In the week leading up to the one year anniversary of Bahrain's February 14 Revolution, many journalists have been denied visas to the country. Journalists from the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, Associated Foreign Press, and Al-Jazeera English were all denied visas because of what the government is calling a "high volume of requests."
"This refusal to allow access for such prestigious media organizations is another ominous signal from the Bahrain government about what might happen this coming week,” said Brian Dooley of Human Rights First. "The days approaching the anniversary are tense and rife with rumor. Bahrain's refusal to admit human rights and media organizations only fuels suspicions that the government wants to hide the truth about its ongoing abuses."
It is unclear how many journalists are allowed to enter the country for the February 14 anniversary, but the Information Affairs Agency maintains they are allowing many foreign media outlets to cover the events.
As part of the 2011 "Arab Spring" uprising, the protests in Bahrain were initially aimed at achieving greater political reforms and equality for the predominantly Shia population. However, following a bloody night raid on February 17, 2011 against peaceful protestors staging sit-ins at Pear Roundabout in Manama, the protestors raised their demands and called for an end to the centuries-long authoritarian rule of the Khalifa dynasty. On March 14, Hundreds of Saudi troops entered Bahrain to help protect government facilities amid escalating protests against the Sunni-led government.
Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, says his team has documented 60 deaths since February 14, 2011 and that the police's aggressive approach in countering activists has stiffened in the past two months. Meanwhile, hundreds of activists have been detained, injured, and tortured in the past year.
After almost a year, violence is still rife in Bahrain as the revolutionary youths remain resolute in their demands and Saudi-backed forces are increasingly brutal in their crackdowns. This week the February 14 Youth Coalition issued a "charter" saying the government crackdowns had gone too far. "The aim of this revolution has become to bring down the regime and decide our own fate after it became clear that trying to live with it and reform it has become impossible," it said.
As next week's anniversary approaches, many people are uncertain about how the events will unfold and worry of increased violence, chaos, and deaths. Emile Hokayen, Mideast Analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, tweeted, "Here in Bahrain, lots of uncertainty abt next week. Rumors galore, concern in some quarters, fatigue in others, real frustration among opp."
Photo: A girl flashes the victory sign with her fingers amid fellow anti-government protestors waving Bahraini flags during a rally held by Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's main Shiite opposition, in Sanabis, west of Manama January 12, 2012. Thousands of anti-government protesters participated in the rally shouting anti-government slogans demanding the downfall of the ruling family. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed