BLOODSHED and political turmoil that has engulfed Bahrain has left a former Dispatch district woman, who lives on the Persian island, fearing for her safety.
Protests calling for the downfall of the ruling monarchy have grabbed the attention of the entire world.
But for Suzanne Wilkins (39), the drama is being played out right on her doorstep.
Speaking from her fifth-floor apartment on the tiny Gulf island, she said: “I can hear gunshots from my home and the sound of army helicopters flying above. It is extremely distressing and worrying.
“I have lived here for seven years. It is my home. I now find myself considering whether I can stay here.
“We are basically having to stay in our homes for our own safety. I have ventured out a couple of times but you can almost cut the tension with a knife. The atmosphere is very fragile.”
The uprising has focused on Bahrain’s landmark Pearl Square, which is just a few kilometres away from where Suzanne lives.
Protesters, made up mainly of students, have camped out, calling for the “oppressive” regime to be overthrown.
Last weekend, riot police opened fire on the demonstration, killing a handful and wounding dozens of others.
The clashes are just the latest in a succession across the Middle East in recent times.
They have resulted in the ousting of President Mubarak in Egypt and the erosion of the grip on power enjoyed by the world’s longest-serving leader, Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.
But for Suzanne, the tensions in Bahrain have caused trauma and terror.
“There is a lot of uncertainty and fear among the expatriates out here,” she added. “It is affecting businesses and restaurants, and cafes are empty. Parts of Bahrain are like a ghost town.”
Suzanne was born in Nottingham but lived at the ‘Old Vicarage’ in Annesley and later Newstead Abbey Park where her parents, John and Denise Wilkins, still live.
She is a cousin of Dispatch editor Richard Silverwood.
Suzanne works as a psychic who is well-known among the expat community in the Middle East as ‘Psychic Suzy’. She reads Tarot cards and has even met the Bahraini royal family.
She says she moved to the country because of “a calling”. But now her future career is in doubt.
Said Suzanne: “It is all very traumatic and there seems to be no end in sight to the protests.
“This is so out of character for the Bahraini people, They are usually peace-loving. They are not an angry people. They are usually very calm.
“I have had a happy time here. It would be very sad if I had to leave my home and leave my friends.
“The people are not about war. They do not want this. It has been forced upon them. All they want is fair treatment.”
Bahrain is a Muslim country that lies off the western shores of the Persian Gulf, near to Saudi Arabia. It has a population of just 500,000.
The island is ruled by the incredibly wealthy Al Khalifa royal family, who are the target of the protests.
“Bahrain is a very beautiful country to live in,” said Suzanne. “Things are normally very harmonious. I hate to think that the world’s opinion is being soured by what is going on.
“But I think there has always been an underlying current of unrest that has been boiling for a very long time.
“The air is filled with chemicals, caused by tear gas, and there are constant protests focused on Pearl Square and local mosques.
“I just hope a solution can be found soon and peace returned to the country, so I and many others who have fallen in love with the place can get back to normal.”