Protests Precede Reconciliation Talks in Bahrain
Thousands of Bahrainis protested against the ruling monarchy on Wednesday ahead of the dialogue slated to begin on Sunday. Bahraini officials said on Tuesday that invitations were being issued to approximately 17 groups, including both supporters and opponents of the regime, to take part in the talks. Information Affairs Minister Samira Rajab said that the government had “every intention to make this dialogue a success,” but put the onus “on the other parties and their seriousness in pursuing dialogue.” The six main opposition groups agreed to participate, but suggested that disagreements with the government about the dialogue’s goal could compromise its success. Senior al-Wefaq official Khalil al-Marzouq reiterated the opposition’s desire that representatives of the ruling al-Khalifa family participate. He said, “We want a real dialogue, serious negotiations on a mechanism that will restore powers to the people and turn Bahrain into a constitutional monarchy.”
Gulf expert Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen believes that the talks will fail unless the government is prepared to sit down and work with the opposition on moving toward compromise. She asserted, “Given the fact that the government is effectively an outgrowth of the ruling family in Bahrain, any dialogue without their involvement will be meaningless fiddling around the edges.” The Bahrain Justice and Development Movement cautioned the groups against “walking blindly into something that is not yet guaranteed to be beneficial in ending the current crisis” and said the government must participate because it is part of the problem in Bahrain.
Meanwhile, Bahrain Watch revealed new evidence suggesting that the British company Gamma International sold computer surveillance software to the Government of Bahrain, an allegation that the company has denied. The report also claims that Gamma International may have provided Bahrain with updates and retains the ability to deactivate the software.