More than a year in, it is obvious for all to see that the Arab Spring has lost its lustre. In Egypt, people are finding out just how messy the transition to democracy can be after decades of authoritarian rule. The Syrian regime has decided civil war is preferable to giving up its power. And, in the most underreported uprising of all, the people of Bahrain are finding out how difficult it can be to bring about a revolution when the rest of the world just doesn’t care. An appeals court in Bahrain upheld the guilty verdicts of nine Shia doctors for their part in the uprising against the monarchy. Human rights groups say the charges are false and that the doctors were severely tortured while in custody. Unfortunately, rather than being the last gasp of a dying regime, these verdicts only show that the monarchy has enough allies around the world to realise it can carry out such repressive actions without fear of reprisal.
A large part of the blame for the Bahraini regime’s actions can be placed on the shoulders of the US and its ally Saudia Arabia. While Washington was willing to go to war in Libya to oust the Gaddafi government and has publicly supported revolution in Egypt and Syria, it remains one of the biggest supporters of the regime in Bahrain. It continues to arm the monarch even though it is clear that he is at war with his people. Pakistan, too, does not have clean hands here. It has always been close to the king and a lot of the police actions against the protestors have been carried out by Pakistani mercenaries.
Egypt, meanwhile, is falling prey to the politics of divide-and-rule that threaten the gains of its revolution. The Supreme Court dissolved the newly-elected parliament and handed over power to the military in what was essentially a coup. Protests against this action have been hampered by the Muslim Brotherhood’s refusal to withdraw from the presidential run-off and join the people on the streets. Shifting to a democracy was never going to be easy but the people of Egypt are now finding out it may well be impossible.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2012.
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