News / Middle East

Bahrain Dialogue Receives Mixed Reaction

Isa Abdul Rahman, spokesperson for Bahrain's National Dialogue Committee, speaks during a news conference held after the inauguration of the national dialogue, in Manama, Bahtain, July 2, 2011
Isa Abdul Rahman, spokesperson for Bahrain's National Dialogue Committee, speaks during a news conference held after the inauguration of the national dialogue, in Manama, Bahtain, July 2, 2011

Bahrain’s Sunni rulers are sitting down this week with opposition leaders for the first time since anti-government protests brought the country to a standstill earlier this year. The talks are dealing with political, economic and social issues that have been plaguing the Persian Gulf kingdom.

The main opposition al-Wefaq party has confirmed that it is taking part in the national dialogue, after some reluctance to join.

Eighteen members of the bloc quit parliament in February following a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. The group has been one of the most vocal critics of the government’s handling of the recent unrest.

Optimism on agreement

National dialogue spokesman, Eisa Abdul Rahman, said al-Wefaq’s participation is a strong sign that a lasting agreement can be worked out.

"We are optimistic that there will be a middle ground and I think by considering the consensus mechanism, that is a signal by itself that we are aiming to move forward as one nation between all the various political parties and all the various interests," said Rahman.

Protests organized by Bahrain’s majority Shi’ite Muslims began in mid-February, following uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The Shi’ites say they are treated like second-class citizens and are not given the same benefits as the ruling Sunni minority.

Their main demands have been for a new constitution, a more representative government, the release of political prisoners, an end to discrimination and an end to the naturalization of foreign citizens.

National dialogue meeting

It is believed these concerns will be highlighted during the national dialogue meetings, which are scheduled to take place three times a week. The talks are expected to last about a month, but Rahman said no end date has been set.

"We’re not going to have a predefined time frame for the dialogue. We don’t want to pressurize the participants and we don’t want time to work against us," said Rahman. "We want them to feel comfortable in discussing all the issues and reach consensus at their own pace."

The international community has widely welcomed Bahrain’s reconciliation talks. On Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced his support and urged Bahraini authorities to “take further steps” to observe international human rights obligations.

But doubts have also been voiced.

Some skepticism expressed

Jalal Fairooz, one of the 18 al-Wefaq members who quit parliament in February, said the talks are unlikely to result in the significant change needed to satisfy the opposition.

"The solution is in the hands of the king and the royal family; it’s not in the hands of this dialogue," said Fairooz. "This is only a chitchat room, because in the end, all of the points raised will be put forward to the king. The king will decide what he can approve and not approve, and that’s the greatest weakness of this chatting dialogue."

Bahraini authorities say 24 people were killed during opposition protests in February and March. International rights groups say the number is closer to 30.

On Wednesday, New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Bahrain of carrying out a continued “campaign of violent oppression” against opposition supporters and called for an end to abuses.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs