In 2011 Reda al-Fardan watched in horror as Bahraini troops plowed down protestors camped at a Manama roundabout. Now he is among Shiite activists urging greater pressure on the monarchy to implement long-promised reforms.
“It’s a moral choice,” Fardan said, after meeting in Washington with top Obama aide Susan Rice to urge the United States to throw its weight behind activists.
His NGO, Bahrain Watch, is calling for a transparent, accountable government in the nation ruled by the Sunni Khalifa dynasty since the late 18th century, amid fears of a dangerous and growing sectarian divide.
Fardan, 29, grew up in the western Shiite coastal village of Karzakan, and witnessed how the tumult caused by the Arab spring unleashed decades of anger against failure to introduce democratic reforms.
Protests launched on February 14, 2011 led to the Manama sit-in, where Fardan saw Bahraini troops first unleash rubber bullets and tear gas, and followed a few weeks later by Saudi tanks.
“We all know that the government is ruthless and brutal, but seeing it first hand, just each day you see this again and again… things become emotional.”
Around 90 people have died in the protests which have now simmered for almost three years, and about 2,500 people are believed to remain in jail.
Bahrain Watch is leading a campaign called “Stop the Shipment” amid fears a South Korean company, DaeKwang Chemical, is considering supplying some 1.6 million rounds of tear gas to Bahrain — more than the island’s entire 1.2 million population.