At 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 15, as thousands of people gathered to protest against their ruler at a busy intersection in Manama, the capital of the small island nation of Bahrain, you could just about hear over the general hubbub the anthem of the young people who have shaken regimes from North Africa to the Arabian Gulf. It wasn't a verse from the Koran. It wasn't a traditional tune from the region. It was rap. A reedy female voice shouted out, several times, the first line of "Rais Lebled," a song written by the Tunisian rapper known as El Général. "Mr. President, your people are dying," the woman sang. Then others joined in. "Mr. President, your people are dying/ People are eating rubbish/ Look at what is happening/ Miseries everywhere, Mr. President/ I talk with no fear/ Although I know I will get only trouble/ I see injustice everywhere."
Bahrain, as it happens, doesn't have a President; it's ruled by a King, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. No matter. The protesters in Bahrain knew that "Rais Lebled" was the battle hymn of the Jasmine Revolution that brought down Tunisia's dictator, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, and that it was then adopted by the demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square who toppled Hosni Mubarak. Now it had come to Bahrain, as rage against poverty and oppression swept the Arab world from west to east. It isn't just songs that are being copied: in a nod to the Egyptians, organizers in several countries have dubbed their demonstrations Days of Rage, and the popular Tunisian chant, "The people want the regime to fall," has been taken up by protesters from Algeria to Yemen.