“Is that in the Caribbean? Europe?”
“No it’s in the Middle East, next to Dubai?”
“OOOOHHHHH Dubai, yes ok.”
That’s a conversation I’ve had with many people when they ask me where I’m from. Bahrain is a tiny island in the Gulf region; you can barely see it on the map. It’s very common that people know nothing about Bahrain, or if they knew where it existed on a world map, the next thing they’d know is that it’s a rich oil country and it stops there. But what frustrates me is not the fact that a lot of intelligent people know little about my country, but the reasons behind it. I don’t blame them, because the media is responsible for casting out news about Bahrain in most of the world. The fact that young journalists get surprised when they hear about the uprising in Bahrain, and the continued human rights violations and political crisis, has become an expected reaction. They’re not surprised with what’s happening in Bahrain, but with themselves for not knowing about it. Their countries don’t talk about Bahrain, either because it’s irrelevant to their people, or because it gets pushed down on the world agenda’s list (if it ever made it to the list in the first place).
For that reason, I took advantage of the incredible opportunity I have being one of the Erasmus Mundus journalism students at Aarhus, to share with young journalists from around the world the untold story of the Bahraini uprising, or as I like to call it the “inconvenient uprising.”
At a documentary-screening event, attendees watched “Shouting in the dark”, an award winning documentary done by Al Jazeera English. The documentary takes viewers back to February 2011 when the revolution started, and shows the events that happened in that year.
I sat all the way in the back both to see people’s reactions and an attempt to hide my tears from them. I saw them shaking heads at the comments made by Bahrain State TV, and how doctors were charged for not being able to save a man’s life from the army’s bullet in his head. I heard mocking laughter at how State TV censored the moment of the roundabout’s collapse because the operation killed an Asian worker, and at America’s hypocricy when President Obama said, wherever people are fighting for freedom they can find a friend in the United States. In that moment, I felt they all became Bahrainis at heart, we all became citizens of the world, getting frustrated at the same things, shaking ours heads in disbelief, taking deep breaths to absorb it all. I knew that the message was delivered, and the story has been told.
Though it was a public event not covered by the media and talked about everywhere, this small initiative put Bahrain on the map for people representing more than 20 countries. People who showed support, interest and compassion. Journalists who will one day become the change in their countries, and end the media black out.
I visited a grave yard in Sitra where martyr Ali Alshaikh is buried next to other martyrs.
Zainab Alkhawaja told us their stories, what happened and how they died.
Ali Alshaikh’s house was filled with his pictures, his mother remembers how active he was and kind to others. It was the third day of Eid in 2011 and he was only 14 when he got shot during a protest close to his Sitra home. He told his family he can’t celebrate Eid while there are political prisoners in Bahrain.
With conflicted reports, opinions, and points of vies regarding the situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain. It is critical to give voice to everyone and look at the where different age groups, religious backgrounds, and opposite genders stand.
I have and still am compiling quotes, opinions, and updates from Bahrainis on Twitter, facebook or those who have contacted me directly.
Here are the voices of the Bahraini youth:
“I support them.. I agree there needs to be a change, the government discriminates too much between Shiites and Sunnis, but I don’t support the violence.. I heard they’re burning tires and stuff- that’s not right because they might hurt innocent people. The government brings immigrants to Bahrain and provides with them good salaries, houses, and private schools for their children but what about the Bahrainis themselves?” – Sara A.Y. , 20
“Complete bull that is a result of underlying secretarian hate and the inability of the people to stand with onee another” – Wanted to remain anonymous, 25
“I didnt want them to go protest yesterday, at least not yesterday. They should’ve talked with him through media and letters and ask for meetings, and then they can protest, but not on the constitution’s anniversary, they knew it from the beginning it wont be for their good. I’m not with a new prime minister, not with a totally new government, but with the housing, raising salaries and employment. Until last night I supported the protesters partially, but after the police started using violence, I’m against the police totally and against the ignorance from the other people” - D. Al.M., 21
“The BBM service with all the broadcasts I get is annoying me. People are talking about Sunnis and Shiites more than needed. The news shows that only Shiites in Bahrain are protesting against living conditions, that is not true.” – Wala Al Hashimi, 22
“I just don’t want the violence to escalate and I hate that people are making statements without providing credible sources” -N.N., 20
“What’s saddening me the most about this whole situation, is watching the people of this country drown in sectarianism like never before. Hateful comments disrespecting those demonstrating peacefully only added to the tension we see today. Our biggest problem is that people don’t understand what respecting the opposing opinion means; we are not even allowed to have a civil discussion where sensitive matters are brought up. For instance, they have started a new course in college teaching history of Bahrain to foreigners; however, any controversial issue when brought up for discussion is faced intensely with violence and intolerance. I believe that peaceful demonstrations demanding basic rights – just as what’s going on today, are a right to every citizen. Others’ disagreement shouldn’t mean blocking and ridiculing the other.” -Nada Al-Mulla, 19.
“While Bahrain does need many changes, I think the changes should start within to unite the people before any revolution or change takes place. While a big number of Bahrainis are protesting at the lulu roundabout, there is a big number of Bahrainis celebrating the Mithaq and the Al-khalifa regime in Riffa and Muharraq. I think Bahrain is in serious need of awareness, and until we see Bahrianis standing hand in hand against what’s wrong, and not turning a blind eye, I doubt anything but a civil war to occur in Bahrain.. There is a great deal of hope in the newer generations none the less, for a big number of the Sunni sect are able to see above the Sunni/ Shiite borders and into the real problems going on in the country as a whole.” - Aysha Abdelmajeed, 23.
