Liberalism purports to uphold freedom and democracy, but Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, at the behest of Western liberal states, remains radically un-free for struggling for these values. Sentenced to life-imprisonment last year for his role in the Bahraini uprising against the monarchic despotism of King Hamad and his cronies, al-Khawaja has been on a hunger strike for more than two months now in protest of the continuing detentions of pro-democracy activists.
Since the uprising began last February, the Bahraini government has brazenly carried out extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, kidnappings, firings, student dismissals, and media harassment, according to the findings of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. On March 9th of this year, as many as 250,000 people took part in a pro-democracy demonstration. This represented over 20 percent of the population, making it one of the largest demonstrations in history – and a demonstration which was eventually met with teargas and stun grenades fired by security forces. More specifically, the Bahraini uprising has recorded the second highest per-capita deaths and arrests of the Arab Spring.
Despite its magnitude, the uprisings, and the government’s brutal suppression of it, have been awarded little attention from the mainstream media. This is hardly surprising since what the situation in Bahrain exposes is the sinister skeleton that lurks beneath the rosy-pink flesh of Western liberalism, a skeleton the liberal media prefer be kept in the closet.
The mobilizations in Bahrain have been centred on demands for serious democratic reform and proportional representation, civil liberties, and an end to the socio-economic marginalization of the country’s Shia population. And yet Western liberal states such as the United States and Britain, who present themselves as beacons of democracy, freedom, and human rights – and often occupy countries to supposedly advance these virtues – have been aiding and abetting the tyrannical Bahraini government in quelling the pro-democracy movement.
Indeed, recent figures confirmed that Britain continued to sell arms to Bahrain despite knowing full well the pernicious – and anti-democratic – ways in which they would be put to use. According to the figures, the government approved the sale of military equipment valued at more than £1 million in the months following the violent crackdown on demonstrators a year ago. They included licences for gun silencers, rifles, artillery and components for military training aircraft.
Predictably, the Obama administration has also colluded with King Hamad’s clampdown on democracy and human rights. Not only does Bahrain host a US navy base (known as the Naval Support Activity Bahrain), it was also US-backed and funded Saudi troops who entered Bahrain last March to assist the government in subduing the uprising when it first began. In light of these realities, President Obama’s statement saying he was “deeply concerned” by the violence in Bahrain should be read as nothing more than a desperate attempt at salvaging the waning facade of liberalism – that is, a facade which insists that liberalism delivers genuine freedom, democracy, and human rights.
At least Vince Cable, Britain’s current Business Secretary, was more forthright in his recent admission to a committee of MPs: “We do trade with governments that are not democratic and have bad human rights records…We do business with repressive governments and there’s no denying that.”
Indeed, what Cable’s remarks pronounce is that, behind all its hollow rhetoric, Western liberalism really only cherishes one freedom: market freedom. As long as Western governments and companies enjoy the freedom to profit from lucrative arms deals, and have access to unfettered markets and abundant oil supplies, they have no qualms in maintaining amicable relations with undemocratic, despotic states. And Bahrain proves to be precisely such a state: while stringent restrictions on press freedom and democratic rights make it one of the world’s top 10 repressive countries, Bahrain is ranked highly by the World Bank for being “conducive to business operation”.
In short, so long as Bahrain remains open for business and money is to be made, Western liberal states will gladly assist a tyrannical government in stomping a democratic movement. All things considered, the gulf between tyranny and liberalism swiftly collapses.
PHOTO/Pan-Afrikan News Wire