Crackdown: The Harsh Realities of Nonviolent Protests in the Bahraini Civil Conflict

Maryam Al-Khawaja
December 11, 2014

Bahrain is one of the only countries where, four years into the “Arab Spring” uprisings, most people continue to use peaceful methods of resistance, including technological advancements and the use of social media for mobility. Over time, political stalemate, impunity, and the closure of most avenues for peaceful dissent caused many individuals to become disenchanted with the results of these nonviolent tactics, turning instead towards more violent means of protest. Inside Bahrain, opposition groups used the people’s dedication to nonviolence to better position themselves. In addition, international responses to violent strategies elsewhere in the region have led to foreign military intervention, greater political attention in international forums, and more consistent coverage in mainstream media outlets. The use of peaceful dissent also suffers from a lack of international legal protection and regulation. The lack of regulation left those suffering from grave human rights violations as a result of peaceful dissent with few avenues that could provide more protection and accountability. Through the lens of the Bahraini protests, this article analyzes how the strategy of using nonviolence to create social and political change has been undermined and almost obliterated due to the lack of international legal structures to protect peaceful protesters from their governments, as well as the double standards apparent in the response of the international community.