“ I got a feeling that Shiites feel that the revolution was just for them , some of them told me that I’m not suffering, but not all of them feels that way, I’m happy nonetheless because change will come out of this.” Zahra alrayas, 23
“In my point of view, yes, the people have the right to protest peacefully to get the massage to the officials. Their demands are realistic, yet, I see that they have to avoid reasons to clash with the police forces. How to protest peacefully if the protesters reach main roads and block daily lives and traffic, moreover, it is not officially registered so that authorities advice convenient spots/locations. I see that protesters should stick to the peaceful model, firstly to stop wasting precious Bahraini blood, and secondly, to not give the system the reasons to use weapons, not even to show power.” Ahmed yahya, 21
“I have never supported the sporadic violent protests, but the police handling proved profound and worrying issues with riot police and their tactics.” -Mohamed Sharaf, 23
“I see this as a Civil Rights Movement, not about religion or regime toppling. Regardless of my personal beliefs on the two different sects, I must say that my belief on “treating people with equality” is inherent in all of my fundamental ideas and upbringing. Equality referring to our inalienable human rights! “Natural rights” and “legal rights” should be provided in harmony between a gov’t and its people.” -Amanda Grant, 23, Texas-USA, Middle Eastern and Islamic studies major at the university of Austin, Texas (currently living in Bahrain).
“I hate the sectarian labeling used by media & some people .. it’s offensive .. we never mention terms that divide locally.” -Salman Al-Abbasi
“I think that most Bahraini Shiites don’t have the rights they deserve in Bahrain, while all the expats have more rights like schools, houses and Bahrainis don’t have basic needs. This is the first time that the Shiite protesters don’t use violence such as tire burning and etc in order to get what they need and what they got back was 2 people dead.” – R. K., 21
“A guy was holding his son and walking on the road with the protesters and the policeman told him move away from here before I kill both you and your son.
Of course they should stand up, ask for your rights. That’s a person’s right to do that, but something is not right because what the police did was completely wrong
I had this whole respect for the people going out there, standing up for their rights and for the people who passed away in this whole thing, but now seeing these pictures of people selling popcorn and food, is just so disappointing.” – J.W., 23
“Frankly I don’t care if they stayed for a month on the roundabout, I hope they get what they wan’t if it means country Improvement, all as long as Me, and my kids r not harmed, oh, and would like to keep our king, I think he can do better than any one who might be loyal to Iran and not the independent well being of our country.” -Mayssa, 31
“I think its beyond idiotic for people to stand on a roundabout without a clear message to the government on they’re claims! Besides that I wouldn’t call this legal in any case! They’ve been there for days now! Ppl are late for work because the roads are closed and they’re threatening our peaceful environment! Its a riot! Nothing more. If they have problems with the government, there are ministries, parliment which shey’a’s are the majority in those, what we have on the streets are delinquents who want everything set on a platter. Anybody with a sense would never take they’re word seriously on what is Bahrain and what it has become.” -Noor alnaimi – 23
“I think Bahrainis should be doing this long time ago. We are not like who wants to be ruled under old fashion – kingdom regime. Bahrainis are educated and deserve to have a true democracy in their country. Personally the regime means nothing to me, but the land is everything, no matter who is the king, ministers and prime minsters have to be elected. Bahrainies learned eventually from the Tunisians and Egyptians and as I can see they are brave enough to be the first to force change in Royal regime.” - Ali Alawi, 22
“People are gathered up in the pearl roundabout and they are protesting with chants that are mostly to change the regime or with chants that are unifying the. It started on Facebook and it was the youth all the way there were no institutions or organizations or societies backing it up and it would disgust me if they tried to take credit.
Al Wefaq I think being part of the parliament had no say in it, until the first guy died and then they made a statement that said that they would suspend their memberships in the parliament. Until a solution is reached between the demands of the people and what the government would offer.” –Ali Al-Shaikh
“Did you know that the police are not using any weapons since yesterday and since they are being attacked with fire bottles and rocks thousands are driving and marching in support of the government. People from all over the gulf are with them. The reforms that are taking place are like no other in the world but they are just greedy and ignorant.” -Aysha Hamad
“It’s amazing cause it’s peaceful, they don’t use violence to solve their problems.
Protesters are using voice and flags to protest, and it’s the first time that it doesn’t include violence. What they did was amazing, because they showed outside people a point of view that the government used force and the place that they chose to protest is excellent because its gives them advantage.
Police cant attack them there and its surrounded by villages that can fight back, and its also surrounded by malls that visitors go to.” –Abdulrahman Al-Khawaja, 14
“I support what’s happening cause people standing peacefully voicing their demands and no one is using violence as many people say. The riot police attacked the people and the result is two martyrs the first in the peaceful protests and the 2nd martyr passed away during the funeral of the 1st martyr because the police started shooting bullets! We must be unite Shiites and Sunnis and respect the opposing opinion. It’s great to have peaceful protest on the other hand its sad to see people celebrating and the country lost two of its citizens i think even if they are against the protest they should respect the martyrs’ families and friends.” Wasan F. 19
“The media is exaggeration what is happening over there. that is the people residing at the Lulu roundabout do not represent all the people of Bahrain… the situation there is more of a sectarian people trying to spread rumors. all the alleged human rights violations in Bahrain are based on NGO reports, which are politically motivated and have no binding legal power. The police they have human rights also and they have the right of self defense, but am not saying that we should tolerate the death of our people.” - N. Al S., 26