The Arab Spring Wasn't Successful for Everyone in the Region
A Q&A with one Bahraini journalist targeted by her government's stronghold.
Updated: July 10, 2013 | 3:43 p.m.
July 10, 2013 | 3:06 p.m.
Although remnants of the Arab Spring are still seen across the region (note the current volatility in Egypt), the protesters in some nations weren't as effective.
One of those nations is Bahrain, a small island country in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Inspired by the popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, thousands of people in 2011 took to the streets to demonstrate against the monarchy. And the government's response was swift and violent.
Clashes resulted in thousands of arrests and several deaths. Many of the journalists covering the events either lost their jobs, were fined, or were arrested. Nazeeha Saeed, a 32-year-old reporter for France 24, was one of those targeted by government officials.
A Bahraini national, Saeed was summoned to a police station and repeatedly tortured and beaten by police officers; she was eventually forced to sign a confession she had not read. The graphic details of that experience are outlined by Reporters Without Borders.
Bahrain is home to arguably one of the most important U.S. military bases in the region. It's called the Fifth Fleet, where 6,000 U.S. personnel operate. Like many of this country's allies in the region, Bahrain doesn't come without its issues. But with Iran 120 miles away, U.S. officials don't see the relationship as much of a choice.
Saeed sat down with National Journal to discuss her experience in Bahrain and what she feels the U.S. can do about it. Below is the edited interview.
NJ: Since the protests in 2011, has the state of journalism in Bahrain improved?
SAEED: It's not good. The situation has gotten more difficult for us as journalists to work on the ground. The freedom of speech is very much not free. And we are struggling to do our jobs as independent journalists. There is pro-government and state TV and radio, which tell the government's side of the story and nothing of the other side. For us as independents, we have to do both. We have a lot of challenges to face, and we don't get the space that we can really work.
Media personnel were sacked from their jobs in 2011, and they haven't been back yet to their jobs. Half of them have been arrested and questioned. And half of those who have been arrested have been mistreated and tortured, and I was one of them.
NJ: Who was targeted after the 2011 protests?
SAEED: A lot of opposition, doctors, teachers, professional athletes have been targeted and put in jail, and accused of being part of a movement to overthrow the regime, as being terrorists, as being aligned with Iran. The journalists were attacked because they were, according to the government, not neutral and lying in their reports.
In my case, I was accused of being on the media side of a terrorist cell, lying in my reports, and working for Iranian and Lebanese channels, which I have never worked with. I have been working with TV and radio in France.