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A bloody 'revolution' in Bahrain

March 22, 2011


The revolution in Bahrain began with a gathering at Pearl Square, mimicking Tahrir Square's role in the Egyptian revolution. The Bahrain revolution is a public uprising against the Khalifa and his family which rules this small country. Just like Egypt, Bahrain received a lot of media attention with the overall reporting being indicative of heavy handedness by the government to squash this uprising. Although sectarian tensions have been in the forefront with a largely Shia group of protesters rising up against their Sunni dictators , there are now added fears of the whole revolution being reduced to no more than a quasi war between the Saudi and the Irani governments, an age-old feud.

According to individual reports and eyewitness accounts, Pakistanis living in Bahrain are being harassed and maltreated on the basis of their nationality. The biggest examples of these acts of vengeance were seen at the Salmaniya Medical Complex where the protestors, after surrounding it for almost two weeks, broke inside and not only took over the hospital but started beating poor Pakistani laborers who were being treated there.

A staffer present at the scene, emailed me the following, in a desperate plea for help:

"I was present at the emergency ward, when the injured Pakistani labourers were brought in for treatment. They were taken out of the ambulance as though they were animals, with their hands tied and bleeding. They were then kicked and abused verbally by some of the medical staff at SMC, including some of the doctors and nurses. Some of them were also chanting victory slogans.”
Since then, the army has taken control of the medical facility and removed all protesters from its confines. However, hate crimes against Pakistanis living in Bahrain are not just limited to this hospital but are being indulged in with complete impunity all over the country. It is not uncommon for people to have their IDs checked and if found to be a Pakistan, they are literally beaten to death by the protestors. When I contacted a Bahraini resident to check whether the anonymous email was true, Ms Reem Al Zain, a local, gave the following account of what she has witnessed so far:
"For the past few weeks we have been hearing about, from particularly the West, the "human rights" of these protesters with no mention why innocent civilians have been tortured and killed by the same protestors. Expatriates, mainly of Asian origin, have been harmed both physically and mentally with threats from these protestors. Fatwas have been issued in Shi'ite villages to harm expatriates and this can be seen quite clearly on Facebook and Twitter.
“I have also heard various incidents where Filipina women were being harassed. I have seen, over the last few weeks, a bustling financial and service sector come to a halt while protesters damaged public property and lives. My office, being in the heart of the city and right next to the financial hub, made me a witness to the atrocities that occurred on the day an unarmed policeman was stabbed in the head and his colleague in the back.
"The same day, the protestors had blocked the area from Sanabis up to the World Trade Centre. I was caught in the middle and had to talk my way out and I was told that had I been of Asian descent, they would have killed me.”
Presently, the Pakistani embassy in Bahrain is providing shelter to around 40 families. However this is by no means enough or adequate security for a large community of expatriates living in Bahrain under threat. There have also been reports of houses of Pakistanis being chalked out and marked for attacks over the last weekend by Bahrainis  on twitter.

I feel that the Pakistani government needs to take strong action and do more for the security and safety of our citizens living under threat in Bahrain. Some of them, who are serving in the police and army are labeled as pro-government supporters and are thus targeted, and this is also used as an excuse to target the entire community. If we cannot ensure safety for them within Bahrain, these expatriates, especially the poor labourers who do not have many rights to begin with, should be brought back to Pakistan until tensions ease.


Faisal Kapadia is a Karachi-based entrepreneur and writer. He blogs at Deadpan Thoughts.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn