The Bahraini regime last week issued a new law that shows just how wobbly-scared it is of its own people. Anyone found in possession of a false face mask is liable to be jailed.
The mask in question is the stylized face of Guy Fawkes - the 17th Century English revolutionary who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the failed gunpowder plot. The 2005 film ‘V for Vendetta’ used the Guy Fawkes’ image in a modern-day fictional setting of revolution in Britain. And in recent years, the mask has become a global symbol of popular protest, donned by members of the Occupy Movement in the US and during countless similar demonstrations across Europe against capitalism and militarism.
Those who wear the plastic bearded face hardly look sinister. If anything, it makes people appear corny and smug, not dangerous revolutionaries. But this Guy Fawkes disguise has the Al Khalifa regime in Bahrain quaking in their boots, and hence it has moved to banish the offending article from the island.
The irony is that it is the regime and its Western government backers who are wearing a mask, and the ongoing brutal repression in Bahrain serves to expose their collective ugly face.
This zero tolerance by the Al Khalifa so-called king towards a comical mask is itself comical. Fittingly, given the history of Guy Fawkes, it betrays a Medieval mindset of a retarded and reactionary regime. The “royal decree” shows just how rattled and nervous the monarchial rulers of Bahrain are towards the slightest display of popular dissent. It is the response of a megalomaniac who cannot bear to have his vain tyranny disobeyed or mocked.
And the people of Bahrain have every right to show the Al Khalifa regime their utmost contempt and derision. This family of murderers and brigands has lorded over the indigenous population ever since it was imposed on the island by the British Empire some 230 years ago. The imposter Khalifas were originally a Bedouin tribe of bandits that came out of central Arabia, whose cut-throat barbarity was recognized by the British government as an expeditious way of controlling Bahrain and the strategic Persian Gulf trading route. The self-styled acquisition of royal titles and finery over the ensuing decades does not alter the fact that this regime still is a band of low-life bandits, thieves and killers.
Like a parasite and a host, the Khalifa thugs have sucked the lifeblood of the Bahraini people ever since. The majority of the island is Shia while the unelected Khalifa regime is professedly Sunni Muslim and closely aligned with the extremist Wahabbi House of Saud, which has a pathological hatred towards Shism. Before the discovery of oil in the 1930s, the Khalifa potentates financed their indolent existence by extorting the Bahrain fishermen, pearl divers and date farmers. They murdered and raped with impunity the subject, captive people of Bahrain. The British colonial office administered the occasional rebuke to their Khalifa henchmen, but in general colluded in the barbarity by turning a blind eye. Nothing much has changed to this day, as we shall see.
After the discovery of oil, the fate of the Bahraini people became even more blighted. They have endured poverty, unemployment, ill health, pollution and squalid housing while the Khalifa bandits and their entourage have made themselves some of the wealthiest individuals in the world. The oil wealth of Bahrain was siphoned off to enrich one family while the nation of Bahrain became ground down and made to feel strangers in their own homeland. This is literally true. The Khalifas have feared the majority Shia people so much that the regime deliberately imported droves of foreign workers from the Indian subcontinent and the Far East in order to marginalize and exclude the native people from social development. More than half of Bahrain’s total resident population of 1.2 million is made up of expatriate workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
The process of importing Asian workers and naturalizing Sunni Arabs from neighbouring countries is a concerted policy of gerrymandering the population in order to dilute the natural democratic strength of the indigenous people. This huge project in social engineering - one could call it low-intensity genocide - accelerated after Britain gave formal independence to Bahrain in 1971. It was financed by the oil wealth of Bahrain, which adds to the bitterness of the oppression against the indigenous population. Their unjust estrangement and marginalisation by the imposter Khalifa has been financed by the natural resources of their own country that have been so extorted by the invader regime.
This is the background for why the people of Bahrain rose up so defiantly against the parasite regime in February 2011 - an uprising that continues to this day despite systematic violence and repression.
The unwieldy corrupt Bahraini regime would not survive one day more against the popular will for democratic freedom only for the fact of crucial external support. Firstly, Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni monarchs of the Persian Gulf have propped up the teetering Al Khalifa despots by sending their military police to back up the Bahraini mercenary security forces and by injecting millions of dollars in aid over the past two years to keep the Bahraini economy afloat.
Secondly, and more importantly, the Bahraini regime has managed to survive against the democratic odds because of unwavering support from Washington and London. Trade, commerce, diplomacy and the supply of weapons have continued unabated despite the abundant record of repression and violations. The American and British governments have backed the Khalifa murderers and torturers to the hilt, indulging in a cynical charade purporting that the regime is engaging in “reform and dialogue” with the popular opposition.
“The [British] government insists that Bahrain's judicial system is fair and transparent,” wrote the BBC’s correspondent in the Persian Gulf, Bill Law, last week.
This was in the same week that Bahraini judge Mohammed bin Ali Al Khalifa - a member of the ruling elite no less - sentenced seven youths to 10 years in prison for allegedly attempting to murder police officers. As with hundreds of other Bahrainis languishing in the island’s jails, the defendants were convicted by a Khalifa judge solely on confessions extracted under torture. Meanwhile, in another case, two police officers were acquitted last week over the killing of a protester, despite glaring evidence of guilt.
The British government’s sanguine view was in the same week that the Bahraini rulers refused to hand over the body of a protester to his family for burial - more than a week after his death. Mahmood Al Jaziri (20) was shot in the head at point-blank range by police last month on 14 February during protests to mark the second anniversary of the uprising. The regime’s torturous wrangling over the body is its depraved way of keeping secret the horrific head injuries of the victim.
But these violations, injustices and appalling sufferings in Bahrain provide a searing moment of truth and revelation. Western mainstream media is a fog machine that can often cloud popular perception and understanding of how Western governments operate in the world, for example with regard to claims of supporting democracy and international obligations in Syria, Mali, Iran and elsewhere. However, thanks to the Bahraini people’s struggle for freedom, it is like a crucible where truth is separated from the morass of Western government lies and disinformation.
While the Al Khalifa regime is trying to ban the wearing of a Guy Fawkes mask, it is they who are wearing the most grotesque mask. And it is not just the Khalifa thugs who are seen to be wearing this false face. In their cringing support for these despicable despots, the masks worn by Washington and London are blown away. Their plastic, false faces are ripped clear from their heads and people around the world are able to see the true nature of the American and British governments. Their claims of championing human rights, democracy and international law around the world are exposed beyond doubt as twisted, vile distortions. Thanks to Bahrain, these so-called Western “governments” are proven to be regimes run by and for liars, hypocrites, criminals and tyrants who have nothing but contempt for democratic freedom. And as people are increasingly realizing under the diktat of capitalist austerity, this contempt for democracy applies equally to the citizens of the US, Britain and Europe as in other parts of the world.