Bahrain’s Dialogue Begins with “Positive Step”
Bahrain held the first round of its national dialogue on Sunday with dozens of representatives from the main political groups participating. Bahrain’s six main opposition parties participated, as did loyalist parties such as the National Unity Gathering and the Salafi group al-Asala. The government itself only served as the organizer. The National Dialogue’s official spokesperson, Isa Abdulrahman, reported that the parties had agreed to meet twice a week and said that “the focus now rested on ‘building the bridges of trust between all parties.” Sheikh Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s Justice Minister, called the meeting a positive start and said it “confirmed the importance of this dialogue.” The session lasted for more than three hours.
A negotiator from the opposition Democratic Progressive Tribune party, Abdulnabi Salman, said, “So far so good, and we will continue for the next session.” He said the government had not yet proven it was serious, but added, “They showed us that they can listen to us, which is a positive step.” The opposition parties said they would participate in the second session on Wednesday, but that they would discuss their plans on Monday. The dialogue participants agreed to limit the scope of the talks to resolving political differences. The dialogue’s schedule and agenda have yet to be decided.
Prior to the meeting, the opposition remained skeptical about the government’s commitment to reform. Early Saturday, Shi’a protesters lit tire barricades on fire as security forces fired tear gas at them. Police increased security around Pearl Square in Manama and Shi’a areas.
Meanwhile, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights published a report titled “Two Years of Death and Detentions.” It finds “no meaningful improvements made to the human rights situation” and “that on many levels the situation has become more serious.”