The Bahraini regime's latest act of gross injustice has surprised few and enraged many.
Building on repeated delays and hurdles to the legal cases's of many oppositional activists, a Bahraini court has postponed the verdict of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and 19 other men until September 4th. Al-Khawaja famously staged a 110-day hunger strike earlier this year and functions as one of the opposition's most relatable personalities, rendering the government's decision strategically irrelevant. Bahrainis are ready to protest whether their leaders can join them in the streets or not, and the monarchy is simply extending higher lightning rods to provoke them.
Al-Khawaja's daughter, Zainab, also remains jailed as she awaits a ruling on her own case. Arrested for staging her latest one-woman protest in Manama, the activist has been imprisoned at least six times since February 2011 and has been abused by security forces during her "due process."
Postponing the ruling on Al-Khawaja's retrial sends fresh alarms throughout Bahrain's oppositional network. In the immediate term, activist Nabeel Rajab is due to receive his own verdict on Thursday after being held at Jaww prison since July 9th. He stands guilty of assaulting hard-line Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa with a Tweet and, given the repeated delays to his case, may end up in the same boat as Al-Khawaja. Bahrain's King has trapped himself in an unwinnable dilemma: holding and releasing high-profile figures of the opposition will inflict an equivalent damage on his regime's credibility.
Of the few who are likely to count themselves neither surprised nor outraged, the Obama administration greeted today's developments with typical silence. Nor has any U.S. official dared to release one stand-alone statement in defense of Rajab, today being no different. However Washington is trapped in the same dilemma as King Hamad Isa bin Al-Khalifa. Neither has any real hope of establishing a working dialogue with the opposition so long as its leaders remain unjustly imprisoned. In the meantime, intense and noxious clashes between security forces and street protesters, along with home invasions, are certain to continue.
Further demonstrating the King and his allies' systematic counterrevolution, the court's decision (unlikely independent) coincides with another of Hamad's hollow "unity" speeches - a text riddled with internal delusion and verbal assaults against a nameless Iran. Taking no sincere responsibility for any part of Bahrain's conflict, Hamad speaks in a consistently past tense as he infuses stark religious overtones into a tyrannical tirade against the opposition. A few examples: "our people knew how to persistently tackle the enemy and to unite their ranks, consolidate their discourse and allegiance to the ruler and crush the ambitions of foes. (And Allah repulsed the disbelievers in their wrath; they gained no good. Allah averted their attack from the believers. Allah is verily the Omnipotent and the Almighty.)"
"In the past year, the National Dialogue succeeded in accomplishing many of our socio-political aspirations building on what we had already achieved. So, what prevents us from continuing to build on what we have already achieved?"
And especially: “We have had to endure this year through challenging conditions due to hostile ambitions and foreign intervention which are yet to cease. We stood as united front in the face of strife mongers. We faced them with determination and persistent willpower as our duty and responsibility makes it imperative to defend this homeland, we will maintain our national unity and protect Bahraini people. During the zenith of such difficulties, we upheld wisdom, patience and forbearance and opened the doors for dialogue and called for forgiveness and tolerance as we rely on Allah alone and trust in His guaranteed victory."
The King would also refer to pro-democracy forces as "scammers, strife mongers or adventurous riskers of our national unity, cohesiveness and gains," before jetting off to a real enemy of Bahrain's stability. Hamad has now taken his seat amongst King Abdullah's counterrevolutionary summit - "The Extraordinary Islamic Solidarity Conference" - held in Mecca to exploit its "extraordinary" propaganda value.
All in a day's counterrevolution for two Kings.