • rationalinsurgent August 8, 2011 at 11:35 am #

      Nada, thanks much for your comments and for directing me toward some further resources. Question: what do you sense are the possibilities of a general strike? Would it be possible, based on the composition of the workforce?

      • Nada August 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

        Hi Erica,,

        A General strike will be hard, but might be the way to go if things kept escalading. First people need to get organized and have a form of leadership “ which they still don’t have because the hit was too bad”. The strike will also be hard because thousands of people have already been fired from their jobs because they participated in the protests, that created a real fear among others that they might also get fired if they went on strike.
        However, I believe this will be very effective if it did happen.


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