About a year ago, everybody in Bahrain witnessed what happened on the streets, but not everyone knew about events behind closed doors, or inside jails. The Independent Commissions’ report unveiled to the world the unprofessionalism that many have suffered as a result of a failed coup d’état attempt by extremists within the opposition. It was a huge embarrassment to us all and to the Bahraini identity, which has a reputation around the world for being one of the best examples of citizenry.
But today, we have come a long, very long way since last year. While Bahrain prides’ itself as a country of established institutions, clearly, the security and enforcement institutions lagged behind the economic and social ones. Much focus, attention, and effort was placed in order to ‘do the right thing’ and regain the world’s trust again. Yes, trust takes much time, but Bahrain seems willing to take on that challenge.
What seems very obvious to us all here in Bahrain, is the use of absolute minimum force to counter daily improvised attempts by extremists on ground to murder policemen and indirectly target the economy by preventing people from reaching their jobs and/or enjoy their weekends in peace. Using tear gas as a method that counters these acts should be recognized and credited by states, media outlets, and international organizations. Have we seen this?
A couple of weeks before Formula 1 came to Bahrain up to the day of the race, Bahrain sustained a barrage of lethal media attacks. The media created a bandwagon, and many states and IGOs jumped in for the ride. It was incredible how many media outlets revisited Bahrain thinking that nothing has changed after they forgot about it sometimes before summer of last year. Even Bahrain’s opposition groups complained for a long time about how the world forgot them and their ‘alleged’ cause.
The authorities in Bahrain decided to grant media visas for a large number of reputable journalists, but kept away small numbers from the ‘usual suspects’ list, which no matter what always portrayed Bahrain in a negative and biased manner. Somehow, the ‘usual suspects’ list is loaded with British media, state-funded ones as well. At first, it didn’t make sense to me why the authorities would keep away some journalists, but after noticing the hype in violence, I understood that some journalists interact with problem makers in order to write the story they were sent to write.
However, sports journalists did manage to fidget around the island in order to find answers to questions they had in mind. First and foremost, why are there people in Bahrain who oppose having the Formula 1 here? Second, Is there a popular movement? Third, is Bernie Ecclestone playing with the lives of Formula 1 drivers and teams?
The opposition in Bahrain had a golden opportunity to reach the world and present their case after long complaints of being forgotten. They have largely failed, and here’s why. While claiming that they promote peace and secularism, they never actually distance themselves from fundamental Islamists and from un-peaceful demonstrators, these are their base supporters. So when the international media sniffed around in Bahrain, they first did not find a legitimate answer of why some in Bahrain opposed the Formula 1, they did not see a popular movement, and they had to look hard in order to find the pockets in the island where clashes took place. Finally, they saw how police used minimum force to counter the attacks by rioters.
The lethal media, which decided to bring Bahrain to its front pages back again found us very different from last year. They were anticipating protesters walking through the circuit and prevent a race from taking place. There are no hard questions to face any more. Soon after the race, and after being promised by a number of ‘human rights activists’ and opposition groups to media outlets that ‘you will see what we will do’, their attention immediately shifted away.
Some International journalists in Bahrain came to realize that reality on ground is very different from what is portrayed in the media. Joe Saward, a very famous Formula 1 journalist, wrote this article in his blog, which I believe everyone should read. He saw first hand how the media can paint a picture very different from reality, which is very lethal, and he noted that the opposition have to get the religious ‘ok’ from clerics in order to nominate individuals for elections (The Iranian Model). (Another Bahrain article by Joe Saward)
Formula 1 brought back and unified all the moderates in the island, and successfully proved to the world that Bahrain is back on track! Bernie Ecclestone continued to believe that no publicity is bad publicity, and enjoyed a large number of viewers to the race! The world revisited Bahrain to note how much development took place in the security and enforcement institutions since last year. And businessmen and tourists saw that if Bahrain is well capable of holding the third largest sport event in the world, then things must be much better than portrayed.
Formula 1 makes local businessmen happy, and anyone that opposes their happiness has very limited political thought. Formula 1 was a big success and a blessing in disguise to Bahrain, and at the end, we won!