Home > Democracy, Religion > Thoughts on Bahraini life sentences

Thoughts on Bahraini life sentences


Martin Chulov of the Guardian reported eight Bahraini civil rights activists were sentenced to life imprisonment for “plotting a coup against the government.” And while I can certainly sympathize and no doubt agree with those activists’ aims, the court’s decision could be considered legitimate — although certainly operating in an illegitimate and rather ineffective code of law.

It’s worth noting that peaceful demonstration and free speech are not exactly protected in Bahrain. That much should be obvious. And given that societal and institutional framework, the court’s decision cannot be unexpected. Any attempt to overthrow a government will usually be met with police force and judicial response, whether you’re in Bahrain or the United States.

The freedoms offered in Bahrain are certainly more limited than the U.S. And while it’s easy to criticize the Bahraini courts for their decisions to punish dissenting voices, we are only doing so based on our understanding of society. That understanding is tainted, however, by living in a free society.

That’s not to say what Bahrain is doing is right or morally justified — it is not. The governance there is similar to what is happening in Syria, with a minority religious sect occupying power positions while the opposing majority religious sect is subordinated. But it’s all about cultural relativism.

The only way suppression of activists will end is by government overthrow. But if the government views itself as legitimate — and it does — it will try to maintain any semblance of rule of law it still possesses. That would include punishing “subversives,” which is a broader term in a country with fewer personal liberties.

Again, I am not defending the Bahraini court’s decisions — everyone deserves the right to protest. But that is simply not the case in Bahrain. A complete change in government and institutions is the only way to provide that, and the current government — especially since it is run by the minority Sunni population — is not likely to allow that.

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