Saturday, February 19, 2011

How Bahrain's Sunni Minority Keeps Its Shia Majority Under Control

A big, and potentially telling, difference between the uprisings in Egypt and the rebellion now underway in Bahrain is the makeup of the national security services.

In Egypt, the large army was made up mainly of conscripts, citizen-soldiers.  These conscripts were tightly connected to their families and the civilian population.   Soldiers like that can't be relied upon to turn on their own people.  Otherwise, Hosni Mubarak might still be holding court in Cairo.

The rulers of Bahrain, a Sunni gang, realized a long time ago it was best not to raise a citizen army or security force when the population was 70% Shiite who needed to be kept firmly under state control.  So they resorted to gerrymandering their legislature to ensure Sunni political control and, according to BBC News, they built a mercenary police and security service recruited from foreign Sunnis.

Human rights activists, mostly Shia, organised frequent demonstrations to protest against the slow pace of democratisation and what they saw as the suppression of human rights.

I was also told of how the government was hiring men from Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Pakistan - all Sunni - to serve in the police and security forces.

Fast-tracked to citizenship, they were able to jump the queue for housing and also had voting rights that skewed the demographic in favour of candidates supported by the al-Khalifas.

...protesters were faced by police and security forces who were largely foreign recruits.
That may explain the ferocity of the attacks on peaceful demonstrators both on Monday and Tuesday when two people were killed, and again in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Unencumbered with either local connections or tribal loyalties, and green-lighted by the government to use whatever means necessary to break up the demonstration, video evidence shows them charging into sleeping men, women and children with tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and shotguns.

At least four of the dead were shot at close range. A doctor trying to help the wounded told of how he was severely beaten by men speaking Urdu - they were Pakistanis.

But time may be running out for Bahrain's ruling Sunni thugs and their foreign muscle.  The BBC report notes that the uprising has seen plenty of Bahraini Sunnis showing up to join their Shia countrymen in demanding the ouster of their rulers.


Anonymous said...

Do you have solid proof for your claim that Shiites make up the majority of the population in Bahrain? What I mean by proof is a validated official statistic and not estimates made by foreign governments, NGO's, Human Right Activists, etc. I really doubt that.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, there is plenty of "solid proof" if you're not too lazy to get off your fat arse and look for it. You might try that lefty foreign service, the Central Intelligence Agency. Their CIA World Factbook reveals that Bahrain is indeed 70% Shia. If you really doubt that too, there are dozens of corroborative sources. Look it up, unless the wrestling is on.