Feb 14 was not St Valentine’s Day in Bahrain

Feb 14 was not St Valentine’s Day in Bahrain

According to Ömer Çelik, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), “the Gaza conflict is Turkey’s national issue.” And there is more than sufficient evidence that, according to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Syrian conflict, too, is Turkey’s national issue. Needless to say, some of Turkey’s other national/domestic issues include the Cyprus and Armenian conflicts, too.

It’s bizarre, though, that Ankara tends to get seriously offended each time a foreign official, an author with fame or a nongovernmental organization speaks on the Kurdish conflict or on Turkey’s now first-class Third World civil liberties. But this can hardly be an indication of hypocrisy in a world where Sudan and Saudi Arabia are pressuring Syria to “democratize its regime and stop massacring its own people,” or where Turkey condemns freedom of expression in France. At this pace of events we may soon have the North Koreans lecturing Europe on the virtues of liberal culture. 

Hardly a day passes without Mssrs. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu and Western “friends of Syria” do not fiercely stand on the right side of history by overtly and covertly working to overthrow the tyrant of Damascus “because he keeps on killing Syrians.”

To achieve the goal of saving innocent Syrians (according to the official account) or to defeat Iran in this proxy sectarian war (according to facts of life) Ankara extends humanitarian (according to the official account) support, and/or logistical military support (according to facts of life) to an armed group of Bashar al-Assad’s opponents who go with the very military designation of the “Free Syrian Army.” 

Ironically, more military support for the dissident army will mean more fighting and more bloodshed. Which brings in the inevitable question: Do “friends of Syria” really care about the Syrian death toll, or are they just following their sectarian instincts blended with geostrategic interests?

I have no idea how Mr. Erdoğan’s Muslim fraternity with Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president with an international arrest warrant for crimes against humanity, or cooperation with Saudi Arabia to bring democracy to Syria could fit into the fancy pro-democracy rhetoric in Ankara. 

But there is, in addition to Syria, another land where the Arab Spring brings in a light breeze of democracy although this one is not for the Sunni-Western taste. What the more developed parts of the world celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day was the anniversary of the much less popular Arab Spring in Bahrain where a minority Sunni sheikdom rules a majority Shiite population, where police continue to crack down on disaffected youth in Shiite neighborhoods and where the youth complain of economic and political marginalization along sectarian lines.

If the prime minister and his foreign minister are sincere about their concerns for human dignity, human rights, universal values and democracy in the Arab world, they should support Bahrain’s pro-democracy (and anti-sheikdom) opponents, too, and feel sympathy for the Bahraini death toll. But never mind, that will not happen. 

“This is about whether this council, during a time of sweeping change n the Middle East, will stand with peaceful protestors crying out for freedom, or with a regime of thugs with guns that tramples human dignity and human rights.”

Nice quote? Indeed. But does it matter whether it belongs to Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, or to any one of Mssrs. Erdoğan or Davutoğlu? Sadly, the dead do not carry passports; but Bahrain is too “potentially Persian” for Washington to be catalogued as another corner of the Arab Spring, just a “little nuisance” for Saudi Arabia, and too “Shiite” for Ankara to care for human dignity and promote democracy.

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