Bahrain is my pearl, too.

Part I

Since February 14th, and the start of political protests in Bahrain, I start each day by crying. I open my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I catch up on BBC and Al Jazeera news. Then, I weep. My hands find their way to my face, and the tears become pushy enough to pass through my fingers and on to my keyboard. It is a copious type of crying, and it has happened every day since that second week in February.

I weep — openly, urgently — for there is nothing else I can do.

A country I know has become a PS3 game. It is now under martial law. Select family members have been evacuated. Personal friends are subject to tear gas and bullets. Armed foreigners patrol neighborhoods. Sometimes, the identities of those smashing cars are unknown. Blood literally stains the streets in front of innovative, newly constructed multi-million dollar high rises. I see places I know compromised by politics, and it hurts like hell.

In Bahrain, I became a writer. While there, my personal measurements changed. This island, this Bahrain, was where I started to become who I am today.

It was my home from 2006-2008. I lived in this tiny desert island in a house adjacent to burial mounds that were thousands of years old. The entire country is a burial ground, it seems. Bahrain is the heart of the ancient Dilmun civilization, and was more recently known for the exquisite pearls harvested from its coastal waters. Bahrain has been a commerce hub for hundreds of years – if not longer, and has always been a diverse island.

I passed Lulu (Pearl) roundabout almost every day. Literally. In Bahrain, a small country with the main island no bigger than Rhode Island, Lulu was very hard to miss. The roundabout is nestled beside the main highway, and awkwardly stuck between several shopping centers. Before February 14th, when Bahrainis made the site location central for political rallies, it was known mostly for its inconvenient, somewhat dangerous traffic circle.

I have just learned that the government decreed that Lulu roundabout statue be torn down. It has become a symbol of disent and political change. Apparently, the government viewed it as a threat.

As a diplomat’s wife, I became acquainted with the al-Khalifa royal family, who rule Bahrain. I also got to know everyday Bahrainis, those without a royal pedigree. I conversed and became friends with Shia and Sunni citizens. There were the Bahraini friends who lived in homes no one in the US can afford; then there were those who lived in their ancestral villages in the same house as their parents.

Many Americans think the Middle East is underdeveloped. Bahrain is filled with Starbucks, Costa Coffee (the British coffee chain), Macdonald’s, and malls that cater to a luxury market. They watch the same movies that we watch. Most speak English, and many do so fluently. Young Bahrainis have an American accent. Bahrain is not an island of sand; it is an island of educated, hardworking, creative people.

There was a theme that greeted me when I entered the country: No Sunni, No Shia, Just Bahraini. No one expected this tiny island to explode, and all because of a few bad decisions from a few key players.

NPR reported yesterday that police (or someone) fired bullets into the lobby of the International Hospital of Bahrain. “The blood stains,” the commenter said, “are still visible.” I broke down at that point. I’ve been in that lobby many times. My medical records are still there.

I follow friends on Facebook and Twitter who share of tear gas and rubber bullets in real time. This is not just a place where I once lived. I am still connected to Bahrain through family and by my own personal history. I know Bahrain. I know some of its people.

Rally in front of UN Headquarters in Bahrain

I know those in the government.

Everyday, I cry, because I know of nothing else to do.
***

(In Part II, I discuss how my time in Bahrain transformed me.)

One Comment Add yours

  1. peacbah says:

    Hi,
    Very much articulated drama, having said you as wife of diplomat, what anti-demonstrators are doing against expats in Bahrain. I was the eye witness for so many incidents, anti-gov demonstrators killed a Bangladeshi by hitting with the car and ran over him, my kid saw the incident from the balcony and he fainted immediately, anti-gov demonstrators injured so many Pakistanis, Indians and killed more than one Pakistani citizen. My friend from Lulu Pearl round witnessed these demonstrators, killed a police man by hitting with the car and driving over his body for 15 times. When police went inside Lulu to clear the roundabout demonstrators started putting fire on all tents, these guys ran towards the lulu road, near to naiem hospital they broke in to expat houses injured them, took the gas cylinder, put fire on the building.
    Anti-gov demonstrators kidnapped so many expats, used them as human shield. My friends wife working as nurse in Salmania Hospital told us shia doctors and nurses started beating injured expats in salmania hospital, did not give them medication, they forced them to say that they are government thugs. We are very upset with international media, they are creating stories of their own, not reporting actual story in the ground, all international organization blaming Alkhalifa family for taking this action, but why they don’t condemn the killing of expat and attack against expats by anti-government demonstrators. Any human death is big loss; only god has the write to do.
    International media has its own agenda; visual media is like watching movies, with story board and actors and actress, newspaper and magazines looks like story books.
    We feel sorry for every human life, but no western countries USA and UK has the right to condemn Bahrain, what they have done in Iraq and Afghanistan is the biggest example. USA and UK made other countries believe that Saddam Husain has nuclear weapon, and attacked without any reason, to steal the oil and money. USA stole so much of gold, money from Iraq and see what they did to that country, now the country become graveyard. Now extremists are ruling the country. The country was far better during Saddam Hussain. Finally who gets the benefit out of unstable middle east?

    a peace lover!!!!!!

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