13th May, 2013 –
In December of 2012, a lady named Bethan Tichborne was beaten and arrested for climbing a fence and waving banner at a public event in Witney, England. The Banner read “Cameron has blood on his hands.”
Tichborne was referring to British Prime Minister David Cameron, and was protesting against financial cuts to disability benefits that have resulted in the deaths of 30 disabled British citizens. She was beaten by police, taken to court, and fined a total of 747 pounds.
Tim Pattinson, the judge presiding over Tichborne’s case, stated at the hearing that “It is difficult to think of a clearer example of disorderly behavior than to climb or attempt to climb a barrier at a highly security sensitive public occasion.”
No disrespect to Judge Pattinson, but it is fairly obvious that he has never been to Bahrain.
What would Judge Pattinson say if he were to preside over one of the cases of “disorderly behavior” in Bahrain? Would he agree to the dismissal of those who have been caught blocking our roads with burning tires and ambushing police with Molotov cocktails?
The Bahraini government has generally been quite tolerant towards most violators, many of whom were caught red handed – and I am one among many Bahrainis who are losing patience with the excessive lenience shown towards disorderly behavior in Bahrain.
Robert Fisk, in an article discussing the events of the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, claims, “We in the West – our governments – have created our own dictators. But unlike the Arabs, we cannot touch them.”
Although the dictators Fisk is referring to are the banks and rating agencies, one cannot help but notice a recurring double standard in the global fight for human rights.
A blogger and Oakland resident recounts his experience at the Occupy Oakland protests in Northern California, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, “They (Oakland Police) attacked the crowd with tear gas, flash bangs, and rubber bullets. They deliberately hurt people, throwing tear gas at a crowd of people – they shot canisters at protesters heads – of course the news did not tell you this. That’s why I am.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, corrective action was demanded of the Oakland Police Department, and they soon responded by firing two officers and suspending several others responsible for using excessive force. The Mayor of Oakland was not held directly accountable, nor was any member of his cabinet reprimanded for the actions of a few overly aggressive officers.
The majority of protests in Bahrain are far more militant and violent than the ones that took place in Oakland and New York. Could you imagine what Oakland would have been like if protestors began hurling Molotovs at police?
Oakland Police Department would have undoubtedly used the necessary force needed to suppress the threat with no reason to compromise.
So why is it that whenever force, on par with that used by the Oakland Police, is used in Bahrain, foreign voices, overly sympathetic to the opposition, cry out condemning the entire leadership of Bahrain?
If the excessive use of force by a handful of police officers provides satisfactory grounds to justify a complete change in leadership, the entire planet would be in a constant state of political reform!
Violent and disorderly behavior occurs throughout Bahrain, on a daily basis, to an extent that makes the actions of Bethan Tichborne and Oakland protesters seem relatively orderly. Mounds of burning tires, Molotov cocktails, and improvised roadblocks have become the daily reality of our lives.
These tactics not only help ingrain a sense of perpetual anxiety in the Bahraini majority, they also ensure foreign eyes stay constantly fixated on Bahrain.
Yet it ceases to surprise me when these criminals are hailed as heroes, particularly by organizations that intentionally attempt to sensationalize matters of national security; simply because a protestor flashes the peace sign while setting fire to a mound of Michelins doesn’t make his actions less incriminating.
Neither does the excuse of being the victim of an unjust regime validate the chaos and disorder that the Bahraini public is being subjected to. I am sure that Judge Pattinson would agree that one’s circumstance does not justify engaging in disorderly behavior.
Regardless of the circumstances, disorderly behavior is a criminal issue that must be confronted. The circumstances will, however, dictate the manner in which violators are subdued.
And unlike Ms. Tichborne, who was obligated to pay a fine, or the hundreds of arrests and convictions during the Occupy protests, a large number of violators in Bahrain are most often let go with the proverbial slap on the wrist.
The leadership is undoubtedly obligated to respond to legitimate demands for reform; however, they also have a duty to protect the public against rioters, vandals and terrorists – a duty which they should feel no need to apologize for or compromise on.
After two years of violence and anxiety, Bahrain’s citizens have had enough. We hope that global audiences will show a bit of sympathy for ordinary Bahrainis – not just those in the streets continuing to cultivate chaos.