Bahrain Uncensored

“Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark”
directed by May Welsh
Al Jazeera, 50:56, free online (streaming)

The award-winning documentary “Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark” consists of eye-opening images, interviews, and testimonies of members of the opposition who overcame their fear and sacrificed their security for the sake of their democratic rights. In a country ruled by an authoritarian system and government-controlled media, citizens relied on Al-Jazeera to share their experiences and create global awareness of their political, religious, and human rights crisis.

Inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, in February 2011, citizens of Bahrain started protesting against the Al Khalifa dynasty, which has ruled the country since the 18th century. While a constitutional democracy on paper, Bahrain is an oppressive regime in practice. The government utilized every resource to silence dissent. These protests, which are captured on video for the world to see, demonstrate the brutality of the authorities against their people.

May Welsh and Hassan Mahfood are the journalists who witnessed every moment of the uprising since its initial days at Pearl Roundabout in Manama, Bahrain’s capital. Because Al-Jazeera was the only international news organization covering the revolution, they felt a responsibility toward the people of Bahrain and the world to share Bahrain’s hopeful journey to democracy. The documentary also follows brave Bahraini activists who were injured, and sometimes killed, by the police and military forces. Not only was the Salmaniya Medical Complex home to patients and medical staff, but also to Al-Jazeera. The hospital opened their doors for the world to see what was happening at that time of crisis and most importantly, to ask for international help.

Citizens of Bahrain who are struggling for stable jobs gave testimonials to the camera to express their discontent with the government’s practice of giving naturalized citizens from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia jobs meant to be given to Bahrainis. The interviewees, who are victims of the biased judicial system, shared their experiences of being raised in Bahrain and not knowing any other system of government. The current Prime Minister, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, uncle of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, has been in power for more than 40 years.

The documentary strongly criticizes the global ignorance of this situation, and especially the ignorance of the government of the United States. Besides showing people asking the American government for help, the editors of the film introduced a soundbite of President Barack Obama, in which he announced their intervention on Libya. The term “Champions of Democracy” is ironically given to the United States to point out their inconsistency when it comes to freedom and liberty.

Without media censorship for the first time, victims are captured in strong and powerful images that demonstrate the ugly truth of this authoritarian government. Like any other episode in history, participants in this system find a way to silence the opposition and transform non-supporters into enemies. Their voices have been silenced through partial judicial practices and brutal violence, until this documentary was edited for the wold to see.

– Ana Vivas

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