Saturday, March 12, 2011

The 'Manama Dialogue' Debate

Thursday night Al-Jazeera Mubasher aired a 90-minute (or so) program called the "Manama Dialogue" in which Sh. 'Ali Salman faced off with Dr. Salah 'Ali, chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and National Security Committee of the Shura Council. The discussion was cordial but at times very heated.

Overall, Sh. Salman continued his call for a popularly-elected constitutional assembly (مجلس تأسيسي) to draft a new constitution, which Dr. 'Ali in turn continued to reject, calling instead for immediate dialogue between the opposition and government (and the Sunni parties of course).

They also sparred over the very first question asked: "Should we consider the events in Bahrain a revolution, such as occurred in Egypt and Libya, or a protest?" Predictably, Sh. Salman took the position that Bahrain is simply a different manifestation of exactly the same dynamic--people who are unhappy with the political system--though he fell short of calling it a "revolution." Dr. 'Ali, in response, was quick to point out the sectarian dynamic--"Bahraini society consists of Sunnis and Shi'is," he said bluntly--which cannot be translated elsewhere. Sh. Salman then pointed to the Copts and Muslims in Egypt, etc.

Most interesting for my purposes, though, was Sh. 'Ali's response when asked (by the moderator and Dr. Salah alike) what precisely are the political demands of those camped out at the Pearl. Despite the government's portrayal of their demands as economic, he said, they are strictly political. In one memorable passage he said, "Bahrain TV goes and supposedly interviews people at the Pearl and they all say 'we want houses, we want iskan' -- this is lies. We are not fighting for housing but for a new political system."

In any event, I have not been able to find a transcript, much less a translation, but al-Wifaq has posted the three segments as separate videos on YouTube.

Segment one:

Segment two:

Segment three:


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