Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bahrain By-Elections Extravaganza

Over the course of the week of September 18 Bahrain’s social networks, and especially Twitter, were bustling with activity as the Feb14 Youth announce their plan to return to what was once GCC Roundabout otherwise known as Lulu Roundabout or Martyrs Square.  For the first time since the February/ March crisis, I saw Bahrain’s loyalists unite in an effort to prevent yet another occupation of Bahrain’s financial district and counter all the moves made by Feb14.
#Tawkalkarama – Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Earlier in the week, the Feb14 youth announced what they described to be a peaceful form of protest called Dignity Belt which called for all protesters to drive around the most highly used main roads leading to the financial district of Bahrain until the roads are completely frozen with traffic congestion.  The aim of this move was to prevent people from reaching their workplace, prevent customers from reaching businesses and ultimately cause major financial damage to the economy.  It was their belief that this move will push businesses to exert pressure on the government to step down and at the same time it was their first move towards returning to their Lulu shrine…
However, the night before the event, Bahrain loyalists stepped up and filled Twitter with calls to counter the event and ensure that businesses do open.  Counter measures included leaving home at 6 in the morning to reach offices before 7am which was the proposed kickoff time for Dignity Belt.  The #Tawkalkarama hash tag was filled with our tweets and morale was high and excitement levels peaked on Wednesday morning when people actually did wake up bright and early and tweets about reaching work went viral while traffic reports on Twitter and Bahrain Television showed just a little more than usual traffic save for the bit of congestion around half way through the event on Shaikh Khalifa highway leading into Manama caused by the extra precautionary measures taken by the traffic police to ensure the inner roads of Manama are not infiltrated by saboteurs.
By 10am everybody was already busy at work while tweets from the opposition were spreading pictures of what appeared to be traffic but in reality could be normal congestion during the morning rush hour of a typical Bahraini weekday.  Associated Press released an article stating that Dignity Belt has reduced Bahrain traffic to a “crawl” which might have had some credibility to the average idiot had they not released this article on SEPTEMBER 20TH!!  MSNBC and Al Jazeera then took the same article and posted it on their sites and that was about all the coverage they got in their favor.  CNN on the other hand in an unprecedented move called the event a complete failure.
Little victories were claimed that day by the Feb14 Youth. That bit of congestion on that one highway and the heightened security were claimed to be their triumphs over the regime that day. The fact that they caused panic among their fellow Bahrainis was another. One can see that these triumphs were petty and foolish considering the malicious intent towards the other inhabitants of this island.
Thursday, 22nd September 2011
The victory experienced by Bahrain’s loyalists on Wednesday has created high levels of participation on the social networks and the counter tweets on the opposition hashtags have reached their highest levels. Increased participation on the opposition's hash tags in an effort to be heard have began bearing fruit and that alone has caused many people to stay home and monitor and participate on all channels.
The Stream hosted Al Wefaq former MP Mattar Mattar and opposite him Dr. Saqer Al Khalifa, Media Attache to the Bahraini Embassy in the United States.  Everyone was tweeting their hearts out to the show asking questions and posting comments and supporting their preferred guest.  Another triumph was recorded there when Mattar Mattar found himself no match to Dr. Saqer who communicated with extreme clarity and sense while Mattar mumbled his way through the interview.
#lulureturn – Friday, 23rd September 2011
It was the day everyone was dreading; a day of the first real threat that protesters would go back to the site of GCC roundabout.  The determination on the #lulureturn hash tag was a telling sign that they mean business.  Calls for all to “die for Bahrain” meant they were determined enough to defy the security forces and get killed doing it.
Most of us were worried that in the middle of all the anticipated confusion and the presumed defiance of authorities that police would have to use force to turn back the protesters.  In our worst fears, there would be thousands charging towards the police and that victims may fall and we’d all go back to square one.
Starting from Thursday and throughout Friday morning we have done all we can to counter the opposition tweets on the #lulureturn hash tag and at the same time anticipating the announcement of zero hour when they would all “crawl” towards the site of Al Farooq junction.
At about 4pm, I received a call from my friend telling me that protests have broken out at the City Center Mall where she was just finishing lunch with her family. She described the scene to be around 200 people marching at the ground floor of the mall when others afraid of violence breaking out went upstairs for safety.  She took a few pictures for me to post on Twitter and as she tried to take a video of what was going on downstairs she got nudged by a man who turned out to be part of a group who were motioning to the protesters downstairs and directing their movements.
