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Since the beginning of the year, most of the Islamic world has been in uproar over the demand for recognition of people’s rights and an end to the autocratic regimes set up in the vast majority of these countries. While some revolutions have been successful — for instance, the example of Egypt and most recently the fall of Libya’s Gadaffi — others have not been able to enjoy the liberties brought by the Arab Spring revolutions.
Bahrain has often been regarded as a modern and reasonable country, even though recent reports claim riot police targeted Shiite Muslim protesters and caused the death of a 14-year-old boy.
The demands of the Bahrainis for a more democratic and equalitarian state were never met and protesters were soon detained. Shiites account for more than 70% of the population but are ruled by a Sunni minority, being treated as second-class citizens and often ostracized. Most of the activists in this battle have turned to social media websites to fight for their freedom.
Youtube and other video-sharing websites are also being used as a means to raise awareness concerning the anti-government movement and their human rights rallies. Facebook has proved to be one of the strongest weapons against the establishment. It is being used by protesters as an information outlet to the rest of the world, as well as a means to gather activists.
The page TrueRoyalDemocracy devotes itself to help organize pro-democracy demonstrations and expose police brutality. However, police and government officials have also resorted to social media in order to track down and identify protesters, having arrested and tortured them in the past.
According to Nancy Messieh, Middle East editor at The Next Web, demonstrators are aware of the danger and risks of posting anti-government messages online, but continue to do so in the hopes of eventually reaching their goal: “Even if you look at the extent that people will go to, away from social media, like what we are seeing in Syria at the moment, they know the consequences, they know what they’re getting themselves into and they’re still willing to do it, and I think even with social media it is exactly the same thing.
If this is a tool that they can use, they’re going to use it, despite the risks.” Social media platforms were a monumental tool for the change in Egypt, and the same could happen in Bahrain. In light of recent events, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has vowed to investigate recent killings in Bahrain and develop reform, in an attempt to meet the demands Bahrainis have called for.
Could this be a sign of change to come or is it merely a tactic to silence the ever-growing voice of the opposition? We might know soon enough.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/mahmood/