Protests Mark 2nd Anniversary Of Bahrain Uprising

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Articles
Thursday, 14 February 2013


bahrain 14febThe movement opposing Bahrain's autocratic monarchy is gaining strength in what has become the longest-running uprising of the Arab Spring. Feb. 14 marks the peaceful revolution's second anniversary. The opposition predicts more demonstrations on Friday.

Shiites Marginalized
Freelance journalist Reese Erlich's reported from Bahrain for GlobalPost Special Report on the role of the Sunni/Shiite rift in Middle Eastern geopolitics, in partnership with NPR that “That's a revolutionary demand in Bahrain, where the Sunni family of King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa has ruled since 1820.” The same appointed prime minister has held power since 1972.
Despite two years of demonstrations, the opposition says the ruling family has failed to make significant reforms. Shiite Muslims, who make up 80 percent of the population, face systematic discrimination in education, employment and housing.
Tens of thousands of non-Shiites from Syria, Jordan, Yemen and Pakistan have been given expedited citizenship as well as access to good jobs and new homes by the regime as majority Shiite languish, part of a strategy to change the country's demographics while stoking sectarian antipathy.
Human rights groups say Bahrain's government has jailed almost 1,600 political prisoners and killed more than 80 Shiites, since the protests began. The prisoners and victims are mostly Shiites.
Government's Olive Branch
Government intransigence has fueled the rise of the Feb. 14 Coalition, says Karim Radhi, a leader in the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions.
"They are mostly young people," Radhi said. "Those who are poor have nothing to lose. The other parties concentrate on the middle class."
The Government and the Opposition remain far apart on possible political reforms. The traditional opposition demands an elected parliament "based on one person one vote," said Sheikh Ali Salman, chairman of Al Wefaq. The government should release political prisoners and stop attacking peaceful demonstrations, he added.
"Our key demand is for an elected government," Salman said.
Sameera Rajab, minister of information, says the government opposes such an elected parliament. Bahrain will insist on keeping the kind of monarchy that exists in nearby Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, she said.
"Elected government means a change in regime," Rajab said. It's not appropriate for Bahrain "to have an elected system like in Europe or America. We have our system in the Gulf." It is a ludicrous stance because the Gulf monarchs are installed by the US and European countries particularly Britain.  
Differing Tactics
The Feb. 14 Coalition opposed the dialogue from the beginning.
"This regime has never been honest," said Ali, the activist. "It always lies. Maybe they are starting the dialogue to let the street cool down. They are also trying to show the U.N. and others outside that 'See, we are trying our best.'"
Al Wefaq has consistently called for nonviolent resistance.
U.S. Role
The opposition movement also disagrees on how to react to U.S. policy toward Bahrain. Successive U.S. administrations supported Al Khalifa's autocratic rule. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet has its headquarters in Bahrain.
In September 2011, citing Bahrain's human rights violations, the Obama administration temporarily stopped a $53 million arms deal. But the arms sales went through in May 2012 as the administration claimed improvements on the human rights front.
Opposition leaders say the U.S. sold the Bahrain military both tear gas and Humvees, which were used to suppress peaceful democratic demonstrations.
Al Wefaq's Sheikh Salman criticized what he called lack of sufficient U.S. pressure. The U.S. needs to do more. They need to support democracy in Bahrain."
The Feb. 14 Coalition is far more critical of U.S. policy.
"The U.S. has so many interests in the oil and money of Bahrain," said activist Ali. "That's why they are still on the side of the regime."
He said the U.S. could alienate a whole generation of young Bahrainis if it continues to support the monarchy. He urged the U.S. to apply political pressure and economic sanctions.
All the opposition groups agree on the need to oppose government repression and seek significant change in government policy.
If the government-opposition dialogue produces results, the traditional opposition will likelygain strength. But if the government fails to make significant reforms, Ali predicts young militants will take to the streets in larger numbers.

