Bahrain: peaceful protests turn violent as police attack demonstrators


Breaking: Amira Al Hussaini at Global Voices: "Bahrain police have just launched an attack on protesters at the Pearl Roundabout." She has a Twitter roundup, and you can also follow NPR's Andy Carvin right now for fast and furious RTs from people who are there, apparently being teargassed and shot with rubber bullets and/or other forms of ammunition. It is 3AM there; the demonstrators were sleeping; news crews are are nowhere to be found.

(photo, inset, via maryamalkhawaja, above Abu Sufyan, both via @acarvin)



  1. Watching the events in the Middle East over the past few weeks, I’ve had to wonder: Have we just witnessed the beginning of a “fourth wave” of democratization?

    Political scientists who study democratic regime change – and, in particular, the late Samuel P. Huntington – often talk of democratization occurring in three great “waves”. There are debates within the field about when each of these waves began, when they ended, which countries were affected, and the origins and characteristics of each wave; but, roughly speaking, the three waves can be thought of as follows:

    First Wave – a long, slow wave of transitions from monarchism to liberalism, beginning with the American Revolution and continuing until the decade after the First World War when communism and fascism began to compete with liberalism for world domination.

    Second Wave – a quick wave of transition from fascism and imperialism to social democracy in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere in the decade or so following World War II.

    Third Wave – an accelerating wave of transition from authoritarian dictatorship to populist democracy in Latin America, Southern Europe, and East Asia, beginning in the mid 1970s, from communism to liberalism/social democracy in Eastern Europe, Mongolia, and the states of the former Soviet Union, beginning in the late 1980s, and from proto-democracy with one-party dominance to genuinely competitive, pluralist democracy in India, Mexico, and elsewhere in the 1990s. [These could be treated as separate waves, since they affect different types of regimes, and probably have different origins; but they are usually treated as a single wave since they overlap in time.]

    The third wave of democratization was so impressive that it led political scientist Francis Fukuyama (a student and colleague of Huntington’s) to speculate that we might actually be witnessing the beginnings of the “end of history”, not in any sort of eschatological sense, of course, but in the Hegelian sense of the ultimate triumph of one grand idea – namely, the idea of liberal democracy – over all of its ideological competitors (e.g. monarchism, fascism, communism, etc.). This predicted “end of history” would mean the end of ideological conflict on a grand scale. Individuals might still debate ideological issues, and small groups might form in support of some ideological cause, but nations would no longer go to war against other nations over ideological disputes. (Nations might still have clashing interests; but conflicts over clashing interests are rarely ever as severe as conflicts over clashing ideologies.) And, once all nations become liberal democracies, war could actually become a thing of the past, because of a principle in political science known as the “democratic peace”. The “democratic peace” has been described as the closest thing we have to an iron-clad natural law in political science. It’s the principle that stable liberal democracies never go to war against other stable liberal democracies. Therefore, if every country on Earth were to become a stable liberal democracy, according to the democratic peace theory, war would become a thing of the past. Fukuyama argued that we might be headed in that direction, if the wave of democratization that he was witnessing continued to sweep away the world’s illiberal regimes, making way for liberal democracy to flourish. (Though, keep in mind that Fukuyama said that the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy might be many decades in the future, and that there would be many struggles along the way, as illiberal forces around the world – and especially in the Muslim world – resisted the move towards greater democracy.)

    Many people, including Huntington, didn’t buy Fukuyama’s optimistic vision of the future, even in the midst of the third wave. (In fact, Huntington speculated that we were actually on the cusp of a great “clash of civilizations”. But that’s a topic for another day.) And Fukuyama’s thesis has often been ridiculed, especially since the events of 9/11 (though most of this ridicule comes from people who have never read Fukuyama, and are clueless about what he was really arguing). To be fair, the third wave of democratization did seem to peter out by the start of the 21st century; and there has even been a backslide over the past decade, as some proto-democracies have become less liberal and less democratic. I think it’s fair to say that the third wave of democratization is over. But is Fukuyama’s vision really dead? Has the wave of Islamist militancy in the Middle East and South Asia over the past decade or so really “restarted history”, as some wags have argued? Have the forces of illiberalism around the world really managed to put the brakes on the spread of democracy?

    Or, is what we’ve been seeing in the Muslim world recently perhaps the harbinger of a new “fourth wave” of democratization? Only time will tell, of course. But it might be a good idea to go get your old copy of The End of History and the Last Man down off the bookshelf, dust it off, and reconsider what Fukuyama had to say.

    1. Fourth wave? They’re just cranky because they haven’t had Taco Bell’s Fourthmeal yet. Now that’s a revolution…of flavor!

  2. Interesting facts:

    The Kingdom of Bahrain is an island nation that is a whopping 290 square miles in area.

    Recent moves towards political reform have made Bahrain the most prolific book publisher in the Arab world: it published 132 books in 2005, for a population of 700,000. In comparison, the average for the entire Arab world is seven books published per one million people. Which is just sad.

    But apparently those 132 books Haven’t convinced the powers-that-be not to go all thuggish on the populace.

  3. I was a little skeptical when people were stating that the Egypt protests would start a chain reaction, but it looks like it’s actually happening.

    1. Man, if I were Tunisian, I would be p****d at such assertions.

      Or do you mean that dictators will have learned from the Egyptian situation that it is critical to nip these protests in the bud, fast?

      1. All of them could’ve taken their cues from the government of Iran, where (arguably) this process started.

  4. As long as they don’t interfere with our 7th fleet base there we won’t give a damn what they do.

    Ironically if we did care we probably wouldn’t feel the need to keep a fleet there in the first place.

  5. So how will our democratic revolution be? Violent over the top reacttions by police to american protesters? Will they chop off the internet right away knowing it will set off a wave of violence?

    I just hope this wave of people asserting their rights in the middle east will lead to the eventual restoration of our lost rights.

  6. My heart goes out to these people.

    Why should the US decide who is going to rule them?

    Surely it’s their right to protest?

    Isn’t it a basic human right to speak out freely against injustice and tyranny?

    I can’t understand why the police who are their fellow citizens allow themselves to be compromised into firing on sleeping women and children. I read that at least 60 people were dead and that bodies were being transported in supermarket refrigeration trucks to hide what had happened from the general population.

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