Like anyone else trying to keep track of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, the protests in Libya, Bahrain, Iran, Yemen and elsewhere, a pivotal election in Uganda, the ongoing collapse of the Ivory Coast, I’m feeling a little behind, a little lost, a little overwhelmed. In 2011, history has apparently accelerated – it feels like a decade’s events are happening in a few weeks. I’m watching friends write books in weeks – Micah Sifry on Wikileaks, my friends at Foreign Policy on the revolutions in the Middle East – rather than the years these works usually require. It’s the opposite of the end of history – everything is happening so fast that it’s hard to stop to reflect without missing the next chapter.
I’ve been trying to watch the protests in Yemen, Libya, Iran and Bahrain – as well as the stalled or subjugated protests in Gabon – with equal intensity, but I’m finding myself watching Bahrain most closely, for simple personal reasons: my dear friend Amira Al-Hussaini is there, and I’m increasingly watching these revolutions through her eyes. Amira is Middle East and North Africa editor for Global Voices, and is a fellow board member. I think it’s safe to say that there’s not a single person involved with our project who isn’t madly in love with her – she’s the den mother and fierce taskmaster for our amazing Middle East team, and she’s shattered countless stereotypes I’ve had about the Gulf, about women in the Arab world, about bloggers and journalists.
As protests began to erupt in Bahrain, Amira wrote a powerful blog post about her mixed emotions. She made it clear that, while she’s not a fan of the government in her country, she was unconvinced that protests would be the answer – she worried about sectarian strife in a country where a Sunni government and Shia majority have been in tension for years. Today, on Twitter, her reactions have been more raw and emotional:
I feel I have died over and over again since #Feb14 #Bahrain
@nour_odeh Is this how you feel covering the carnage in Palestine? Cried covering Tunisia and Egypt but this is real + here
@marwarakha Wanted celebrate in Tahrir with you guys so much – and look where I am. The same thing is happening in my country
Later today, she’s been responding to criticism from some fellow Bahrainis that her coverage of the atrocities committed by the Bahraini military against protesters is a betrayal of her identity as a Bahrani citizen. Needless to say, that’s not how she sees it:
As much as I understand why friends are making up excuses, the horror I’ve witnessed in my country cannot be excused #Feb14 #Bahrain
I too love #Bahrain. I am Bahraini. My blood is Bahraini – and I witnessed my country die in the eyes of its children today #Bahrain #Feb14
I have given up trying to understand. Nothing can explain it. Ppl can live in denial all they want. What happened is wrong #Bahrain #Feb14
Tweeting the atrocities committed is not treason: Keeping quiet about them is and hiding the truth is another low altogether #Bahrain #Feb14
Me tweeting falls within my line of work: I work in citizen media: I am the Middle East and North Africa of @globalvoices #Bahrain #Feb14
I have tweeted #bouzid and #Jan25 and cover #Yemen #Libya #Algeria and the rest of Middle East #Bahrain #Feb14
Covering protests/revolutions thru citizen media reactions means that u need to understand the scene: I started in 2004 #Bahrain #Feb14
Before that I was the news editor of the Gulf Daily News, where I worked for 14 years. I covered everything: everything #Feb14 #Bahrain
I served #Bahrain in every way I knew, never asked for anything. Today I ask it to stop the bloodshed and give us an explanation we can stomach
I am tired, shattered and broken. I saw ppls brain’s splattered and men in uniform shooting boys: Why? #Bahrain #Feb14
Amira has been sending me videos that Bahrani protesters are taking with their phones and posting to YouTube. She’s asked me to archive and mirror them – the young men taking the videos are deleting them after uploading for fear of being stopped at checkpoints, and everyone is afraid that YouTube will remove the videos as they are violent and very disturbing. For now, I’m embedding YouTube’s player – if they go down, I will post the originals on my server.
This first video makes clear that the Bahrani forces are firing live rounds from semiautomatic weapons.
The second video shows how close the tanks – and presumably, the gunmen – are to the protesters, who are peaceful and unarmed.
It’s hard to imagine how Bahrain returns to normal after innocent people are killed so brutally. Amira’s tweets gives me a sense for how disturbing it is to see a country you know and love go off the rails so tragically. I’m shocked as a human being by the videos. I’m disgusted as an American that we’ve not been able to stay the hand of our close ally. I’m sad that I’m not able to pay as close attention to Libya, where dozens are dying at the hands of government forces and out of the view of news cameras. As filled with hope as events in Tunisia and Egypt have left me, these videos leave me crushed.