Bahrain Government Poised to “Get Tougher” on Opposition
Bahrain vowed to crack down harder on anti-government protests, and government spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa told Reuters: “Because of the escalation in violence, we are looking into the perpetrators and people who use print, broadcast and social media to encourage illegal protest and violence around the country.” He added, ”If applying the law means tougher action, then so be it.” The spokesman also said opposition parties must first declare they are prepared for talks without preconditions if the dialogue is to continue. Abduljalil Khalil, a senior member of the opposition party al-Wefaq, said, ”This escalation is not good for the country, it will take us back to square one.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International urged the government of Bahrain to “immediately” release rights activist Nabeel Rajab who was arrested over tweets deemed insulting to the government. Philip Luther, head of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty, called Rajab “a prisoner of conscience [who] must be immediately and unconditionally released.” Additionally, a Bahrain court adjourned for two weeks the retrial of 21 opposition figures accused of plotting to overthrow the government, a group that includes Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Lawyers for some of the defendants complained that their clients had faced abuse in custody and been forced to sign confessions.
Finally, Joost Hiltermann writes that during his recent five-day visit to the island, he discovered that the situation has regressed dramatically. Hilterman suggests, “Part of what makes the current situation in Bahrain so disturbing is that the regime has succeeded in replacing the narrative of a peaceful movement for reform with an altogether different one: that the country’s majority Shia are intent on driving the Sunnis off the island and handing the country over to Iran.” Souad Mekhennet discusses three Western women who living in Bahrain, telling of their growing frustrations with the opposition in Bahrain, with whom they had originally sympathized, but with whom they are now fed-up.
Courtney Radsch writes of her rescinded approval from the Bahraini government to make a visit this month, saying “The letter we received cited ‘new guidelines’ that prohibit more than one organization from visiting at a time, and assured us that this was ‘merely an organizational matter.’” She added, “Despite these clear attempts to throw wool over the eyes of the world, we will continue to raise awareness about the regime’s violations of human rights, and in particular their restrictions on freedom of expression, a right guaranteed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”