News / Middle East

    Violence Intensifies as Bahrain Awaits Peace Talks

    Bahraini pro-democracy protesters wave signs, pictures of prisoners and people killed in three years of unrest, Abu Saiba, west of Manama, March 21, 2014.
    Bahraini pro-democracy protesters wave signs, pictures of prisoners and people killed in three years of unrest, Abu Saiba, west of Manama, March 21, 2014.
    Phillip Walter Wellman
    At the beginning of 2014 there was new hope in Bahrain that a political consensus might finally be reached to help end the country’s three-year-long civil conflict.

    The crown prince met directly with opposition leaders in January, the first meeting since pro-democracy protests erupted in 2011.

    While the gesture aroused hopes that national reconciliation talks could be revived, two months later no discussions have taken place, and deadly violence has risen to a level not seen since the height of the uprising.

    Now, a fourth attempt to stage successful peace talks in Bahrain is in the works.

    According to organizers, all parties to the talks have listed issues of importance to them, and a final agenda is being compiled that should result in some progress.

    The opposition previously argued that the dialogue was flawed from the start, and designed to prevent meaningful change to the way power is structured and exercised in Bahrain. Those who spoke out also complained about the lack of royal participation.

    The government says that when talks restart, a greater number of senior officials will be present.

    But as officials push ahead with their plans, many Bahrainis have become disillusioned with the drawn-out process.

    "There’s a question to what extent even the political representatives of Bahraini society can now claim to speak for the constituents that they represent," says Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow from Rice University in the United States. "That goes for government-backed organizations as well as the opposition."

    At the same time, as active participation in organizations across the political spectrum declines, the small island nation has seen a growing radicalization.

    Salman al-Jalahma, speaking for Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority, says the threat of violence is not only becoming more prevalent, but also more extreme.

    "The Ministry of Interior has been uncovering 'sleeper cells' - more and more of them in the past few months — 'sleeper cells' that [contain] weapons intended for mass destruction," he said. "In the last three or four months [there has been a] heavy use of militant guerrilla warfare, and it’s been the first time since last year that the number of real bombs far outnumber the number of fake bombs across the country."

    A bomb blast earlier this month killed three police officers in a village west of the capital, Manama, and last month an officer was fatally wounded in an explosion on the third anniversary of the country's Shi’ite-led uprising.

    Despite the rise in violence, Bahraini opposition groups say the government must make big changes in its domestic-security policy if national dialogue is to succeed.

    Police are said to routinely target innocent civilians and use tear gas indiscriminately in Shi’ite neighborhoods, and opposition activists say Bahrain is holding more than 3,000 political prisoners.

    Abdul Jalil Khalil Ebrahim, speaking for the main opposition party al-Wefaq, met with the crown prince in January. Events since then, he says, have made him doubtful that reconciliation talks can succeed.
     
    "You can’t move with the political approach and at the same time use the same security measures," he said. "Once you stop the security measures, you pave the road for the political approach to move ahead."

    Ebrahim says the government’s tactics fuel radical action rather than curtail it.

    "You see, the people, their relatives, are either arrested or killed or sacked from their business," he said. "You can’t control the youth. You can’t control their reaction. The only solution for such things is to start with a genuine political dialogue. If no hope, Bahrain will go nowhere."

    Apart from their complaints about discrimination, Bahrain’s majority Shi’ites say they should have greater rights and benefits. Only if the Sunni monarchy acts on their demands, Shi'ite leaders say, can democratic reform move forward. Government officials say they expect the national dialogue to resume very shortly.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: AB from: Bahrain
    March 22, 2014 1:59 AM
    The context is intertwined. The same politicians cited in this article use violence as a means to leverage their position. Notice how violence (terrorism) is justified. The opposition model we have in Bahrain is a replica of the one in Lebanon. Namely Hezbulla. Supported by Iran. It's sectarian, xenophobic, and radical. What they ask for is not greater or more democracy although that is the tagline. They ask for a system that can be manipulated by the Ayatollahs where ballots contain candidates blessed (dictated) by them. We witnessed this in Bahrain over the last 12 years in constituencies. This would cause a sectarian disaster it were on an national scale.
    you'll hear catchy phrases and stories aimed to appeal to the West in order to garner support for what seems right. Although, the story is much different where there is a complex mixture of history,religion, and culture that is unique and requires thorough understanding before judgment is made.

    by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
    March 21, 2014 10:35 PM
    The main problem in Bahrain Royal Family is not willing people participation in Govt affairs. They want to pass luxury life at the cost of Bahraini people. They do not want assets distribution to poor peoples. If you compare how many PALACES they have in Bahrain and outside Bahrain and what is the standard of life for common Bahraini,big difference. Royal Family cannot tollerate any critisum on their bad policies. Bahrain assets for every one. Royal Family wants 90% shareholding in Bahrain asset and 10% share by all Bahraini peoples. RF(ROYAL FAMILY) do not want freedom in media.Bahraini peoples feel suffocation in their life. If any body critisice RF, then he/she will loose job and business. RF policies against the public welfare. RF wants maximum luxury for their ENTIRE family but hopeless life for common Bahraini.

    by: 73 from: Bahrain
    March 21, 2014 9:46 PM
    VOA, please tell America that our problems are bring about by Iran. We have here IRGC and Hizbullah killing and calling for the destruction of our country. The Irony here is that we have invited them here to protect them from atrocities by their own people against them. now we are paying the price of generosity - they are killing us here in our own country.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora