Financial Times journalist Simeon Kerr writes about his recent time on the island of Sitra, often considered the heart of the revolution against Bahrain’s ruling monarchy:
The tiny island of Sitra is home to just 40,000 people out of Bahrain’s 1.2m population and most of its residents live in just seven villages. Its youth have joined with other rebels across the country under the umbrella of the February 14 movement, a radical opposition group.
Fourteen people from Sitra have died during the unrest of the past two years.
One of the most disturbing images of the revolt, the gaping skull of Ahmed Farhan who was shot at point blank range at Sitra’s petrol station in March 2011, looms large in the room in which Hussain is staying.“When we see brains splattered on the ground, how can we believe that this regime will reform?” he says.
The youths, who hang on Hussain’s every word as they gather on tatty mattresses in a modest home, seem in no mood for compromise. “The martyrs opened the road for us, they are our guide,” says Hussain, to murmurs of approval.
Of Sitra’s seven villages, perhaps the most rebellious is Mohazza. It was under siege for a week last December as the police blocked entrances in an effort to smoke out protesters.
Police raids are now a daily fixture of life in Mohazza, residents say. Families have installed metal doors to protect them from security force raids. “They can still break through, but at least we can hear them trying to get in,” says Hussain.
After the December siege, Hussain left Sitra. Now, he flits between friends’ houses as he goes into his 23rd month on the run since being summoned to a civil court for questioning for attacks on policemen. He has no intention of turning himself in.
“If I go back, they will force a confession on another crime, so I prefer to stay in hiding,” he says.
During a previous visit to a police station, he saw prisoners forced to recount eulogies to the king, while enduring beatings on the soles of their feet and being hanged upside down for hours.
“It was like a hospital, people were limping around, one man had his fingers cut,” he says.