Bahrain: The social media battle continues
Bahrain: The social media battle continuesThe battle over Bahrain’s future is raging online between government loyalists and opposition supporters.
It’s the latest chapter in the on-going protests organised mostly by the country’s Shia majority. That movement -- believed to be inspired by popular protests for change in Tunisia and Egypt -- began in February with Shia activists urging Bahrain’s rulers to give them greater political rights and freedoms.
Activists say the story is being kept alive by citizen journalists and social media in the face of a media clampdown by the government.
Shia Muslims comprise about 70 per cent of Bahrain’s population and have long complained of persistent discrimination in employment, education and housing.
A number of people were killed in clashes between security forces and pro-reform demonstrators in the capital Manama in February.
But the violence galvanised the movement with protesters demanding an end to the monarchy of the Sunni al-Khalifa family that has ruled the country since its independence from Britain in 1971.
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa declared a state of emergency and appealed for help from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of which Bahrain is a member, along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
In March, GCC forces led by Saudi Arabia rolled into the country to quell the movement and the King said an “external plot” had been foiled. Government loyalists believe Shia-majority Iran may have influenced and provoked the protests in Bahrain.
At least 31 people are reported dead since the uprising began. The King announced an independent inquiry to look into the political turmoil and the commission is due to release its report on October 30.
That investigation is being headed by Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-American, who has led similar UN inquiries in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia. He says the Bahrain government is cooperating fully but pro-reform activists dismiss the exercise as flawed.
Last month, a national dialogue backed by the U.S. also hit a snag when representatives of Bahrain’s largest Shia opposition group al-Wefaq walked out of talks with the ruling al-Khalifa family saying “the regime was not interested in political reform.”
As the stalemate continues, the battle for global public opinion is being waged on social media with bloggers and activists from both sides arguing their points of view, here are some of the different efforts being undertaken online: