Protests Resume in Bahrain Amid Calls for Dialogue
On December 13, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa lifted (Ar.) a ban on demonstrations, saying he considers demonstrations and freedom of expression to be a “constitutional right for all citizens.” In response, thousands of opposition supporters participated in peaceful demonstrations near Manama December 14, chanting slogans against the regime and urging reforms. A day before Bahrain’s National Day celebrations, the protest was called for by oppositions groups, who said they “will not stop without a true democratic process.”
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa‘s spokesman said any future dialogue must include all sections of Bahraini society, and that “differing political views represented in disparate political groups in Bahrain must be reconciled, and they will only be reconciled by sitting together.” State Minister for Information Samira Rajab agreed that “dialogue is the only solution.” While Khalil al-Marzouq, former al-Wefaq MP, said “we are ready for dialogue without any conditions,” Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, said “we know dialogue would help solve the problems in Bahrain, but we don’t see any positive messages from the authorities.”
Meanwhile, al-Wefaq party leader Sheikh Ali Salman urged western countries to stand up for human rights in Bahrain, saying “I believe that we need more from Britain and the U.S. to achieve, on the ground, the change to democracy without any delay,” Salman said. Opposition leader Ebrahim Karimi lamented that “unfortunately the U.K and U.S. only think about a barrel of oil, not human rights.” The U.S. State Department has expressed concerns over the increasing violence in Bahrain, the limits put on the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and the “excessive” use of force by police and security services.