Sunday, February 14, marked the fifth anniversary for Bahrain’s protests as thousands of citizens were protesting and calling for political change in the tiny island kingdom lying at the banks of the Gulf Arab states, thus repeating the “Arab Spring” experience after five years.
Back then in 2011, Egypt and Tunisia’s regimes fell and the enthusiasm to drop the regimes was at its peak. Protestors thought the trend of toppling regimes was ripe for action. As long as it happened in Egypt or Tunisia, what would prevent its recurrence in Manama?
Protests, which were driven by sectarianism, arose with protesters demanding political reforms then quickly turning into calls to overthrow the regime. However, that was not surprising as it was previously planned for.
The disaster lied in the associations, known for their great political work, demanding to topple the regime that they voted for at the national charter and have worked for it.
Most Bahrainis felt that they were backstabbed by those they once trusted and were elected as a mere part of the reform project.
Today, all this has become a miserable past and the forces forging negative change couldn’t affect the whole society. With time, Bahrain regained its peaceful ambiance after only hundreds, who used to be thousands, protested in the name of the largest Bahraini opposition political society, “al-Wefaq”. Bahrain returned to what it was, yet the Bahrainis have changed.
We won’t be exaggerating if we say that Bahrain has suffered a lot since February 2011 that was an unprecedented historical blow, of which it was able to recover without affecting the regime’s structure or the country’s institutions. The crisis revealed Bahrain’s true friends and enemies as it watched friend states line with its opponents. Amidst all that, the real blow was actually losing the trust and the increase of sectarian discord among its citizens.
After Bahrain was known for reducing sectarianism to its lowest, the sectarian rift has increased as it never did in a century.
Although Iran had played, and is still playing, the major role in its project to topple the regime, yet it wouldn’t have been able to do so without its supporters in Bahrain, who, unfortunately, were Bahrainis.
What happened in Bahrain cannot be excluded from what happened in other Arab countries, and we cannot say that only these protestors had this desire. I don’t only mean Iran or its allies in the region, but I mean that there are people from the Gulf and other Arab states who supported these protests in a way or another; TV channels, intellects, academics, journalists, activists, and tweeters with documented and monitored stances, just like those who want to jump so fast from a boat into the sea without taking any consequences into consideration.
Bahrain was able to survive with minimal losses unlike those who wanted change as they corrupted much more than they reformed, and they set back the political process.
Bahrain, which was heading its counterparts, is unable to proceed with its project today before rebuilding trust among its citizens.
Day after day, Bahrain is becoming stronger and whoever chose destruction instead of construction is losing. Their popularity decreased, their argument weakened and their way out narrowed. They had bet on protests but they failed, they had waited investors to flee away but they didn’t, they had sought the country’s collapse, but it was stronger than they could ever imagine. They were left with only one choice… to try to return to their homeland. I really hope they will.