Rejected by Bahrain

RTR2K0NX.jpgPhoto: Anti-government protesters’ reflections are seen on a car that was hit by bullets during an operation by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) military forces to remove protesters from Pearl Square in Bahrain, March 17, 2011. (REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan)

Bahrain awoke to a violent crackdown by police on demonstrators camped out at the country’s iconic Lulu (Pearl) roundabout on Wednesday. That afternoon, I boarded a flight from Doha, Qatar to Bahrain, to see for myself what was unfolding in the island nation I once called home.

Hours later, I found myself on a flight back to Doha, without having been allowed to set foot out of Bahrain’s airport in Muharraq.

The flight itself was quite uneventful. The plane – an Airbus A321, with a listed 177 passenger capacity – carried less than 30 people. A short line to immigration meant I was at the desk in minutes. Immigration officer asks, “Where are you coming from? Qatar? OK, 5 Bahraini Dinars.”

Thumbing through my passport, he suddenly stops and looks me in the eye. “Wait, where are you from? Who do you work for? … Please have a seat – over there.” I can’t be sure if it was the Iraq visa, the India visa, or the numerous Qatar & Saudi visas in my American passport he found suspicious. Or perhaps it was my telling him in Arabic that “my origin” is half Indian, half Hispanic.

So my wait began. There were quite a number of other people on the benches too. Anyone who’d arrived with the intention of driving across the King Fahad causeway into Saudi Arabia was being told they’d have to fly. There is a curfew in effect on Bahrain’s main highway from 4pm-4am, and last I heard, the bridge to Saudi was closed indefinitely. This of course, due to the month-long protests against the government by opposition groups calling for democratic reforms, a constitutional monarchy and basic human rights.

After about an hour of waiting, and checking in a couple times to see if there was any problems, one of the immigration officers asked, “You used to work for Al Jazeera, right?”

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Al Jazeera cameraman killed in Libya, in government ambush of news crew

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Al Jazeera has announced that one of its cameramen, Ali Hassan Al Jaber, was killed after a reporting team for the Arabic-language channel was ambushed by government forces near the town of Benghazi.

The news sparked an outpouring of emotion and support for the network and the slain cameraman.

Wadah Khanfar, the director general of the Al Jazeera Network, announced the death in broadcast remarks, saying “the network will not be silent after death of our cameraman” and would seek to prosecute the perpetrators.

Read a longer account, with archives of tweets from people close to the story, here.

Egypt: Mubarak speaks, won’t run again, elections in September

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[Yes, they’ve Godwin’ed Egypt: A man carries a picture depicting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as Adolf Hitler during a protest in Cairo January 31, 2011. Mubarak overhauled his government on Monday to try to defuse a popular uprising against his 30-year rule but angry protesters rejected the changes and said he must surrender power. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic ]

On the 8th day of increasingly massive protests in Egypt calling for the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president has just addressed the nation and the world: he will not run for presidency again, and will “speed up” elections scheduled months from now.

How the Egyptian people react to this is yet to be seen, but as I type this post, the endless ocean of demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square —who were heckling him during the speech—don’t seem satisfied: “We’re not leaving today, we’re not leaving Wednesday, we’re not leaving Thursday,” the crowd is chanting. They won’t leave, in other words, until Mubarak leaves.

“I will die in the land of Egypt,” said the Egyptian president during his address, meaning he won’t flee the country, as Tunisian president Ben Ali did after popular revolt there.

Fake Hosni Mubarak on Twitter breaks it down for us: “Read between the lines: I will steal as much as I can in the few months I have left as president.”

Al Jazeera item on speech here. Nick Kristof’s analysis here: “Clueless in Cairo.”

Nothing in Mubarak’s speech about unlocking the clampdown on press (such as Al Jazeera), or turning on communications again: internet and mobile remain down for nearly all users throughout the country.