Although Qatar has witnessed a year of economic growth and political prominence on the world stage, neighboring Gulf Arab state Bahrain has experienced a very different narrative.
Pro-democracy protesters launched a wave of demonstrations there on February 14, 2011 on the heels of Tunisia’s and Egypt’s uprisings, calling for government reform. One serious division though, was the call by the predominantly Shia Muslim demonstrators for equal opportunity under the law, including in the largely Sunni-run government. Those demands were met with a brutal police crackdown, arrests and media censorship.
One year on, the protests continue to disrupt daily life, with little tangible change to the political landscape, despite assurances from the government.
Yesterday, a heavy police presence blocked protesters’ access to Manama, Bahrain’s capital. Tear gas and a police crackdown on the demonstrations in the capital and outlying Shia villages were met by crude gasoline bombs thrown by youth, Reuters reports. Some 30 people were arrested, including Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, while six American human activists were deported.
Al Jazeera English’s show The Stream tackled the continued unrest in last night’s episode, joined by Maryam Al Khawaja, a human rights advocate who’s father has been sentenced to life in prison for participation in the protests. Her sister, Zainab Al Khawaja (@AngryArabiya) has also previously been arrested.
Despite its vocal support and active roles in the Libyan and Syrian uprisings, Qatar has largely been silent on Bahrain.
What do you think – should Qatar take on a stronger role in calming the situation next door? Or is it a wise move not to rock the boat so close to home?