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.

 

Turkey reinforces ground forces across border into Syria

Iraq parliament votes to impeach defense minister

Tunisia unity government to remain unchanged

Kerry announces new Yemen peace initiative

Raped teen who took own life finally gets justice in Morocco

Kerry in Saudi for talks on regional conflicts

UN Syria envoy expects 'impact' from Kerry-Lavrov meeting

Russia says will cooperate in Syria chemical attacks probe

Iraq forces take key town south of Mosul

Hamas to leave name off ballot in Palestinian elections

Iranian navy in 'unsafe' intercept of US destroyer

Three wounded in PKK attack on Turkey opposition chief's convoy

Erdogan to inaugurate Istanbul's third Bosphorus bridge

China to train Syrian troops

Turkey says 'every right' to intervene if Kurds fail to withdraw

UN rights chief urges international probe of Yemen violations

Syria rebels backed by Turkey tanks 'seize' Jarabulus

Libya's presidential council to present new cabinet

Syria regime, Kurds blast Turkish incursion

Biden: Washington told Kurds not to cross Euphrates

Israeli court shuns plea to unchain Palestinian hunger striker

Saudi police foil mosque suicide bombing

Kerry to meet Russia's Lavrov in Geneva on Friday

Kurdish forces in Syria prime target for Turkey

Drone strike kills 2 Qaeda suspects in Yemen

Iran yet to decide on OPEC limits

Iraq forces advance south of Mosul

Muslim women say swimsuit uproar is 'absurd'

Gaza animals leave 'world's worst' zoo

Hasakeh: key flashpoint for Syria regime, Kurds

Kerry heads to Saudi on Yemen peace push

British woman killed in Australian stabbing

Hajj stoning to be shortened after deadly stampede

Turkey launches operation to clear Syria border town from IS

Israel raids West Bank arms factories

Morocco posts fall in foreign tourist arrivals

Turkey cuts interest rates defying inflation jump

Syria regime, Kurds agree Hasakeh truce

Iran says it requested Russian strikes on Aleppo

Turkey shells IS positions in Syria

UN braces for massive flight from Mosul

Sudanese migrant killed in Calais clashes

Palestinian suspect in police killings beaten to death

Iraq forces launch push to retake town south of Mosul

UN aid chief warns of 'unparalleled' catastrophe in Aleppo