Protests called 3 years after Bahrain's Arab Spring uprising

Published February 12th, 2014 - 07:42 GMT

Bahrain's opposition has reached out for protests to mark the anniversary of an Arab Spring revolt.

Al-Wefaq, the main opposition group,  is calling for a strike on Thursday. There are also plans for a rally on Saturday to commemorate the February 14 uprising. The Arab Spring was inspired by the pro-democracy revolts that swept the Arab world in early 2011.

The head of Al-Wefaq has claimed that protests will on by symbolic in nature in order to “protest the deterioration of the situation."

A youth coalition by the name of February 14 has encouraged protesters to meet on Friday to attempt to reach Pearl Square. This is the historical spot where demonstrators camped for a month before being driven out by violence from security forces in March 2011.

The site of the protest has since been razed and is heavily restricted. The monument became a symbol of the uprising.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, at least 89 people have been killed since the protests began.

Failed efforts in communication have ensured a disconnection between the sides. Crown Prince Salman, who has been involved in the peace efforts, called last month for a third round of national talks.

But many in the opposition believe his efforts have been undercut by more hawkish members of the royal family, including his great uncle Prince Khalifa, who has been prime minister ever since independence from Britain in 1971.

"The dialogue has failed because of the lack of a real will by the regime to find a political solution," the opposition chief told Agence France Presse.

"The royal family monopolizes all the powers... and refuses to make concessions," Salman said. He has accused the government of trying to "buy time and deceive the international community" during previous talks.

While the Wefaq-led opposition did respond to the latest call for talks, their response was a roadmap restating  its demands for "a parliament with full legislative powers" and an "elected government". They have also requested the release of political prisoners.

In a move to minimize the impact of the opposition, the government has opened up the conversation to include Sunni associations that support the monarchy.

"There is no place for bilateral talks between the government and the opposition," Information Minister Samira Rajab said, adding that authorities had requested proposals from all parties and would prepare an "agreed" agenda after studying them.

Bahrain is similar to Syria in that it is often seen as a battleground in the regional standoff between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran.  Gulf monarchies "will not abandon Bahrain," says Kuwaiti analyst Ayed al-Mannaa, claiming that Iran "dreams of establishing a bridgehead at the doorstep of Saudi Arabia."

While politicians in Manama cannot agree on who is responsible for the deadlock, the struggle in the streets is playing out with increased violence to include the use of explosives.

Human Rights Watch claimed Bahraini has “seriously" undermined prospects for a political solution, stating  an increase in "restrictions on the exercise of core human rights like freedom of speech, assembly and association."

"Official talk of reform is a joke at the time when peaceful critics of the government are labelled terrorists and kept in jail," said the group's deputy Middle East director Joe Stork.


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