For at least several decades, geopolitical, economic, territorial and ideological considerations have led to serious tensions, if not outright feuds, between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states. In recent weeks, however, the regimes of GCC states have shown their citizens that when their authoritarian rule is at stake, they will put aside their differences and put up a united front. Exceptional times, it seems, do call for exceptional measures. As such, the GCC endorsed NSC Resolution 1973–authorizing “all measures necessary” in Libya, including a no-fly zone. Indeed, while some GCC states have agreed to send troops to help overthrow one brutal dictator in Libya, others have already sent their US-trained and armed troops to uphold the rule of another entrenched and equally brutal dictator in Bahrain. But what exactly happens when some of the world’s most oppressive dictators unite, not to fight a well-known regional adversary further up North, but to put down a peaceful and democratic popular uprising?
The GCC’s Peninsula Shield Forces—composed mainly of Saudi, but also Qatari and Emirati troops—officially entered Bahrain on Monday March 14th, 2011. While their stated goal is to protect Bahraini government and oil facilities, the level of indiscriminate state violence against unarmed civilians in the last few days has been unprecedented. Firsthand accounts and video footage of Bahraini state security personnel using tear gas, rubber bullets, machine guns, tanks, and other weapons against unarmed civilians and journalists without warning have emerged from many villages, mainly Sitra and Qadham, and not just from the capital, Manama. In one reported incident, an Indian national working for a private security firm in Bahrain was killed while on duty on Wednesday night by a stray bullet from a military helicopter that was firing at protesters.
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.