"I`ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can`t take more.”
“You mean you can`t take less,” said the Hatter, “it`s very easy to take more than nothing."
Recent news reports on the current uprising in Bahrain are all talking about the talk; we hear, or read, that, “Clinton, Saudi minister support Bahrain dialogue,” and that “UAE-Qatar support Dialogue Initiative.” Days later, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey “Feltman praises initiatives by HM King Hamad,” and according to Bahraini authorities, “Bahrain has also received support from the Governments of France, Jordan, Russia and Turkey for the national dialogue.”
So how come the protesters are not at the negotiating table? Clearly, that miserable lot munching on popcorn at the Pearl are just unwilling to talk, defiantly refusing ‘civilized’ methods of reform, right? Well, allow me to suggest that perhaps it is because the table they are being invited to doesn’t have a leg to stand on. And this is why:
Not long after the Bahraini regime gained great fortune from Bahrain’s 1932 discovery of oil, there emerged a movement for judicial reform that called for an end to employment discrimination against locals at the Bahrain Petroleum Company and to the growing disparity of wealth between the ruling family and ordinary Bahrainis. Strikers were arrested and dismissed from employment in order to quell the movement – and the government later created a Labour Committee.
Then came the 1950s. Socio-political grievances merged with nationalist and anti-imperialist street action and heralded several strikes. A Higher Executive Committee emerged and led strikes that called for political participation, an elected legislative council, a codified criminal and civil code, and the establishment of a trade union and a court of appeals. The government, with help from the British, suppressed this popular movement. Security forces killed three Bahrainis, which then led to a general strike. In a conciliatory attempt, then-ruler Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa allowed the Committee to establish itself as the Committee for National Unity. But when spontaneous demonstrations after the British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt erupted in Bahrain in 1956, the government exiled Committee members and imposed a state of emergency.
This article is now featured in Jadaliyya`s edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.