Thursday, January 19, 2006

 

Bahrain less boring then I thought.

Well it had to happen on my last day, but things in Bahrain seem to be more interesting then I thought. I was walking around the streets at around two o'clock to get some Arabic sweets (they were great, but I digress) before seeing a police van with a type of uniform that I hadn't seen before. The number of police quickly grew to about 3 trucks full and a few smaller vans. There was movement there over the next couple of hours as some of them put on riot helmets. They had riot shields and some of them were wearing jackets with pockets especially fitted for smoke grenades. This is on top of a few with rifles and other equipment.

I talked to a few locals who said they were expecting a protest of unemployed people in Bahrain and they were expecting a clash. I asked if they were expecting a protest of a few hundred. Several people in separate conversations said they expected at least 1000. Now Bahrain only has a population of about 650,000 so for there to be that many people who would be prepared to defy the police weapons I saw is quite incredible. A few people said that against the police the protesters throw rocks. The police looked like making their stand at the square I was in but then they started to move. I took a photo, which I may post later. The police tried to detain me and insisted I delete the photo. Thankfully my camera ran out of battery at this point and I couldn't get in to delete it.

The photo only shows a few police and unfortunately doesn't capture the scale of the operation. I asked what was going on and that I was just a tourist. They said that I couldn't take photo's of police during "emergency measures." I asked what the emergency was and they quickly backed down and said no "this is a standard operation." Anyway the police vans moved to another location. I tracked them down there. Again they stayed waiting for demonstrators for another hour before driving off. I don't know if the protest was cancelled or they moved or what happened. I will check the news tonight but I doubt given their attitude to my camera there will be much.

I did a quick google and it turns out that there is a high at least 13% official unemployment rate in Bahrain. There has been a bit of a movement but fairly sketchy coverage. The protests were directed against the government and I wouldn't be surprised if it is targeted at the fact that Bahrain has a very high number of skilled laborers coming in, probably at the expense of training the local population. I don't know enough to comment. Shame to leave at this point but such is life. At least we can be certain that even in somewhere like Bahrain the struggle continues.

If anyone has any information on the Bahrain workers movement I would love to hear it.

harrison_g_healy@yahoo.com.au

Harry

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