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To those who compare Bahrain with Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There are desperate attempts by some states and media outlets to compare Bahrain with Syria, in order to increase pressure on Bahrain, and divert attention away from the Assad regime. The clearest example of this is the handling of the Shia Al Wefaq party’s rally in Bahrain, as it was depicted as a “return to protests”, when in actual fact the gathering was held with permission from the Bahraini government. Al Wefaq’s rally in itself is considered a response to those who compare Bahrain to Syria. How, some might ask? To offer amnesty is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness, and when the Bahraini king pardons his people from a position of strength then there is value and credibility in this, especially as he lifted the National Safety Law a month earlier than expected, repeatedly called for dialogue, and allowed Al Wefaq to hold its rally. Meanwhile, the Assad regime declares an “amnesty” whilst continuing its killing and the arrests. It claims to have lifted emergency law, whilst its tanks continue to prowl the streets of Syria!

The innocent Syrians insist that their revolution is not sectarian, and that in fact it is the Syrian government that reinforces the sectarian image. Meanwhile the Iranian president comes out to tell us that he has “a plan” to solve Bahrain’s problems; this is from the man who cannot solve his own problems. If only he could prevent the Iranians from assisting the Assad regime. The Iranians are embroiled in Syria, unlike the Peninsula Shield forces that entered Bahrain as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council to protect institutions. The Peninsula Shield forces did so openly, and were not deployed, nor did they participate, on the streets.

The problem is that we are facing a massive falsification campaign by Iran, and by some media outlets. With regards to Bahrain, the Western media is plagued by Shia “activists,” just as the Arab media is plagued by “analysts” of the Syrian regime. As a result I invite those concerned with the Bahrain issue to read a very important book, which ought to be translated into English, entitled ‘Religious Movements in the Arab Gulf,’ (first edition 2007) by Baqer Salman al Najjar, a secular Shia from Bahrain. In this book the author reveals the truth behind Shia associations in Bahrain, and we find that the call for an Islamic republic is not a new one, nor is it a reaction, but rather the culmination of a project that has gone on for years.

Al Najjar also alludes to another important point. He says that Al Wefaq, for example, believes that change in the Gulf will only take place through external pressure. This is in the wake of, or rather out of exploitation of, the September 11th terrorist attacks in the US, as al Najjar has noticed that Western pressure is on the rise in only two of the Gulf countries, namely Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Al Najjar says, “This explains the tendency of a group of figures from the Al Wefaq party and its leadership, and some Shia political forces in Bahrain and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to use their connections with British political figures and British civil-society organisations that want to put pressure on local authorities to bring about political reforms quickly, or to use the platforms of these states to open controversial internal issues, such as constitutional amendments and the so-called political neutralization of British and European public opinion.” Perhaps this explains why the Formula One race that was due to be held in Bahrain was cancelled recently!

Whilst we do not see the Syrians seeking help externally in search of their rights, or acting in a sectarian manner as their government aims to portray, and whilst they shout out, “no Iran, no Hezbollah, we want a leader who fears God”, the loudest calls in Bahrain on the other hand are for an Islamic republic. So is the difference between the two now clear?

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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