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Bahrain – Raising the Stakes

March 14, 2011

Things appear to be escalating in Bahrain.

Yesterday, there were confrontations between the police and protesters in the vicinity of Pearl Roundabout and the nearby financial district. I was turned back on my way to a meeting in the area, having been met by a large force of police heading on the wrong side of the highway away from the district. There has been coverage of the events locally, but international coverage has been limited to mention of the riots, and the playing of a YouTube video. I had seen the video earlier – it seems to have been issued by Al Wefaq, one of the main opposition political parties. Among other things, it appears to show a protester being shot at point blank range. It remains to be seen whether the guy was actually hit, or was hitting the deck to avoid being hit. This is one of the difficuties with YouTube videos – reality TV, but what is the reality?

Today comes a full page spread in the Gulf Daily News in which the Crown Prince lays out a programme of reform which he says has approved in principle. But he also warns that there will be no compromise on security.

This morning I received a British Embassy advisory warning British to stay indoors until further notice. The advisory also quoted “reports of protestors establishing roadblocks, and reports that the Saudi National Guard will enter Bahrain”. It’s hard to imagine the British Embassy passing on such reports unless they felt that there was a real possibility of Saudi intervention. If this happened, there would be serious and wide ranging repercussions.

I’m afraid I don’t have time for further comment on the current situation here in Bahrain, because I’m about to head to the airport for a scheduled holiday in South-East Asia. Given what is happening in Japan, it’s hard not to consider the possibility of being met by a cloud of radiation. Hopefully not, for everyone’s sake.

Anyone reading this from outside Bahrain should be aware that Bahrain is not Libya. There are many sensible people here, as well as some hotheads. Hopefully pragmatism and common sense will prevail.

And none of the man-made traumas in this region come close to what is happening in Japan in the wake of natural disaster. We should think of the victims, and pray for them.

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