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Two years ago, a diverse movement that included both Shiite and Sunni Muslims united to oppose the dictatorial rule of the Sunni ruling family of Shia-majority country of Bahrain. The royals have used divide-and-rule tactics and today the opposition is largely Shiite. However, Shiites say Sunnis are part of Shiites-led Opposition.  
Protests have become a regular feature since February 14, 2011. A group of six traditional opposition parties, headed by the Al Wefaq Islamic Society, continue to mobilize the largest numbers. The Feb. 14 Youth Coalition is also in the field with more radical demands.
"The February 14 Coalition is demanding that the whole regime including the King step down," said Ali, a Feb. 14 Coalition activist who used only a first name, fearing possible arrest.
Shiites Marginalized
Freelance journalist Reese Erlich's reported from Bahrain for GlobalPost Special Report on the role of the Sunni/Shiite rift in Middle Eastern geopolitics, in partnership with NPR that “That's a revolutionary demand in Bahrain, where the Sunni family of King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa has ruled since 1820.” The same appointed prime minister has held power since 1972.
Despite two years of demonstrations, the opposition says the ruling family has failed to make significant reforms. Shiite Muslims, who make up 80 percent of the population, face systematic discrimination in education, employment and housing.
Tens of thousands of non-Shiites from Syria, Jordan, Yemen and Pakistan have been given expedited citizenship as well as access to good jobs and new homes by the regime as majority Shiite languish, part of a strategy to change the country's demographics while stoking sectarian antipathy.
Human rights groups say Bahrain's government has jailed almost 1,600 political prisoners and killed more than 80 Shiites, since the protests began. The prisoners and victims are mostly Shiites.
Government's Olive Branch
Government intransigence has fueled the rise of the Feb. 14 Coalition, says Karim Radhi, a leader in the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions.
"They are mostly young people," Radhi said. "Those who are poor have nothing to lose. The other parties concentrate on the middle class."
The Government and the Opposition remain far apart on possible political reforms. The traditional opposition demands an elected parliament "based on one person one vote," said Sheikh Ali Salman, chairman of Al Wefaq. The government should release political prisoners and stop attacking peaceful demonstrations, he added.
"Our key demand is for an elected government," Salman said.
Sameera Rajab, minister of information, says the government opposes such an elected parliament. Bahrain will insist on keeping the kind of monarchy that exists in nearby Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, she said.
"Elected government means a change in regime," Rajab said. It's not appropriate for Bahrain "to have an elected system like in Europe or America. We have our system in the Gulf." It is a ludicrous stance because the Gulf monarchs are installed by the US and European countries particularly Britain.  
Differing Tactics
The Feb. 14 Coalition opposed the dialogue from the beginning.
"This regime has never been honest," said Ali, the activist. "It always lies. Maybe they are starting the dialogue to let the street cool down. They are also trying to show the U.N. and others outside that 'See, we are trying our best.'"
Al Wefaq has consistently called for nonviolent resistance.
U.S. Role
The opposition movement also disagrees on how to react to U.S. policy toward Bahrain. Successive U.S. administrations supported Al Khalifa's autocratic rule. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet has its headquarters in Bahrain.
In September 2011, citing Bahrain's human rights violations, the Obama administration temporarily stopped a $53 million arms deal. But the arms sales went through in May 2012 as the administration claimed improvements on the human rights front.
Opposition leaders say the U.S. sold the Bahrain military both tear gas and Humvees, which were used to suppress peaceful democratic demonstrations.
Al Wefaq's Sheikh Salman criticized what he called lack of sufficient U.S. pressure. The U.S. needs to do more. They need to support democracy in Bahrain."
The Feb. 14 Coalition is far more critical of U.S. policy.
"The U.S. has so many interests in the oil and money of Bahrain," said activist Ali. "That's why they are still on the side of the regime."
He said the U.S. could alienate a whole generation of young Bahrainis if it continues to support the monarchy. He urged the U.S. to apply political pressure and economic sanctions.
All the opposition groups agree on the need to oppose government repression and seek significant change in government policy.
If the government-opposition dialogue produces results, the traditional opposition will likelygain strength. But if the government fails to make significant reforms, Ali predicts young militants will take to the streets in larger numbers.

Rating: 5 Read 788 times Last modified on Thursday, 14 February 2013

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