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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs