Courtesy Reuters

Mohamed al-Buflasa went to the Pearl Roundabout on February 15, 2011, the second day of Bahrain’s Arab Spring–inspired uprising. What he witnessed there was a swelling crowd of Sunnis and Shia calling in a single voice for greater political rights and freedoms. On a whim, he took the stage and gave a rousing speech decrying sectarianism and warning the royal family that its attempts to divide the people of Bahrain would bring great harm to the country. 

The speech was noteworthy because al-Buflasa is a religiously conservative Sunni, a former army captain, and, at the time, an employee of the

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