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Bournemouth Bahrain Presentation

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Mike Diboll

on 26 March 2013

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Transcript of Bournemouth Bahrain Presentation

Bahrain’s ‘Forgotten’ Revolution:
when is a news story not a news story? – Citizen journalism, mainstream journalism and PR

Dr. Mike Diboll What is the 'Arab Spring'? What does this term mean to you? Arabs generally talk about
‘thawraat l-karaamah’,
'The Revolutions of Dignity' ‘Karaama’:

dignity, honour,
self-respect ‘They didn’t mean some baroque or epic code of ethics. They meant not being slapped about by some idiot policeman just because he felt like it. Not being denied an interview for a job because you didn’t have the right family connections. Not being lied to, smugly and repeatedly, by leaders who had started to believe their own cheap propaganda. Not being told, in a thousand different ways, to accept mediocrity and falsehood and poverty in a perpetual state of helpless emergency.’
Johnny West, Karama: Journeys Through the Arab Spring (London: Heron, 2011) If I say to you ‘Bahrain’, what comes to mind? Preliminaries, what is Bahrain, where is it? Bahrain is a ‘micro state’, one of the smallest sovereign states in the world:

An archipelago of small islands in the Persian/Arabian Gulf

Main island 35 miles by 12 Population (2010) 1.2 million, 50% Bahraini, 50% expat

About 60% Shia majority,
50% Sunni, small Arab Christian and Jewish minorities What does Bahrain's
geographical position
suggest to you? Old Bahrain, a culturally 'liminal' zone: Used to be an entire region, incorporating large parts of what is now Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates BAHRAIN POLITICS

British protectorate 1820-1971

Ruling Al Khalifa Family came to Bahrain 1790s, promoted and protected by the British

1971: Iran drops claim to Bahrain as its ‘14th province’, independence for ‘State of Bahrain’

Oil discovered 1932, depleted by late 2000s

2002: Kingdom, advisory parliament, no political parties allowed

King’s brother is the world’s longest serving (unelected) Prime Minister, 1971 to the present

Member of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC)
Bahrain government almost entirely financed by mainly Saudi Abu Safah oilfield The Ruling Family – the ubiquitous ‘Three Wise Men’: Political Issues Corruption – the ruling family’s ‘civil list’ can account for as much as 25% GDP

Lack of political representation

Human rights abuses Lack of freedom of expression, censorship, surveillance

Institutionalised sectarianism ‘Political naturalisation’, ‘tajnees’

Relative poverty, per capita GDP around 13,000 USD per annum,
but .... Dawar Lu’lua
‘The Pearl Roundabout'
Officially the GCC Monument 14th February to 18th March 2011: ‘Pearl Square’, Bahrain’s ‘Tahrir Square’:
the contestation and occupation of social space: Miranda Diboll, Radio documentary featuring interviews
from Pearl Roundabout 20th Feb 2011 There were several attempts by the security forces to clear the roundabout: This was filmed by Tony Mitchell
my colleague from Bahrain Polytechnic: Following the Saudi invasion of 17th March 2011 the roundabout was cleared by lethal force: to 5' 00 And the Pearl Monument was
demolished But as David Cameron says 'Bahrain is not Syria...'
How lethal has the suppression of the Bahrain uprising been? Putting the figures into context

Bahrain’s total population is 1.2 million
Of whom half are expatriates, who are hardly affected by events as they live in geographically distinct areas

Bahrain’s indigenous population is about 600,000
There have been about 120 deaths in Bahrain over the past two years, four from the security forces, the rest protesters and bystanders
By comparison, Britain’s population is about 60,000,000
So to arrive at an equivalent number of deaths per head of population, add two zeros to the Bahrain total

Thus, the Bahrain uprising is the equivalent of an uprising that cost 12,000 British lives over two years, forty of them from the security forces, the rest protesters and bystanders
That’s how 120 deaths out of a population of 0.6 million feels to people that live there Not quite Syria, true.
But a lot more lethal than Northern Ireland The contestation for public space continues
with daily punitive police raids on villages using mainly CS gas,
birdshot, baton rounds, stun grenades, armoured vehicles Which the youth oppose with rocks, burning tyres, molotovs However the mass demonstrations continue As for the Pearl Roundabout,
this has entered the popular consciousness as a symbol of resistance
and is commonly known as ‘Maydaan ash-Shuhadaa’, ‘Martyrs’ square’ Officially the area is now called ‘Al Farooq Junction’,
but it is off-limits and occupied by the military So when is a news story not a news story?

When British establishment interests are at risk?

The Al Khalifa regime in Bahrain has spent over 32,000,000 USD on British and American PR firms to either sanitise (‘manage’) its reputation, or simply to keep it out of the news: The PR strategy:
To decouple Bahrain from the ‘Arab Spring’
Lt. General Graeme Lamb works for the 3G PR company, which received 1.5 million GBP from the Khalifa regime – he’s also a witness for the UK Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee investigating Britain’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain

The regime’s spin:

‘The Minister of State at Foreign & Commonwealth Office said that Bahrain was considered an example in the region and its situation should not be linked to the Arab Spring because the matters were completely different in this case, as the country had achieved remarkable reforms over more than ten years.’ The British Establishment connection goes back a long way Some Bahrain stories smack of desperation The FCO line So the struggle over ‘investment opportunities’ continues Dr. Chris Davidson of Durham University
(born 5th November) explains the political context 'Arab Spring' was a George W Bush coinage circa 2004,
it tends not to be used in Arabic to describe the uprisings from early 2011 on.
Full transcript