Protest movements in the Gulf push back against tightening government grip
As the Arab world has seen momentous change over the last two years, the monarchies in the Gulf have moved in a different direction. In recent days, those regimes have taken more big steps to restrict free expression and political opposition.
In Kuwait over the last year, opposition leaders and Islamist parties have made large gains in parliament, then seen their progress nullified by political manipulation. Recently, a change to electoral law brought tens of thousands to the streets in protest and prompted the opposition to say they'll boycott upcoming elections. On 31 Ocbtober, thousands more marched to protest the recent imprisonment of opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak for comments critical of the emir made during a speech in mid-October. While al-Barrak has been temporarily released on bail, government officials have warned that they will strictly enforce the regimes ban on protests.
The situation is not much different in Bahrain, where on 30 October the government announced a similar ban on gatherings. The small Gulf monarchy saw mass protests and a brutal crackdown during the Arab Spring last year, and the government's oppression of speech has continued.
However, it is notable that the calls for change have not stopped in either place or anywhere else in the Gulf. Inspiring stories of protestors, bloggers, and artists abound, and the fight for democracy, freedom of expression, and women's rights continues.