Sunni Youth Group Protests Against Dialogue in Bahrain
Late Tuesday, a Sunni youth group organized a rally of 20,000 people in central Manama protesting the dialogue between the regime and opposition parties. “How can there be a dialogue at this time?” questioned Khalid Bloashi, one of the groups organizers. “The priority is deterring vandalism that aims to blackmail the nation from foreign agendas…we will never accept backroom dialogue, so for how long with [sic] the state ignore us?” he said. The crowd hoisted thousands of Bahraini and Saudi flags while chanting “the people demand the fall of Al-Wefaq,” a play on words from the original “down with the regime” coined by Tahrir protesters last January.
The past months has seen an escalation in clashes between government forces and the largely-Shi’a opposition, who are protesting perceived marginalization, discrimination, and abuse experienced at the hands of the minority-Sunni monarchy. The government denies the marginalization and majority status of the Shi’a in Bahrain. Court Minister Khaled bin Ahmed met with figures from Wefaq last week, as well has three secular opposition parties in three separate meetings.
Meanwhile, Front Line Defenders released a letter from human rights activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Alkhwaja, written while imprisoned in a Bahraini jail. The letter shows gratitude to the international community for their work in bringing rights abuses to light, but calls for involvement as “arrests, arbitrary detention, torture, and unfair trials” continue. The letter described the accusations against Alkhuwaja, such as “planning to overthrow the regime” revealing its authoritarian practices and abuses.
Bahrain “remains in a rut” as the crackdown on the protests for democracy continue. The economy has seen a sharp slow-down, banks have been downgraded, and tourism (even traditional weekend visits from Saudi neighbors) has ceased. In his address to the 20,000 people crowd in Manama, Bloashi called to the U.S. ambassador reminding that “Bahrain is not a tool of America.”