While people in the West and their fawning followers in the Muslim world celebrate Valentine’s Day, the people of Bahrain can be forgiven if they do not remember February 14 as a day to spread unsolicited love.
For them, February 14 revives memories, exactly 10 years ago, of their stunning takeover of the iconic Pearl Square in Manama, the capital city.
The security forces did not intervene that day. The crowd was so massive that the heavily-armed security forces feared they would be unable to control it.
Three days later (February 17) the heavily armed troops fired live bullets killing four people and injuring scores of others
Even the rally organizers were surprised by the turnout despite the regime's unrelenting brutality.
Thousands poured into the Pearl Square reflecting the deep resentment they felt toward the minority Khalifa regime’s heavy-handed treatment of any dissent.
Resentment at ongoing oppression, and inspired by the examples of people in Tunisia and Egypt that had in short order consigned long-entrenched dictators to the dustbin of history, the people of Bahrain thought their quest for freedom would also bear fruit.
Instead, they became the victims of multiple conspiracies.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) rushed troops in March 2011 to quell the uprising that was completely peaceful despite the brutal security crackdown.
The Pearl Square was destroyed; thousands of protesters were rounded up and those injured by security forces were dragged out of hospital beds and beaten up.
According to a new report compiled by the London-based campaign group Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) that Middle East Eye said was shared with it ahead of its release for the 10th anniversary of the uprising on February 15, said that since 2011 at least 51 people have been sentenced to death in Bahrain.
It further revealed that between 1971 and 2017, only nine executions were carried out in Bahrain.
In the two-and-a-half-year period from 2017, six people have been executed while 27 are on death row, with 26 at risk of imminent execution.
At least 4,000 political prisoners languish in the country’s notorious jail system—stretched beyond capacity, where torture is rampant.
Many political detainees have been so badly tortured that they have suffered broken limbs.
While many former detainees are afraid to speak on record for fear of regime’s retribution, others have not been cowed even by torture.
One of them is Ali Hussain Haji, a pro-reform protester still languishing in Jau Central prison.
Arrested in 2013, he told MEE by phone that torture has left him with partial deafness and permanent damage to his jaw and testicles, as well as a broken nose that has required two operations to fix.
Despite these well-documented cases of torture and abuse, much of the rest of the world has turned a blind eye to the Bahrainis’ suffering.
Britain continues to supply weapons to the regime while the US maintains its Navy 5th Fleet in the island state.
The West would rather keep an oppressive regime in power than allow a representative government to emerge in Bahrain.
Despite such challenges, Sheikh Issa Qassem, leader of the Islamic movement in Bahrain, speaking in Qom, Iran on February 13 said that the struggle for reform and the rights of the people will continue.