The return of the King
Last updated: March 1, 2011
February 28, 2011
From the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, the Arab kings are having it tough these days. Wage and subsidy increases are wrecking budgets around the region but seem to be failing to stem rising calls for political reform that would curtail the royal wings. In Bahrain the protesters are even regularly promising to overthrow the monarchy, plainly inviting the ruling dynasty to order to shoot them again. Yet, not everything is lost for the kings. The insurgents in Libya are reported to have recently taken to waving flags of the former monarchy.
There is no telling if the Libyans indeed want their royals back, but if they do, they have the heir apparent readily available in London. It's since a while that the prince is sending signals that he would be more than happy to oblige. Things look shit for some kings as of late, but for other kings the age of kings may be not over yet.
March 1, 2011
By the name of Allah I swear that I have nothing against the Shia. However, if I were the king al-Khalipha, the streets of Manama would have been running red with the blood of Shia protesters long ago. But everybody has his own responsibilities and I am running this blog while the king us running Bahrain and so the streets of Manama are running nowhere as they are packed and jammed with throngs of Shia demonstrators.
Rumors and conspiracy theories are hovering around Bahrain but the story started with the Shia, after a few days of scattered protests, having reached unobstructed the Pearl Roundabout, a famous landmark of the kingdom.
Once on the square, the crowds quickly developed a taste of chanting death slogans against the ruling dynasty, despite conciliatory noises coming from the royal quarters. That very night the security services paid a visit to the protesters peacefully sleeping on their newly liberated Tahrir (Or so they say. I did not notice they were sleeping).
One conspiracy theory circulated at the time was about an internal split within the ruling family. The crackdown was staged by the hardliners at instigation by the Saudis who were basically plotting to have the moderate king overthrown and replaced with somebody with bigger balls. Not sure about what happened to this theory, but the situation right now is pretty much the original square one with the protesters sitting on the square and promising to overthrow the dynasty while the king is busy suggesting new concessions, releasing prisoners and returning opposition leaders from exile.
Now Bahrain is an absolute black box for me and it's very possible that the king's concessions are indeed signs of weakness. However, somehow I struggle to convince myself that the king ran out of other options. The Shia may be in majority in Bahrain, but the Sunnis are many, they are not a negligible minority and the security services are in their hands. And there is that causeway connecting Bahrain to Saudi Arabia which, as some people suggest, was designed with a different purpose in mind than just shipping young Saudi trouble makers out of the country during weekends.
From my limited revolutionary experience, I would suggest that the Shia get to the negotiating table as soon as possible with a list of reasonable demands such as for example a more representational electoral system based on the principle of a country as one voting district casting ballots for party lists. It's out of my deep sympathy for the Shia and their cause that I am suggesting this. Never mind that as a natural revolutionary I am rubbing my hands with glee in anticipation to see this region put on its head. It would be sad to have another massacre in Bahrain to signal a reversal of fortunes for the revolution presently sweeping the Arab World.
And, as a matter of fact, not all kings are created nuts. Some are actually nice guys. And even those, who are not, can be often quite responsive to a few kind words and a bit of quiet. Even in the most ferocious king of kings there's hiding a shy and timid guy. Humans are complex personalities. But you'll never see the king's other side, if you don't try.
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