First Published: 2013-02-12

 

Bahrain opposition plans protests to mark revolt anniversary

 

Government says opposition protests are planned to put pressure on dialogue called by Bahraini king.

 

Middle East Online

By Wissam Keyrouz - MANAMA

Protests will be held from Thursday

Bahrain's opposition groups, expecting little from a renewed national dialogue, plan to stage protests this week to mark the second anniversary of a Shiite-led uprising that was crushed by security forces.

The February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition, a clandestine cyber group and Al-Wefaq, the main Shiite opposition, have called separate protests, which the authorities say are attempts to put pressure on the dialogue called by King Hamad.

Bahrain has been caught in a political deadlock since the mid-March 2011 protests were crushed by security forces.

The February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition has called for a march to what was once known as the Pearl Square where demonstrators had camped for a month before being forcefully driven out in mid-March 2011.

The square itself no longer exists as authorities in the Gulf kingdom which is ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty razed it, indicating its determination in crushing the revolt at a time when Arab Spring protests were toppling long powerful dictators in the region.

The coalition has urged sympathisers to go on strike and take to the streets and squares on Thursday and march to the site of the former Pearl Square on Friday.

For its part Al-Wefaq has called for a major rally on Friday outside of Manama.

Bahrain's authorities are bracing for street escalations.

"Unfortunately, we do expect escalations in the street. This has been said openly," Bahrain government spokeswoman Samira Rajab said.

She said the protests were planned to "put pressure on the dialogue" which began Sunday in a desert resort.

The separate protests show a deepening difference in the approaches of the traditional opposition which calls for democratic changes and the hardliners who resort to burning tyres and hurling petrol bombs at police during protests demanding a regime change.

"There are many people who think that the regime is not serious about the dialogue. We partly share the same feeling," said Al-Wefaq's chief cleric Ali Salman.

"They are frustrated about the dialogue and the government approach. That is why they go to the extreme and demand to topple the regime," he told AFP of hardliners, claiming that the government has "not even made a single goodwill gesture".

"Arrests and trials continue, so does the clampdown on freedoms."

But Rajab, a Shiite herself, charged that the opposition was a Shiite "sectarian movement" and said it would be "superficial" to describe Bahrain's uprising as a "revolution and that there are people calling for reforms".

The 2011 uprising led to Bahrain's Sunni Gulf neighbours who are traditionally wary of the influence of Shiite-Iran to send troops led by Saudi Arabia into the island kingdom to back Bahrain in quelling the protests.

The heavy-handed crackdown was followed by a wave of arrests and martial trials that targeted hundreds of opposition leaders and activists.

The International Federation for Human Rights says that 80 people were killed in Bahrain's unrest since demonstrations erupted on February 14, 2011.

Cleric Salman reiterated that the opposition does not aim to topple the monarchy, insisting on his bloc's demands for a proper constitutional monarchy, with an elected prime minister to replace the king's uncle Prince Khalifa bin Salman, who has been in office for four decades.

Bahrain has an elected parliament in which Al-Wefaq formed the largest single bloc in two polls, before its MPs walked out in protest to violence against demonstrators in February 2011.

But the parliament has an upper chamber appointed by the king.

The Shiites also demand a redrawing of the electoral constituencies which they claim eat into their fair share of seats in the parliament, as well as access to employment in security forces.

The opposition made a last-minute decision to take part in the national dialogue on Sunday, joining ministers and members of pro-government Sunni political groups.

The opposition had welcomed the talks but also said an agreement on the mechanism of the planned talks should be agreed in advance and the results be put to a referendum rather than be submitted to King Hamad for approval.

Opposition groups had walked out of the first round of talks in July 2011.

 

Ahead of elections, new clashes remind Tunisia of need to fight terror

Coalition strikes in Syria eliminate more than 500 jihadists in one month

Saudi Arabia jails mothers for preparing sons to wage jihad

Israel classifies car crash as ‘hit and run terror attack’

Turkish pianist to Islamist-rooted government: Don't be afraid of artists!

Relatives of Iraq massacre victims: Blackwater guards should be killed

Ghannouchi makes it clear to Tunisia: It’s either political Islam or Daesh!

Deadly clashes erupt after army raid in northern Lebanon

200 Iraqi Kurd fighters to travel through Turkey to Kobane

Jury finds Blackwater guards guilty of 2007 'massacre' in Iraq

Iraq Kurds approve reinforcements for Kobane

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests

Rise of Shiite militias challenges government authority in Iraq

Syria Kurds show impressive resistance to ‘Islamic State’ in Kobane

Vote or boycott: Grim record of self-serving politicians puts off voters in Tunisia

Egypt universities tighten security to avoid new Islamist violence

Iran forces inside Iraq as Abadi rules out foreign ground intervention!

South Sudan rivals meet in new bid to end civil war

From Morocco into Spain: Crowd of African migrants charges to border fence

Deadly suicide attack targets Shiite mosque in central Baghdad

Turkey gives Iraq Peshmerga forces passage to Kobane