Bahraini Activist Condemns Sectarian Conflict Narrative
Maryam al-Khawaja, acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, wrote an article criticizing the Bahraini regime’s characterization of the opposition as a Shia monolith. Al-Khawaja says that protesters have been representative of all Bahraini demographics since the early days of the Arab Spring, and that they continue to stand united in calling for a constitutional monarchy. She points out that in addition to stalling on governmental reform, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has engaged in a policy of “political naturalization” by encouraging Sunnis from the surrounding countries to immigrate to Bahrain. This practice denies Bahraini citizens, both Sunni and Shia alike, access to jobs and housing, while creating a growing contingent of regime loyalists, says al-Khawaja. Additionally, the regime’s policy is seen as a strategy by which to “dilute the Shia majority” and “foment sectarian tension.”
Brian Dooley, Director of the Human Rights Defender Program at Human Rights First, authored a piece which questioned Bahrain’s policies on the freedom of expression. Dooley pointed out that the regime continues to crack down on users of social media who are critical of the government, a policy that is “smothering the chance for people to peacefully oppose the ruling family.” Despite Bahrain’s commitment to address the areas of concern noted in the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry, it is still unclear how far the regime will allow the freedom of speech to expand.
The Bahraini parliamentary delegation, led by Shura Council first deputy chairman Jamal Mohamed Fakhro, attended the 137th Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Ottawa, Canada. Fakhro called for the IPU human rights committee report on the Bahrain to be withdrawn or amended, citing impartiality. The delegation reportedly “hailed the solidarity expressed by parliamentary delegations in support of the reform steps undertaken by the Kingdom of Bahrain to emerge from last year’s crisis,” while “paying tribute to the delegations for condemning any external interference and foreign crisis-mongering designs in the Bahrain.”