A revolutionary region? Signs of 'Spring' trickle through to the glitzy Gulf

Published November 10th, 2012 - 08:54 GMT

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Bahrain Shia protests police beating
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Image 1 of 8: Bahrain: A Sunni government ruling over a Shia majority spells trouble in any of our restive nations looking to Spring and blaming Iran for trouble-making hasn't helped rulers cover-up massive human rights abuses. But with a western-friendly King still in power, the 'Pearl Revolution' of last year has lost some of its shine.

Kuwait mass protests
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Image 1 of 8: Kuwait mass protests: Last year they took down the government but so far this year the crackdown has made bigger news than the demonstrations. But Kuwait's leaders are still clearly taking the "biggest protests in their history" seriously with a ban on gatherings this month and rumors of militias flown in to aid the oppression.

Bedoon Kuwait president Obama
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Image 1 of 8: Bedoon people: The often forgotten stateless people could provide a serious threat to their state, after they dragged the US into their plight last month with a letter direct to the President. Kuwait's police got heavy handed with Bedoon protestors in October but the drama could push reforms through.

David Cameron Gulf
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Image 1 of 8: David Cameron: The British PM was in the region this month for a chat with Abu Dhabi's students about the 'Arab Spring'. Given the lack of any Spring in the UAE, it seemed an odd location for the lecture but the Conservative leader was undeterred by wary looks from the Emirates' leaders.

Oman Arab Spring
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Image 1 of 8: Oman: The revolution was over before it really began in this progressive Sultanate, despite an absolute monarchy maintaining power. In February the Spring looked ready to start with hundreds on the streets but government reforms (booting out 12 cabinet minister and boosting unemployment benefits) meant it quickly fizzled out.

Saudi Arab Spring Shia
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Image 1 of 8: Saudi Arabia: So far the uprisings in the holy Kingdom have looked more like Shia/Sunni revolt than a nation-wide Spring but Saudi is still concerned by any signs of dissent. Police crackdowns on the restive Shias, including the shooting of peaceful protestors, could broaden the scope for this revolution in its infancy.

AlJazeera Arab Spring Qatar
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Image 1 of 8: Qatar: Despite 'revolutionary' TV network Al Jazeera basing their operations in this Emirate, Qataris have been the most Spring-free of any of our Gulfi nations. The agreeable living conditions and high wages have left these Arabs in a doze of undemocratic comfort.

Yemen Arab Spring
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Image 1 of 8: Yemen: The one true Arab Springer in the Gulf region became an anti-climax on a worrying scale after ousted-President Saleh simply gave over power to his deputy. The Gulf-brokered deal left Yemenis disappointed, with reforms few and far between. Another revolution could very well be in the offing.

In the first round of revolutions, the Arabian Gulf avoided, for the most part, a change in their regimes, placating opponents with money handouts and increasing welfare safety nets

The drama in Egypt or Tunisia was sidelined in this oil rich region and with good reason. In North Africa, the initial lot of Springs were started by economic hardship. Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest terrible financial conditions in Sidi Bouzid, while shocking unemployment in Cairo left young people the time and motivation to demonstrate against their government.

But there was a non-economic, some would say more important, reason behind the Springs. Corruption was rife, ‘elections’, when they did happen, bore no reflection on the people’s will and human rights were non-existent.

So, while the Arabia Gulf doesn’t have anything like the same economic problems as Egypt or Tunisia, their residents are finally starting to worry about their lack of rights.

The governments of the Gulf are often dealing with minorities living in their richest regions but reaping none of the benefits. Others are ruling over a majority sect different to their own.

While the biggest disruptions are taking place in Bahrain and Kuwait, other places are also starting to show signs of dissent. What their government may not realize is: the harder the crackdown on protestors, the more sympathizers join

If this Spring is to happen, it will need the focus of the world’s media on the abuse of power by leaders and their law enforcers, which is already cropping up everywhere from Eastern Saudi to central Kuwait. 

 

Is the Arab Spring in the Gulf about to happen? Or are we a long way off any changes? Tell us what you think below.

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