Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Silenced but Still Hopeful

Today’s young adults find themselves in a unique position. With the Internet, media and new communications technology, the world doesn’t just connect faster, it also moves faster. We are not only the catalysts for this phenomenon, but also its perpetuators and its masters.

No one showed us that more clearly than a young Tunisian man, Mohamed Bouazizi, who publicly set himself on fire out of protest and utter desperation. His tragedy sparked the Jasmine Revolution and the subsequent political upheaval across the Middle East and North Africa. Without doubt, communications technology has been critical in empowering these millions of voices. Yet the potential for the creation and control of information can also leave us feeling powerlessly anguished. It is certainly how I feel about the situation in Bahrain.

Over spring break, I began my journey home to Saudi Arabia by flying into Bahrain. On Friday, March 4, I did not expect anything more eventful than seeing my parents’ smiling faces at the airport. Instead, as we drove towards the bridge, I noticed that hundreds of cars were parked along the roadside in the center of the city. After asking my parents to pull over, I grabbed my camera and with my father, forged a way through the crowded streets. In that moment, while taking pictures and eating dates with protesters, I was incredibly proud of Bahrain. Bahrain, otherwise thought of as a Westernized playground for Saudi elite, is not a place where you would expect revolution. With a relatively high gross domestic product per capita, most Bahrainis live comfortable lives under political oppression — a common formula for complacency. Instead, what I found was a highly organized, youth-driven, united movement for political recognition.

There were two remarkable things at work that day: gender distribution and sectarian unity. The gender distribution shocked me. Not only was it a protest for all ages, from suckling babes to wizened grandfathers, but it also drew just as many women as men. In fact, young girls and mothers everywhere were eager to take pictures and speak with me about their reasons for standing up to the government. Two Bahraini girls my age told me that it isn’t the monarchy per se that is the problem, but the lack of transparent parliamentary processes and public participation in politics.

The call for representative government and liberty was accompanied by an evident lack of sectarian conflict. Multiple times I spotted youth wearing stickers and carrying signs saying: “No Sunni, No Shi’ite, I am Bahraini.” This reminds us that, at its heart, no revolution in the Middle East has been sparked by religious or sectarian concerns. Instead, people are fighting for the same thing people across the globe have fought for throughout history: the right to raise their families in stable communities protected by a government representing their interests.

Sadly, the kindling flame of democracy for Bahrain began to die on March 13, the day I returned to Georgetown. The scene the night we drove to the airport was surreal; malls were shut down, protesters had barricaded highways and police cars marked new checkpoints at every corner. Every Middle Eastern revolution can be repressed in one of two ways: military takeover or foreign intervention. For Bahrain it was the latter. The next morning, March 14, a military force of 1,500 from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took control of the tiny island nation and left 18 unarmed civilians dead in their wake.

Meanwhile, back at Georgetown I streamed Al-Jazeera and followed the events, but ultimately was not able to do anything about it. Clearly, there are limitations as to where the Internet can take us and where Facebook and Twitter can intervene. But it is a start. The Bahraini government may have dispersed the protesters, arrested dissident leaders and taken down the symbolic Pearl monument at the site of the demonstrations, but Bahrainis will never forget the power and determination that a united stand can instill in the soul. What I encountered was simply a steppingstone in the Bahraini people’s liberation.


Khadijah Qamar is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.

To send a letter to the editor on a recent campus issue or Hoya story or a viewpoint on any topic, contact [email protected]. Letters should not exceed 300 words, and viewpoints should be between 600 to 800 words.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Hoya Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *