If I had to choose a favorite people in the Middle East, it would have to be the Bahrainis: friendly, humble and very knowledgable about the world around them. You seen Bahrainis work in all walks of life, live relatively simply and eschew the expensive SUVs and sports cars seen in nearby countries.
And if they are Shi’a, most likely they are enduring what I experienced over this past weekend while I visited Bahrain. Walking towards the Bal al Bahrain district in central Manama, I suddenly saw several police officers or soldiers shoot tear gas canisters . . . into what appeared to be a largely empty neighborhood.
I hightailed to what I thought was a safe distance from them in order to catch a cab; and I think I was far away from the police officers. But the tear gas caught up to me very quickly. I winced and just walked through the neighborhood to see if I could find anyone, but the streets were largely empty and no taxis or cars were around. And if your eyes are in any way sensitive, what feels like the searing of your eyes makes it tough to concentrate. Finally I found a couple gentlemen who insisted I climb into their truck and they quickly drove me out of there.
Having lived in Korea during the 1990s, tear gas was a fact of life with the constant student demonstrations. I had my fair share of tear gas episodes, but what I saw in Bahrain was far more aggressive and confrontational.
It does not take much research to see why so many Bahrainis are upset at their government--or as several Bahrainis described to me as a “mafia,” a family, the Al Khalifa family, who they feel has long colonized their land, ruined the economy and only offers opportunities to the elite few.
With February 14 sneaking up, watch for the volatility in Bahrain to get worse. You can follow events on Twitter using the hash tag #Feb14 or keep tabs on sites like Witness Bahrain.
The video says it all.