Bahrain King Supports Dialogue, Iran Accused of Meddling
Two days after police used tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters in Manama, King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa called for a national dialogue to quell mounting tensions in the country. In an address to the National Assembly, al-Khalifa said there is a “national desire” to begin a “new phase to understand what the country is going through.” The King cited similar initiatives that had led to democratic reforms in the past, and he highlighted Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review report at the UN Human Rights Council last month.
Meanwhile, five recently-jailed medics launched a hunger strike to protest their alleged torture and raise international awareness of their plight. The medics were convicted of “inciting hatred” and illegal assembly after treating anti-government protesters at the outset of the unrest in Bahrain last year. In an unrelated case, Amnesty International called for the release of two teachers recently charged and convicted of “attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force and inciting hatred of the regime.” Amnesty said it has “not seen any convincing evidence supporting such accusations, nor was there any such evidence presented at trial.” Sentencing for the teachers is scheduled for October 21.
Bahrain accused Iran of “interference in Bahrain’s domestic affairs and…incitement through its media and contacts” after an Iranian official met with Shaikh Eisa Qasim, the head of the opposition al-Wefaq party. Qasim said the Iranian consul was following up on an official Bahraini request for help mediating “a solution to the political crisis,” but Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad al-Khalifa responded that “Bahrain did not request the mediation of anyone on Bahraini matters.” Bahrain’s foreign ministry undersecretary for regional affairs told Iran’s charge d’affaires that actions such as these “cause sedition and divisions and incite Bahrain’s sects against one another.”