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Bahrain's Uprising

Bahrain's Uprising

Ala'a Shehabi | Marc Owen Jones | Bill Marczak | Fahad Desmukh | Frances Hasso | John Horne | Luke Bhatia | Amal Khalaf


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Book Details


Amid the extensive coverage of the Arab uprisings, the Gulf state of Bahrain has been almost forgotten. Fusing historical and contemporary analysis, Bahrain’s Uprising seeks to fill this gap, examining the ongoing protests and state repression that continues today.

Drawing on powerful testimonies, interviews, and conversations from those involved, this broad collection of writings by scholars and activists provides a rarely heard voice of the lived experience of Bahrainis, describing the way in which a sophisticated society, defined by a historical struggle, continues to hamper the efforts of the ruling elite to rebrand itself as a liberal monarchy.

Alaʾa Shehabi is a Bahraini writer and researcher. She is a co-founder of Bahrain Watch, an NGO that advocates for accountability and social justice in Bahrain. She previously worked as a policy analyst at RAND Corporation and as a lecturer at the Bahraini Institute for Banking and Finance during the 2011 uprising. Various parts of the book were written during a visiting position at Lund University and a fellowship at the Arab Council for Social Sciences.

Marc Owen Jones is a writer researching political repression in Bahrain at Durham University. In addition to teaching Middle East politics, Marc is a member of the advocacy NGO Bahrain Watch and writes a blog on Bahrain. In 2011, he helped to expose fake journalist Liliane Khalil and appeared on Al Jazeera and France 24 to discuss how PR companies are using such figures to spread government propaganda.

'What binds the essays is, first of all, that they are remarkably well crafted and share a sense of immediacy... (At least one of the contributors is currently imprisoned.) The essays also share an overarching sense of humanity, in that the book focuses on the experience of people, not members of specific religious or national groups.'
Journal of Shi'a Islamic Studies

'In an effort to address a large hole in Arab Spring analysis, Ala’a Shehabi and Marc Jones have assembled an enlightening compilation of essays addressing the popular Bahraini revolts of 2011.'
The Middle East Journal

'Brings together a powerful group of voices, observers and activists, who have worked not only to make sense of events in Bahrain, but who have also tirelessly advocated for justice in one of the region's most tyrannical states. A timely and important volume.'
Toby Jones, Rutgers University

'An outstanding volume that fills a chasm in the scholarship on the Arab revolutions and uprisings. Beautifully written, empirically rich, theoretically provocative and meticulously researched, it is a must-read for scholars interested in social movements in Bahrain and more broadly. The book includes compelling activist testimonies and pointed editorial cartoons, also making it an ideal text for classroom teaching.'
Frances S. Hasso, Duke University

'An essential addition to scholarship on the revolts and counter-revolutionary backlashes that have roiled the Arab world since 2011. Through first-person accounts and rigorous analysis, this book teaches us a great deal not only about contentious politics and social movements in Bahrain but about regional geopolitics writ large.'
Lisa Hajjar, University of California, Santa Barbara

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Front Cover Front cover
About the Editors ii
Title Page iii
Copyright Page iv
Contents v
Acknowledgements vii
About the contributors ix
Foreword: On the prelude to the 14 February Uprising xiii
Prelude xiii
A shift in tactics of protest and repression xiv
Changes in protest repertoires xv
A final note xvii
Introduction: Bahrain’s uprising: The struggle for democracy in the Gulf 1
Part I: Voices of the condemned 10
Part II: Configuring dissent – charting movements,space, and self-representation in Bahrain 12
Part III: Suppressing dissent in an acceptable manner – modes of repression, colonial legacies, and institutional violence 20
Future directions: prospects of democratisation and social justice 35
This book 38
Part One: Voices of the condemned 41
Chapter 1: A trial of thoughts and ideas 43
A trial against ideas 44
The causes of the political crisis 44
An ethical stance against violence 47
A charge of violence to suppress and exclude the opposition 48
Malicious charges 49
First: the charge of overthrowing the regime by force 51
Second: the charge of inciting hatred and contempt of the regime 53
Third: the charge of broadcasting and disseminating fabricated news and false rumours 56
Fourth: the charge of insulting the army 58
Chapter 2: God after ten o’clock 61
The State Security Building: the first arrest of the seagull 61
The seagull’s plea before the sea 64
Cages for seagulls that might be born 66
Chapter 3: A room with a view: An eyewitness to the Pearl Uprising 69
Part one: the ‘cleansing’ of the Pearl Roundabout 69
Part two: unarmed and shot in the back – there turn to the Pearl Roundabout 76
Part three: the classroom, the protests, and a foreign army 80
Part four: back to Bahrain and goodbye 84
Part Two: Configuring dissent: Charting movements, space, and self-representation in Bahrain 91
Chapter 4: Shifting contours of activism and possibilities for justice in Bahrain 93
Bahrain’s ‘advocacy revolution’ 96
Beyond borders: internationalising the human rights struggle 101
A history of a rights-based social movement 103
False hopes and the mirage of liberal democracy 108
From tactics to enshrining secular rights principles: the attraction of human rights and the proliferation of NGOs 111
A brief topography of opposition actors 116
Upgrading authoritarianism 124
Is human rights advocacy enough? Where do we go from here? 127
New realms, new possibilities, new times 132
Chapter 5: The many afterlives of Lulu: The story of Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout \r 135
The birth of Lulu 136
Roundabouts and amnesia 137
Lulu rising 143
The splintered image 145
Chapter 6: Tn Tn Ttn and torture in Bahrain: Puncturing the spectacle of the ‘Arab Spring’ 151
Tn Tn Ttn: a short film 154
The ‘visual rush’ and the problematic ‘spectacle’ of the Arab uprisings 155
Controlling the ‘field of representability’ of the national self-image 160
Puncturing the ‘field of representability’ with state violence 166
Puncturing the ‘field of representability’ with creative resistance 169
Part Three: Suppressing dissent in an acceptable manner: Modes of repression, colonial legacies,and institutional violence 173
Chapter 7: On the side of decency and democracy: The history of British–Bahraini relations and transnational contestation\r 175
Bahrain’s long ‘friendship’ with Britain 177
Outside Bahrain but inside the people: Bahrain’s opposition abroad 185
Bahraini activism in the UK 193
‘A right way to frame things’: contesting British–Bahraini relations 196
Conclusion 204
Chapter 8: Rotten apples or rotten orchards: Police deviance, brutality, and unaccountability in Bahrain 207
The absence of consent: the emergence of colonial, tribal, and ethnic policing in Bahrain 211
The Al Khalifa and the post-independence police state 214
The institutionalisation of deviance and sectarian policing 216
The quality of recruits: from villains to mercenaries 219
Mercenaries, ancillaries, and baltajiyya 221
Brutal redux: policing the Bahrain Uprising of 2011 225
State unaccountability and impunity 228
The role of society 231
Asymmetric policing and systemic police deviance 235
Chapter 9: Social media, surveillance, and cyberpolitics in the Bahrain Uprising 239
The growth of web activism and control in Bahrain 241
Surveillance and sousveillance 243
Social media, surveillance, and counter revolutionary vigilante sousveillance 246
The anti-social movement surveillance state 257
Concluding remarks 259
Notes 263
Bibliography 304
Index 329