As hopes for meaningful reforms in Bahrain fades away, charged protesters of the country – majority of whom is youth – turn their anger to the United States. Bahrainis have started believing that King Hamad bin al-Khalifa is being supported by the United States to quell the uprising. It has been more than 16 months since Bahrainis took to the streets against the regime and demanded political liberties, social justice and end of corruption. Protesters have started turning their guns to the United States for failing the people. The recent development in Bahrain should be worrisome for the US being a champion of democracy and human rights.
The monarch has managed to lower the intensity of protests against his rule with the help of Saudi Arabia and the United States. The monarch has been in power since 1999. Bahrain is a Shia-majority country, while the ruling elite, including the king himself, is Sunni. Protests are still staged against the monarch, but their intensity has been nullified through different tactics.
The protests against the United States are something new. During the demonstrations, the youth chants slogan against the US while holding placards inscribed with words like, “USA stop arming the killers.” It should be noted that the Obama administration recently resumed an arms sales deal with Bahrain.
In the first week of May, the monarch approved some amendments in the constitution of the country, hoping the measures would satisfy the opposition. He also vowed to continue the process of parliamentary reforms to give more and more civil liberties and human rights to the people. According to the amendments, the monarch is now bound to consult heads of the elected parliament before dissolving the legislature. The amendment is historic in nature, as the king has been ripped off his absolute power. If the process of amendments continues in the coming days and months, Bahraini parliamentarians will get more powers.
In the beginning, the international community did express solidarity with the Bahraini people, but gradually the gesture wore out, owing to a number of reasons. The monarch sought help of Saudi Arabia to quell the protests against his rule. Hundreds of ex-servicemen were also hired from Pakistan to stem the uprising against the king. These soldiers were termed as mercenaries and Pakistan invited a lot of wrath of the international community for sending retired army soldiers to Bahrain to help the monarch. Saudi Arabia also dispatched its troops along with sophisticated weapons to quell the demonstrations.
Saudi Arabia helped Bahrain's king for two reasons. One was that if the uprising was not controlled, it could have spilled over to Saudi Arabia as well. The second reason was to keep the Sunni king in power, as Saudi Arabia feared if Shia majority succeeded in regaining the power, Iran could use them against Saudi Arabia. And Pakistan helped the monarch just for money and they received it, many observers say.