The pro-democracy protests in Bahrain have been going on for more than a year now but the West will keep on turning a blind eye to human rights in the country as long as it acts in accordance with US interests, says journalist Patrick Henningsen.
Some 7,000 marched on Saturday calling for democratic reforms while denouncing this year’s Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix. They say the event glorifies the repressive Sunni government, which has been cracking down on the massive protests by the Shia majority for the past year.
Police fired dozens of rounds of tear gas in the village of Diraz outside the capital Manama on Saturday evening to keep anti-government demonstrators away from a main road on the eve of the global sporting event.
One demonstrator was found shot dead after overnight clashes with security forces, adding fuel to the fire of the protesters’ outrage.
The government has spent US$ 40 million on hosting the Grand Prix and is refusing to cancel the event, hoping to demonstrate that the country is back to normal after the unrest of the Arab Spring.
But the Bahraini people disagree with their government. Opposition activist Sayed Ahmed says the people think the race is “racing on our blood.”
“So the people of Bahrain are asking for human rights first and this will be their priority before any sports," he added as quoted by the Associated Press.
Reuters news agency says that while sports journalists have been invited to cover the race, its news reporters, as well as journalists from other news organizations, have been denied visas.
At least 50 people have died in since February 2011 in the pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain, which is a crucial US ally and, indeed, hosts the US Fifth Fleet. The Sunni rulers have asked neighboring Saudi Arabia to deploy troops to the island to help quell the unrest. However, little reaction has followed from the Western capitals.
Patrick Henningsen, a journalist and editor of the 21st Century Wire, believes that the West will not care about human rights issue in Bahrain as long as it acts and votes in accordance with US foreign policy. “Generally they don’t care in Washington or London what the Bahrainis do to their own people.”
He points out that Bahrain is a satellite state of Saudi Arabia and a satellite state in the region of the US and Britain. “They have incredible vested interests there in terms of petroleum contracts etc.”
The journalist also stresses the island’s proximity to Iran makes it a strategic defense location in the Persian Gulf.