Later on there were reports of some of the protesters attacking Al Arabiya journalist, Mohammed Al Arab who was there with his crew to film a documentary about the elections in Bahrain when they were surprised by a group of men attacking them and stealing their camera which to this day has not yet been recovered.
My friend reported a mad panic among people on the top floor who were shocked that their day out was interrupted by these protests and terrified that violence might break out. Mothers and children were screaming, some even fainted and some of the children were separated from their families amidst all the commotion.
Eventually the top floor filled up with patriotic Bahrainis and loyal GCC citizens who frequent Bahrain on weekends. They gathered at the rail and in their rage while hearing calls for the fall of HRH the King they found themselves chanting “the People want Khalifa Bin Salman!” at the top of their lungs drowning the noise coming from below.  What a proud moment that must have been for them knowing that there was indeed something that they could do to retaliate without resorting to violent clashes and thus making their stance loud and clear.
Moments later anti riots police arrived and quickly dispersed the crowd arresting a number of men and women. Those that got away had their faces plastered all over national TV and almost immediately afterwards faces were identified and their names were circulating all over Twitter and Blackberry Messenger.
Meanwhile attempts to reach Al Farooq junction were futile and all diversion tactics were completely useless.  Protests were again confined to the villages and security forces did a great job keeping people away from the Seef/ Manama area.  Road blocks became necessary in order to ensure a tight perimeter around the area which cause some traffic jams.
As I commented on Friday’s incident I was shocked to see people actually defending the blatant act of terrorizing families and disturbing their weekend and possibly traumatizing their children.  I got tweets telling me, “good now you know how it feels to be us” and “how could the police arrest women who were protesting peacefully??” and even worse ones like “how could they enjoy themselves knowing there are children with nothing to eat because their father got sacked??” Apparently, we all deserve to be miserable because they are unable to understand the concept of actions and consequences.
Victories claimed that day: excess traffic.
#BHelection – Saturday, September 24, 2011
New threats to “crawl” towards “Lulu” were observed on Twitter. More determination and will seemed to be filling the #lulureturn hash tag but the numbers seemed to be diminishing. On the other hand, the #BHelection hash tag was witnessing a tug of war of tweets some sending their recipients on guilt trips should they go to the polling stations and many others encouraging constituents to vote.
To proactively counter efforts to reach “lulu” roadblocks were set up by the police to prevent the people from the most troublesome areas from attempting to reach Al Farooq junction. Much traffic was caused on this day all for the purpose of keeping people safe and polling stations free of vandals.
A new hash tag used by the opposition called #Safroha (meaning “make it zero” in reference to the elections turnout percentage) inspired by the very hate inspiring speech of Ali Salman on Thursday.  Calls to boycott the elections have started long ago but were intensified this weekend. Constant reminders that the blood of the martyrs is on their shoulders if they voted or that they will be a black mark in the history books if they disobeyed the order.  Al Wefaq went as far as circulating a Fatwa by Iraqi cleric Al Ghoraifi forbidding them from voting.
At the same time, live coverage on TV showed a lot of foot traffic at the polling stations especially at the mall and airport and eye witnesses on Twitter were reporting a strong turnout.  The news came towards the end of the day that the turnout was around 51% as Ali Salman of Al Wefaq claims no more than 15% and the elation of the loyalists could not be contained; they could finally see the fruits of their labor and hope has been restored that Bahrain will come out of this safer and stronger than ever.
Victories claimed that day: more traffic congestion.
The events that unfolded starting from the 21st until the 24th of September were a clear strategy from Al Wefaq to hinder the democratic process in Bahrain and prevent people from voting on Saturday. Masked by the pretense of Feb 14 Youth, these acts of desperation stemming from the fact that the world has started to see through the movement and understand that it is not the majority of Bahrain who are opposed to the government; that this hyped up, over exaggerated, sectarian so-called revolution is nothing more than an attempt to gain power through stepping all over everyone else’s freedoms including that of their own followers.
The events of this weekend have unfortunately increased the divide in Bahrain… As people were just resuming their lives and rebuilding relations with their fellow Bahrainis what was now proved to be a small minority of people have gone and broken all the bridges that have been built over the past period since February 14.  Encroaching upon other people’s freedoms, trying to pull Bahrain back towards an ugly cold civil war and causing distress and anxiety are not characteristics of a peaceful political reform movement.
On the other hand, many have started to find the right path and have broken away from this destructive minority.  People went to vote and most did not succumb to the calls for the return to “Lulu” and the democratic process was determined to continue to thrive and grow in Bahrain with or without Al Wefaq and their puppets.

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