The violence in Libya dominates the news now, but Bahrain continues to be the site of protests, and one of those observing events in that small island nation is Laura Vriens (’10), whose Fulbright fellowship took her there last fall to study economic development. Vriens, a Macaulay Honors graduate with a major in political science and minor in Arabic, has reported her insights on the Huffington Post and in an interview on NPR’s “Brian Lehrer Show.”
In her HuffPo column she said the Bahrain she arrived in six months ago was one part “Las Vegas of the Middle East” and one part “sandy villages, lined with black flags and small mosques.” The sharp differences in wealth and life styles fueled the protests, she said, as well as the resentments of a Shia majority ruled by a Sunni minority under an authoritarian king.
The fact that Bahrain is so close to Iran has raised fears in some quarters that “religiously strident” Iranians are behind the protests. While Vriens is careful not dismiss that concern, she quotes a protester as saying, “This isn’t about Iran. This is about me being able to feed my children.” In any event, Vriens believes King Hamad cannot ignore the resentments that fuel the protests indefinitely. She concludes: “Regardless of the tactics the monarchy takes, it needs to start soon.”
Even before winning her Fulbright, Vriens was a student of the region, traveling in Morocco and serving as an intern in the U.S. embassy in Bahrain. To read her Huffington Post piece, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-vriens/bahrain-two-seas-two-sect_b_827028.html