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Thousands in Bahrain rally for reform

Thousands attend rally after martial law lifted; Speaker appointed to lead dialogue, opposition objects

June 12, 2011 8:18 by

Thousands of Bahrainis attended a rally for political reform on Saturday in the Gulf Arab state that crushed a pro-democracy protest movement in March.
Bahrain, where the Sunni Al-Khalifa family rules over a majority Shi’ite population, has accused activists of being sectarian and backed by Shi’ite power Iran. The opposition deny both charges.
Bahrain brought in Saudi and United Arab Emirates troops in March and introduced martial law, which ended last week, to help end the protests.
“Some try to manipulate our demands, to make them Shi’ite demands. This is not true. We are not calling for an Iran, but to build up our political reforms together, Shi’ite and Sunni, which will benefit all Bahrainis,” said Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the opposition group which organised the event.
“We will continue peacefully and we will continue our peaceful demonstratrations,” he said, as the crowd responded shouting “peaceful, peaceful!”
The protest was announced in advance but did not receive government permission, opposition supporters said. It was held in the Shi’ite district of Saar, west of the capital.
Police did not stop up to 10,000 people who came to the rally, many in cars, said a Reuters witness. Helicopters buzzed overhead.
The Interior Ministry maintains a heavy presence around the Pearl Roundabout in Manama where protesters camped out for about six weeks, blocking access to all traffic to make sure it does not become another focal point for protests.
King Hamad bin Isa has offered a new dialogue with opposition groups starting in July. Members of the main opposition group Wefaq said they would try to hold protest rallies every week until then.
“It should offer real political solutions, it should not be cosmetic talk. We are serious about this dialogue,” Salman said.
“They say the Shi’ites want a special government for themselves. No, we want a civilian state and a government for all, both Sunni and Shi’ites. This is what we demanded in Pearl Roundabout and it is what we will again call for here.”
Organisers from Wefaq quietened some among the crowd who began chants calling for bringing down the government.
The government appointed its parliament speaker on Saturday to lead the national dialogue, the state news agency said, but the opposition said Crown Prince Salman — seen as leader of a moderate wing of the ruling family — should lead the talks.
Khalifa al-Dhahrani, speaker of the Council of Representatives, said he hoped to bring “all parties concerned with matters of the state” into the dialogue.
Wefaq’s Khalil al-Marzooq said Dhahrani was known to be opposed to some political reforms.
“He has previously said that he objects to discussion of reforms over elections, constitutional amendments and the issue of discrimination,” he said. “We call for the crown prince to lead these talks.”
Bahrain’s cabinet is dominated by the ruling family and the king also appoints all members of an upper assembly, neutering the powers of the elected parliament.
Shi’ites at the rally said the event had broken a fear barrier after over two months of harsh military rule. Twenty-one opposition leaders are on military trial for trying to overthrow the system and 48 doctors and nurses are on military trial for backing the Pearl Roundabout protest.
“This needed to happen. The government thought they could suppress everything with the state of emergency,” one of the protesters said. (Reporting by Erika Solomon, writing by Andrew Hammond, editing by Janet Lawrence)

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  1. saar resident on June 12, 2011 9:22 am

    the event yesterday was not a protest… It was a speech held by ali salman and people where asked to attend.

    Protests don’t happen in cars… people were driving to the event. Unfortuantely it was not organized enough and many local residents were bothered… I couldn’t enter my compound where i live because some inconsiderate drivers blocked the entrace to where I live because they felt like it… A guy was standing in the middle of the road telling cars to where to go… I asked him how can you allow people to stop there and how can I get into my house? He told me he is not a cop to tell people where to park . So my response was that if your not a cop then why are u in the middle of the road acting like one and directing people on where to go and where to park.??

    Again another example of how “peaceful” demostrators think that just because they can protest that gives them the right to stop other people’s lives as if they are the only people living in bahrain.

    the wierd thing it was annouced that he was making his speech the same day the national unity gathering were having a meeting to decide on their fate and whether they should move forward into being a political party.

  2. Scout Finch on June 12, 2011 5:04 pm

    I’d like to address a few factual errors in your article:

    First, local reports stated the figure of attendees at between 4,000 and 5,000; not the 10,000 claimed in your article. Furthermore, the organizers DID seek permission to hold the rally, which the government granted. Hardly expected from “despots” as the media frequently likes to portray the government of Bahrain.Thirdly, Ali Salman and Al Wefaq have gone on record denouncing the National Dialogue saying they will not participate without pre-conditions; which begs to question if they are really committed to reform in the first place or have placed all their eggs in the “government overthrow” basket.


  3. Hind on June 13, 2011 11:48 am

    For God’s sake, what sort of report is this? Cut and Paste from 3 month ago tabloid news!!
    Stop this nonsense of propaganda news. And write something when you really know something.


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