Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Bahrain’s Uprising

Bahrain’s Uprising: Resistance and repression in the Gulf, eds Ala’a Shehabi and Marc Owen Jones, reviewed by Kitty Webster

December 1, 2015
2 min read

bahrainsuRepressive regimes offer lucrative business opportunities for others. After UK-made tanks carrying Saudi and UAE troops entered Bahrain to crush the protests in March 2011, RUSI, the British security think tank, helpfully advised that ‘Suppressing dissent is not something most countries have problems with; it is doing so in an acceptable manner that poses the challenge and that is where the UK’s efforts in Bahrain can help.’

Bahrain’s Uprising draws together a powerful collection of interviews, speeches, short stories and more academic writings in the hope that ‘many of the “lost” moments from Bahrain’s uprising can at least live on in some form’.

The edited volume is divided into three parts. The first three chapters use the forms of storytelling and narration, starting with the potent speech given by a secular activist before the Supreme Court of Appeal after he was imprisoned, assaulted and sentenced to five years in prison in what he termed ‘a trial against ideas’.

The second part charts the evolution of dissent and new forms of activism. Chapter 5 by Amal Khalaf explores the battle over space between protesters and the government. The regime stopped at nothing to reclaim the central ‘Pearl Roundabout’ from protesters. Once the site had been physically demolished, images were erased from public view, with the currency note bearing with its image taken out of circulation. The roundabout that bore witness to the Bahraini uprising had itself become an enemy of the state.

The final section charts the broader history of repression in Bahrain. Marc Owen Jones’ chapter on social media and spying outlines how online spaces also posed a threat to the regime. Brutal crackdowns in villages and the destruction of mosques and protest sites were accompanied by online censorship, propaganda and surveillance of social media and websites – a reminder of the dystopian possibilities of the internet.

As the UK government prepares to celebrate the bicentenary of relations with Bahrain in 2016, this book is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand how a regime that has tortured, brutalised and killed its own people can be regarded as a close ally ‘and above all, a good friend’ of the UK.


For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism? 

‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.

It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.

Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.

Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani

Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week

A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes