Bahrain Boots Enemies of the (Brutal and Dictatorial) State from Its Soccer Team

Defense secretary Robert Gates was in Saudi Arabia this week, checking on how democracy and American interests are doing in the region. It’s a bitter struggle, but American interests are still winning, which means

democracy is still losing

. The Wall Street Journal reported:

After meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said publicly that the U.S. has “evidence” of Iranian meddling in Bahrain. He declined to reveal what proof the U.S. had of Iranian interference.

So Gates is now echoing the Bharaini dictatorship in blaming the country’s unrest on outside agitators (though Bahrain’s own preference was for pinning it on Hezbollah). He offered this opinion after consulting with the Saudis, whose respect for noninterference in Bahrain’s internal affairs is so great that they sent troops into Bahrain to support the government as it crushed protests by force.

Among the foreign influences undermining

our friends in Bahrain

: the national soccer team.

Ala’a and Mohammed Hubail

, brothers who played for Bahrain, were arrested at their soccer club’s practice this week for having participated in the protest. The Hubails and two other unnamed soccer players—all Shiites, in the Sunni-ruled monarchy—have been suspended from the national team and their club teams.

The Australian reported that before the arrests, state-run television had shown footage of athletes at the protests:

A’ala Hubail, 28, was joint top scorer in the 2004 Asian Cup. A paramedic before he turned professional, he worked as a volunteer nurse during the protests.

The program on Bahrain TV, the mouthpiece of the regime, set out to name and shame sports stars taking part in the Shia-led protests. The channel denounced the protesters as “stray hyenas”.

Since the broadcast, dozens of sportsmen and officials, all of them Shia, have been suspended.

Maybe the broadcasts are part of the ”

national dialogue

” the State Department urged Bahrain to engage in. The

Christian Science Monitor

reported that other parts of the Shiite workforce are receiving the same treatment:

At least 16 companies or government ministries have fired more than 565 employees in recent weeks, most citing absenteeism, according to a count by the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. By law, employers can terminate workers when they have an unexcused absence of 10 consecutive or 20 nonconsecutive days…

[A]t least some of the companies that fired workers did not follow the proper legal procedures for firing absentee employees, according to Essa Ebrahim Mohamed, a lawyer who advises the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions. And nearly a dozen workers at four companies said in interviews that they had not actually been absent for more than 10 days, or that they had been on leave approved by the company.

The Journal also reported on the mass firings, along with other measures being taken to promote the stability of the United States’ valued ally:

The government also shut down the country’s sole independent newspaper this week after it published what the government described as “false” photos of demonstrators being beaten. The paper was allowed to begin publishing the next day after its prominent editor, Mansoor al Jamri, resigned. He said editors published the photos without realizing they were from demonstrations that weren’t in Bahrain.

The actual violence by the Bahraini government against the protesters presumably looked nothing like the pictures of violence against protesters in some other country in the newspaper. Bahrain is, as we know, a very special case.