December 26, 2005

a world first for our airport

The country’s international airport is back at its old job as the first interdiction point for rogue citizens. This resumption of duty did not happen without landing yet another global first for us in the annals of international aviation.

An early Boxing Day comes to town

7:44 PM Early arrivers were busy looking for a parking near Al-Wefaq headquarter ahead of a meeting on the upcoming municipal elections, when news broke out on the country’s most popular -but banned and blocked- discussion forums that Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammed Sanad was being detained in a boxed cabin at the airport upon his return from Iran, en rout to his annual pilgrimage with a local group.

8:20 PM Al-Wefaq’s president goes inside to join a select group discussing a seats-eyeing strategy, few minutes after the head of the Islamic Action Society entered the next-door building which houses his society for internal fissures- control meeting in the wake of the decision to register under the new societies law, while hundreds of activists exchange messages calling for a rush towards the airport in a bid to show solidarity with the forcibly-grounded Ayatollah. A Boxing Day-like crowd converges on the airport.

11:00 PM The Arrivals Hall is packed with hundreds of protesters unconvinced by an officer’s line that the Sheikh has already been taken to Manama for questioning. They chant slogans for his release in a sit-in in front of a line of an Anti-Riot Squad readying itself for an offensive position.

11:28 PM A first report of tear gas and batons in action against the protestors inside the Arrivals Hall. Probably a world first. Mayhem at grand scale as boxing face-offs ensued: chairs fending against batons. Several are reported injured and taken to Salmaniya Hospital. The forum that provided a complete minute-by-minute gets increasingly out of reach due to extraordinary traffic. More than 17 thousands in 3 hours.

11:57 PM Al-Jazeera TV talks to its correspondent, a former BTV announcer and the holder of the first license for a private radio channel, who repeats verbatim the Ministry of Interior statement.

1:15 AM The forums broadcast the news that the sheikh has just been released.

2:15 AM Al-Jazeera interviews Sheikh Sanad himself who says he was charged with inciting the population against the regime.

3:06 AM The Office of the Sheikh issues a statement on the net thanking the fidels for their sentiments and troubles and praying for the safety of the injured and detained.

Monday Morning: the Sheikh is still due to appear before the General Prosecution Office. Akhbar-Al Khaleej newspaper talks about apprehending a certain individual by the name Khaled Sanad. The founder of the forum gets a nice present for a job well done: his first newborn baby.


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