Spending most of the time observing things from the ground, the scene in Bahrain looks something like this:
- Nightly youth protests confined to villages all over Bahrain brutally suppressed by regime forces; now back to using shotguns in addition to the showering of villages with teargas.
- Weekly “mass protest rallies” organized by the coalition of opposition political societies in areas considered their strongholds, and nowhere near Manama, the capital.
- The Bahrain regime playing its usual PR game locally & internationally, albeit relatively poorly, and buying time.
In short, you could be in Bahrain, avoid the “hot areas” in the country, and you would be oblivious to any kind of struggle, although it very much exists in the minds, hearts and souls of the majority of the country’s people. If you are outside the country, simply avoid googling “Bahrain”, and the country’s people’s plight will be non-existent to you!
The reason for this is fairly simple: the opposition has lost the initiative. Protests have become reactive to the regime’s atrocities, i.e. the fall of a martyr, the beating of protesters on the streets, the imprisonment of protest leaders, …etc, instead of actively staying the course, regardless of the sacrifices.
Both opposition political societies (lead by Al Wefaq) and the Coalition of 14 February Youth seem lost for ideas, with the former thinking that weekly protests in the suburbs will achieve something, and the latter resorting to violence which will achieve nothing. Neither has a clear plan or path, are happy in agreeing to disagree on everything, and remain delusional about “unity”. They need to join forces sooner than later and combine their methods somewhere in the middle. Put simply, the opposition political societies need to become more confrontational, and the Coalition of 14 February Youth need to denounce violence altogether.
The regime is playing the usual PR game, and getting more effective at it after failing miserably during the past year. In the meantime it’s strengthening its stronghold onto power. The opposition needs to understand that violence will play to the regime’s advantage and alienate many sympathizers. On the flip side, relying on ineffective mass protest rallies in the suburbs will also be used as a propaganda tool for the regime to prove that “Freedom of Expression and Assembly” is respected in the Kingdom.
The opposition needs to agree, join forces, and step up its game if it wants to achieve anything. It needs to regain the initiative and stop being a commentator to whatever the regime does.
One last word: change will only come from the inside, waiting for outside help and/or support without the internal momentum is fruitless.