Several stories in recent days have highlighted the jeers of various countries usually on the receiving end of human rights critiques, including China, Libya, and Iran. An article in The Atlantic, for example, offers the headline: "For Iran, Libya, and China, U.K. Rioting Is a Time to Taunt." And likewise in The Washington Post: "London riots used by Iran, Bahrain to justify government crackdowns." Being mostly interested in Bahrain--though I am certainly not adverse to a good Ahmadinejad quote--I found that the latter story, despite its headline, is actually short on details about the overall reaction in Bahrain, quoting a few lines from a GDN op-ed.
So I thought that, especially given the unlimited potential of the new Al-Watan English site, there must be a treasure trove of good material to pick from here. And I was not disappointed.
First, we may look at the op-ed referenced in the Washington Post piece, which is titled snarkily: "'Arab Spring' has finally sprung ... in London!" It says in part:
The hallmarks of everyone's favourite uprising were there for all to see as, sparked by the shooting of a civilian by police, the downtrodden masses took to the streets to challenge the British regime.Etc. etc. If the U.K. is justified in attacking its protesters why aren't we justified in attacking ours? Why should a double-standard be employed against Bahrain simply because its uprising and response happen to be qualitatively different from the situation in London? Straightforward enough, right?
Cars and buildings have been torched, innocent people and police have been attacked, roads have been barricaded and the capital is like a battleground.
Rioters are using modern technology such as Blackberry and Twitter to mobilise, just as they did in Bahrain, and video footage is being posted on YouTube. ...
And while they would not condone what is happening in London, there are more than a few who would argue that Britain got what was coming following its criticism of Bahrain and the antics of its media.
The irony is that if the UK hadn't been so occupied fraternising with the political opposition in Bahrain, co-managing a coup in Libya, retreating from its misadventures in Iraq and playing hide and seek with the Taliban in Afghanistan - all at a time when the country's national debt is higher than ever - then it might have realised all was not well in its own backyard.
The fact is that people in the UK have legitimate reasons to be angry.
Even better is the report of a meeting with the Bahraini FM Sh. Khalid, who took some time out his rigorous Qatar- and Al-Jazeera-bashing schedule to meet with the British Ambassador to express his solidarity with the U.K.'s efforts to stamp out its own Shi'a-led uprising. Oh, they aren't Shi'a? Well, anyway. The GDN summary of the meeting begins:
Bahrain yesterday firmly backed Britain in its efforts to confront street violence. Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa told the UK's new ambassador to Bahrain Iain Lindsay that "freedom of expression should not mean insults or offending any leadership or government in the public media." ...So now it's the Bahraini government playing the role of the steadfast and understanding ally while the National Unity Gathering criticizes the British for its crackdown. For the record, then, that's: crackdown in Bahrain, good; crackdown in Syria or Britain: bad. I guess the presumption is that most of the London protesters are Sunna. Really, it's too bad that the British, Syrian, and Qatari (to say nothing of the American) Embassies are so far apart, or else the National Unity Gathering people could hit them all in one giant demonstration procession. One hopes that its followers are in good shape.
Meanwhile, a major Bahraini political movement has criticised the British government's crackdown on rioters.
The National Unity Assembly also called for an urgent investigation into unrest in London and other cities.
"We now ask the British government to investigate what is forcing their citizens to riot on the streets," secretary-general Abdulla Saad Al Howaihi told the GDN yesterday.
"They (rioters) should be given a chance to air their views and speak out. This is exactly what they (the UK) told us."
Last but not least, of course, are our friends at Al-Watan English. Will they disappoint? Of course not! At least not with Hesham al-Zayani (from the same family as the GCC Military Chief, no less) on the watch!
In true American evangelical Christian fashion, al-Zayani writes that "what [is happening] in London looks like [a] sett[l]ing of scores, a divine response to England's attitude towards agitations that recently occurred around." Hrm, I wonder where this "around" is? He continues on to refer to everyone arrested as "political prisoners," and asks:
London is trying to block the social networks “Twitter” and “Facebook”. You, who boast to be defending freedom, aren’t you cloning what happened in Tunisia and Egypt? You are Xeroxing the same experience that happened there and you don’t preach what you teach. London arrests an 11-year–old boy, the youngest political prisoner.Anyway, you can read the rest for yourself. And if there are other good stories along this line that I missed feel free to send them along.
Aren’t you witnessing what the English police are doing when it comes to security and to law enforcement? Aren’t you racist when you shot the black young man dead? Aren’t you also racist against minorities when you target the black and the Turkish?
Wouldn't you love it, though, if the British Foreign Ministry released a statement criticizing last night's deployment of tanks and armored vehicles to block demonstrators from the February 14th Movement from reaching the Pearl Roundabout?
Update: In yet another attempt to draw parallels to the Bahraini case, Al-Ayam is running a Reuters story (Arabic) on Qaddafi's response to the riots: "Libya: Cameron Employs Mercenaries from Scotland and Ireland to Put down the Riot." Just wait until they find out about the Gurkhas.
Update 2: As some sort of make-up for the "Shouting in the Dark" documentary, Al-Jazeera English aired a 30-minute debate last night touching on the February uprising and crackdown, the National Dialogue, and the BICI. It featured Shura Council Deputy Chairman Jamal Fakhru representing the government position. The video is below:
And if you were looking for a London riots taunt mixed with a reference to Plato's Republic, who else but Al-Watan could deliver? Faisal al-Shaykh's new column:
Update 3: So much for the supposed dialogue between senior members of the Al Khalifa and al-Wifaq. The latter reaffirmed its boycott of the by-elections at its rally today in Bu Quwah as well as "a return to the street [protests] to put pressure on the regime for real reform." Or in the words of former MP Jasim Hussain: al-Wifaq "declares existing parliament is void, not reflecting popular views, calls for [constitutional] assembly or referendum." Bloomberg has more.