Saturday, March 19, 2011

Libya and Bahrain: Different Responses of the International Community

The UN Security Council have decided to implement severe measures on Gaddafi's Libya, including a No-Fly Zone (NFZ) which amounts to military intervention on air. As a direct result, the foreign minister of Libya announced an immediate ceasefire although fighting is still reportedly going on.

The move by the UN comes after a period of inaction by the international community. Gaddafi's forces were closing on Benghazi, the rebel stronghold. The ceasefire, if implemented, will be advantageous for the rebel forces.

Several countries of the NATO including France, UK and USA expressed their willingness to contribute to the enforcement of the NFZ over Libya, which is no simple task.

On the contrary, another country which is waging a war against their own people, Bahrain, has attracted only limited condemnation from the international community. Saudi troops and UAE police has invaded the small island to protect the ruling al-Khalifa clan. After another severe military crackdown, the statue at the pearl roundabout has been demolished by the government forces.

In a strong rebuff to the foreign troops who have entered Bahrain in the guise of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Sheikh Issa Qassim, Bahrain's most influential Shia cleric, said during Friday sermon that Gulf troops would have been better off helping Palestinians in Gaza than entering Bahrain.

In another move, the Bahrain government and their allies in the region and in the West are trying to paint a sectarian picture to the whole uprising, stating its a Shia affair against a Sunni regime. While many leaders of opposition are Shia, there are many Sunni opposition figures also in the battle for democracy. Also, its not a surprise even if the majority of the opposition is Shia as more than 60% of Bahrainis are Shia Muslims. However, the uprising is not a sectarian issue and many are not actually trying to oust the king. They were initially asking for a Constitutional Monarchy and only after the crackdown in February did the calls for a republic became strong. But still it is a minority who voice their support for a republic.

With all this happening, the so called international community is turning a blind eye towards Bahrain while preparing to patrol the large air space over Libya.

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