The Pearl Statue, better known in Bahrain as the Lulu, was long gone by the time I got there in mid-April. The roundabout where it once stood, and where tens of thousands of protesters gathered to call for democratic reform from Bahrain’s authoritarian government, was a construction site. Red-and-white traffic barriers kept cars away. Taxi drivers refused to go near it. And heavy equipment churned through the old concrete and asphalt, reducing the squared to a dusty, empty field of debris.
When I heard that the Sunni-dominated government had torn down the statue which had become the centerpiece of the demonstrations by the largely Shiite opposition, I was fascinated. There’s something very Hausmann-esque about destroying your own cityscape in the name of civic order. And something surreal about a decidedly ugly statue, with the bland, modernism beloved by police states, somehow becoming a genuine symbol. I look at the phenomenon in a story that ran in today’s Washington Post.