“Bahrain witnessed mass pro-democracy protests against the royal family of King Hamad Al-Khalifa in February 2011 before authorities, backed by neighboring countries, crushed the uprising. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors sent troops into Bahrain in March, reinforcing a crackdown that led to accusations of serious human rights violations…………….”
The Bahrain uprising of 2011-14 and its suppression continue to create tensions among the GCC countries and around the Gulf region. Initially, only the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and to a lesser extent Qatar joined the Saudis in sending forces to crush the uprising in 2011. Kuwait, given her own recent experience of foreign invasion and occupation, declined that invitation. That has created a certain amount of tension between certain elements within the two countries.
A certain section of the population in Kuwait, mainly but not exclusively the Shi’as, sympathized with the Bahrain uprising, but the so-called main opposition forces sided firmly with the regime and with the Saudi intervention. By the end of 2011 support for regime or opposition in both Bahrain and Syria were firmly largely based on sectarian factors. This is probably not so surprising, given the strong tribal and Wahhabi and sectarian factors at work.
Now a Shi’a member of the Kuwait parliament has drawn the ire of the Bahrain authorities for making critical statements on the social media. The same assembly member was also reported to support the Syrian Al Assad regime even before the Wahhabis took over the Syrian opposition. Which makes him also somewhat hypocritical. He sparred briefly on Twitter with the corpulent foreign minister of Bahrain (another of the Al Khalifa), and this has displeased the Bahrain potentates. So they reportedly complained to the local authorities about this parliamentarian. The local authorities are making the right polite noises about respecting the brotherly and sisterly and neighborly state and by implication its brotherly and sisterly and neighborly little potentates.
So far, so good. Kuwait is one rare Gulf state were political debate and controversy have been usually a guaranteed part of public life since before independence. So far without much sisterly or brotherly or neighborly interference. But another interesting factor has been the position of the Kuwaiti ‘opposition’. What I would call the tribal Islamist Wahhabi-liberal opposition, because these three strains dominate and lead it.
They have been noisily demanding more rights of free speech in front of the world media, right? No, not so fast. Many of their more prominent members have always supported the repression in Bahrain and the absolute Saudi oligarchy. Now they have sprung again on social media to demand that the government crack down on those who criticize these foreign governments. (Some but not all of their influential members are also sympathizers and supporters of such humanitarian groups as Al-Nusra and ISIS and other assorted cutthroats in Iraq and Syria. But that is another issue).
Cheeky monkeys: they want the same government that they complain is stifling their own right of dissent to ban criticism of foreign governments, albeit sisterly and brotherly and neighborly governments. Can it be the tribal factor? Can it be the Wahhabi factor? Can it be the sectarian factor? Can it be all of the above? Yes, it can………….
It could be hypocrisy and chutzpah, probably on both sides, rolled in one joint and smoked with regional prejudice……….