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Occupy NS to Participate in International Bahrain Solidarity Day

Occupy NS will assemble in solidarity along with 1,000,000 activists around the globe for an international day of solidarity at Grand Parade Square.

by Emily Driscoll

Occupy NS to Participate in International Bahrain Solidarity Day

The Enough! Bahrain Solidarity rally will take place in Grand Parade Square, January 17th at 5 pm.

In December of 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vender, set himself on fire to protest the police confiscation of his fruit and vegetable stand. What followed was the “Arab Spring” – an unprecedented mass uprising that rapidly spread throughout the Middle East. Within a month, protestors demanding a functioning democracy, fair elections and the downfall of their nations’ political regimes had flooded the streets of major cities and towns in Tunisia and soon spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Many claim the Arab revolt to be the spark for the Occupy movement that started in New York, and spread across the globe.

Bahrain, a small island situated near the Persian Gulf, however, has been largely ignored by Arab and western media. Protests inspired by the Egyptian uprising began in mid-February, as thousands participated in rallies citing various grievances, the main thread of which demanded an end to the al-Khalifa monarchy (who have held absolute power since the 18th century), the implementation of a functioning democracy with an elected council, and more equal treatment of the Shiites, who constitute the majority of the population. Remarkably, the protestors acted without the permission of the Bahraini government, which must approve any protest or dissident action.

Thousands of protestors established a camp at Pearl Roundabout, a monument located near the financial district of the country’s capital, Manama. It was later destroyed by government for its revolutionary symbolism. On February 17th, 2011, police violently dismantled the camp in a brutal crackdown that left many injured, and several deaths.

This was only the beginning of the brutal suppression and violent outbreaks that would leave the still unstable country in chaos. Tensions escalated as the body count rose. Victims were primarily peaceful protestors, including an infant, several children, teenagers, adults and elderly citizens. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights cites 50 confirmed causalities; but it’s likely this number is larger as many protestors have “disappeared” at the hands of the security forces. Meanwhile, doctors, nurses and medical staff who treated those injured were often beaten or threatened. The Salmaniyya hospital in Manama was invaded by Saudi-backed security forces who claimed it was a “terrorist camp” because injured protestors were being treated there. Forty seven medical staff were arrested and persecuted, including Dr. Ghassan Dhaif, who gave an emotional plea for international assistance on the popular Arab TV network Al Jazeera.

While the uprisings in Syria, Egypt and Libya were heavily reported by the media and supported by fellow Arab revolutionaries, the smaller and less populated Bahrain seemed to have slipped into obscurity. Although much of the major protests seem to have been sufficiently suppressed, the struggle continues. Bahraini government and military forces act on any open dissent and actively track down any who were present at the protests or rallies to persecute them. To be associated with any revolutionary activity, no matter how peaceful, is to be a criminal in the Bahrain. This was demonstrated very acutely by the story of Amat al-Qurmezi, a young woman who recited a poem captured on video. She was later taken from her home, tortured and forced to confess publicly. Her story is just one of many in the fight for democracy and the militant reaction some Bahrainis have labelled a war. The bravery and determination of the lesser-numbered Bahraini protestors despite the relative lack of international support or awareness is astonishing.

Occupy movements around the globe, in recognition of solidarity with Arab Spring protestors, and in particular the struggles faced by the Bahraini dissidents, have declared an international Bahrain Solidarity Day slated for January 17th. Occupy Nova Scotia’s Enough! Bahrain Solidarity Rally will take place in Grand Parade Square, January 17th at 5 pm.

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