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.

 

Palestinians react to death of Peres

Syrian army retakes rebel-held Aleppo district

UN Libya envoy warns against ‘political impasse’

Morocco finally adopts Amazigh as official language

Saudi petition seeks 'full' rights for women

Poverty takes toll in rebel-held Yemen fishing village

Kerry threatens to end negotiations with Russia on Syria

Kuwaiti court scraps petrol price hike

Iraq requests more US troops to take on IS in Mosul

Airstrikes hit hospitals in rebel-held Aleppo

Iran nuclear chief says not worried about Trump

Iranian, Italian ships hold manoeuvres in Strait of Hormuz

Gunmen kill three Egypt policemen, civilian in Sinai

Turkey says 32,000 coup suspects awaiting trial

Paris to host international meeting on Libya

Etihad plane in emergency landing in Abu Dhabi

Struggling Saudi Oger lays off 1,300 staff

Israel ex-PM to serve 27 months for graft

Syrian kids return to school in Manbij

World Bank releases $300 million for Syrian refugees in Jordan

Iranian FM in Ankara for Syria talks

Israeli ex-president Peres dies

Oil prices post marginal gains

Russia tries to strongarm US with Aleppo assault

Jordan vows crackdown on online incitement

Assad, Russia press intense Aleppo assault

Iran's Ahmadinejad says will not run for president

Boris Johnson dismisses Erdogan goat poem as 'trivia'

Turkey dismisses 87 spy agency staff over failed coup

Egypt recovers sunken boat, more bodies

Israel's Peres 'fighting for his life'

Bombings kill at least seventeen in Baghdad

Netanyahu chooses diplomacy in US election

Iran sets conditions for joining terror finance taskforce

Who is the destroyer of Timbuktu shrines?

Israel to charge Lieberman party officials in graft probe

Egypt detains owner of capsized migrant vessel

Countless bombings in Baghdad’s Karrada since 2003 US-led invasion

Clinton, Trump clash in fiery first presidential debate

Moroccan gets death threat messages over cartoon posted by killed Jordanian

Saudi king unveils austerity drive

Israel prosecutor general denies going easy on PM

Iran frees Iranian-Canadian academic

Supplies dwindle, strikes intensify in Syria's Aleppo

Rebels, civilians quit Homs under deal with regime