Sunday, 26 February 2012

Bahrain Today

One of the countries caught up in the Arab Spring is the kingdom of Bahrain. The Bahraini uprising began in Feb. 14, 2011 and has since been crushed by the Monarchy of King Hamad and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

To the right is an image of Pearl Roundabout, the Tiananmen Square of Bahrain and the location of many public protests. What began as protest for reform has since been described by the Bahraini Opposition as a call for: the abdication of King Hamad, a Constitutional Monarchy, deportation of foreign armed groups including mercenaries and Western and Gulf State armies, a new Constitution, an end to economic and human rights violations, elections and equality for Shias (the Country's majority sectarian group; the Country is governed by the Sunni minority).

Bellow is an Al Jazeera English Documentary: Bahrain Shouting in the Dark which I believe to be a fair and accurate depiction of the conflict that exists in Bahrain today.

Needless to say, the opposition has not been very successfull in achieving their goals. The Dictatorship of King Hamad continues to this day, he is perportedly one of the longest serving heads of state currently in power. A large contingent of Saudi and Pakinstani troops occupy Bahrain on behalf of the Gulf Coorperation Council and at explict request of the Bahrain Government.

The protests were crushed, Pearl Roundabout raised to the ground and now the country is in a state of military occupation with widespread reports of torture, human rights abuses, and government censorship.

Also Bahrain has been home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, the Bahrain Government has been a strategic ally in the American lead War on Terror and continues to be. Bahrain is said to represent the first counter revolution against the democratic uprisings of the Arab Spring.

If you enjoyed reading this post you may also like a blog post by Brad Richardson on the year anniversary of the Bahrain uprising. The blog post title is: Bahrain Protesters Rally Ahead of Anniversary.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Freedom of the Press

An independent press is essential to the functioning of a democracy. The ability of media to criticize the government and public officials is something worth protecting. A free and independent press also allows for civil society to have a platform and a vehicle for debate and dissent.

The Press Freedom Index 2011/2012 is an excellent resource to begin researching press freedoms.

The top 10 Countries are:

1. Finland
2. Norway
3. Estonia
4. Netherlands
5. Austria
6. Iceland
7. Luxembourg
8. Switzerland
9. Cape Verde
10. Canada

Hey at least we made the top 10, not bad, but to be fair we tied Denmark for 10th.

Something interesting I found was that recent protests in the Arab world has caused Countries caught up in the Arab Spring to have a lower press freedom score. Protest movements in European Countries have also caused lower press freedom scores for those countries. It would appear as though there is a correlation between war and public protest and low press freedom index scores. The United States ranked 47th. These low results from the United States are attributed to the Occupy protests and current wars in the Middle East.

Out of 179 Countries the bottom 10 are:

170. Sudan
171. Yemen
172. Vietnam
173. Bahrain
174. China
175. Iran
176. Syria
177. Turkmenistan
178. North Korea
179. Eritrea

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Freedom, Liberty, Syria

The events that are taking place in Syria are an affront to democracy and human rights. How did things escalate so far?

Since Dec. 18 2010 a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests have occurred in middle eastern states. The Arab Spring has created revolutions in Tunisia and then Egypt, in Libya and in Bahrain. The Arab Spring has spread to Morocco, Yemen, and Syria. Each revolution has its own nuances and particular grievances but something they share in common is the widespread use of cell phones and modern communications technologies over the internet to capture the uprisings.

The Syrian revolution began when a group of teenage boys spray painted anti-government graffiti on their school. The Syrian police arrested and tortured the school children leading to public protests and more violence. The Syrian government uses extreme violence to stop what they say are terrorists and criminals but many innocent Syrians have been killed in the ensuing conflict.

I found some interesting documentaries on that describe the situation for civilians in Syria.

Images of a Revolution: The Arab Spring on Film

Inside Story: Has Syria Been Given a License to Kill?

Both of the links above will take you to footage from Aljazeera English.

I once went to school with a fellow from Syria. We talked about politics on occasion and I can remember asking him what his favourite thing about Canada was. He told me it was the freedom and I laughed a little, I guess I take it for granted, I didn't really understand. My Syrian classmate said that he enjoyed jogging around campus without having to have a security pass. He told me that he didn't have the freedom to move around much back home in Syria. After watching the above documentaries I think I can appreciate more of what my colleague from Syria was trying to impress upon me.