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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More