In Conversation with the Devil: Linguistic Themes of Shiʿi Mobilization in the 2011 Bahrain Uprising
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In 2011, an uprising gripped the small archipelago of Bahrain, located in the Persian Gulf, as part of the wider series of contentious politics known popularly as the “Arab Spring.” Started by the 14 February Youth Coalition, the uprising included many Bahrainis from diverse backgrounds who gathered together at Dawwār al-Luʾluʾ, the Pearl Roundabout. This multifaceted resistance used effective organizing tactics to push the al-Khalifa regime of Bahrain to meet their demands of democracy and governmental reform. Yet, popular conceptions of the Bahrain Uprising reduce it to a sectarian conflict between a Shiʿi populace and a Sunni ruling family. Using the poetry of one protester, Ayat al-Gormezi, a 20-year-old student at the time of the Uprising, as a guiding lens, this thesis seeks to explore the language of the Uprising in order to understand protesters’ decisions about how they framed their demands in the areas of non-violent resistance, anti-sectarian organizing, and anti-neoliberal praxis. In addition to al-Gormezi’s foundational works, this thesis surveys a wide range of chants, posters, banners, graffiti, and interviews with protesters from footage, government reports, and eyewitness accounts in Arabic and English to demonstrate the salience of these areas to Bahraini organizing. By taking a postcolonial approach and contextualizing the 2011 Uprising as part of a longer history of anticolonial resistance in Bahrain, this thesis demonstrates that popular conceptions of the Uprising as a “sudden” and disconnected resistance ignore its thematic relationship to past Bahraini organizing as well as the lessons which Bahrainis’ organizing can offer to anti-authoritarian activists across the world.