REVIEW Bahrainis' freedom struggle comes
to light Shouting in the
Dark, Al Jazeera English
During the democratic
uprisings that began in the Arab world in 2011,
the entire world has focused on Tunisia, Egypt,
Yemen, and now Syria. On February 16, Bahrainis
participated in what the Qatar-based television
station Al-Jazeera has called a "secret
revolution", one that was "abandoned by Arabs,
forsaken by the West and forgotten by the world".
With no international reporters in Bahrain to
capture the uprising, Al-Jazeera documented, in
trembling closeness, the courage demonstrated by
the Bahraini protesters, and then the horrors and
bloodshed that ensued once the ruler's forces
commenced their attack.
This timely and
inspiring footage, which ultimately tells a
disheartening story, can now be seen in the new documentary
Bahrain: Shouting in
the Dark.The film documents how Bahrainis
maintained their dignity through years of
absolutism and then, inspired by events taking
place elsewhere in the Arab world, gathered around
the Pearl Roundabout in the capital city Manama to
demand freedom from a corrupt regime. It started
with the familiar chant "the people want the fall
of the regime" but ended when the regime crushed
the protests at the traffic circle.
Bahrain is a small island near the western
shores of the Persian Gulf. Since the 18th
century, the Khalifa family has ruled the country.
The current head of the family is Hamad bin Isa Al
Khalifa, who became the emir in 1999 and
proclaimed himself king of Bahrain in 2002. The
documentary reveals that the ruling family
acquired US$40 billion in public land for
themselves - approximately 10% of the country.
The Al Khalifa family professes Sunni
Islam and rules a majority Shi'ite population. The
Bahraini uprising has often been portrayed as a
sectarian struggle between Sunni and Shi'ites.
However, Shouting in the Dark provides an
alternative narrative that demonstrates the unity
among Bahrain's citizens and the political, rather
than religious, nature of their demands. The
demonstrators simply wanted their "minimum basic
rights" as human beings.
the Dark narrates how Western rulers chose to
ignore Bahrain because the ruling family is an
important strategic ally in the Middle East. The
US Navy's 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain, and the
island state is near Saudi Arabia's oilfields.
Furthermore, the Gulf Cooperation Council - the
political and economic union of the Arab states
bordering the Persian Gulf - has pledged to
support the Khalifa ruling family. Saudi Arabia
sent tanks to Bahrain to surround the Pearl
Roundabout and restore order in the country.
In the aftermath of the protests, the
Bahraini government severely cracked down on the
activists. State television launched a campaign
that divided the people and ignited sectarian
tension. The government accused the protesters of
being traitors and blamed Iran for the violence
that ensued in the traffic circle.
authorities arrested prominent Bahrainis such as
A'ala Hubail and his brother Mohamed Hubail, both
members of the national soccer team, in connection
with their participation in the 2011 protests,
humiliated them on television, and then imprisoned
and tortured them. Ayat al-Qurmezi, a veiled young
female, was arrested for reciting a poem that
criticized the royal family.
lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer and opposition politician
Matar Matar were also arrested and are currently
on trial. Security forces gunned down several
peaceful Bahraini protesters in the streets and in
their homes. Police detained many dissidents at
police checkpoints, then later dumped their bodies
on the road, marked with unmistakable evidence of
Shouting in the Dark is a
painful, mesmerizing, and tragic documentary.
Finally, with all this Al-Jazeera footage in one
place, it is possible to view the one Arab
uprising that has largely been hidden from view.
Nama Khalil is a contributor to
Foreign Policy In Focus