Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dialogue and Reconciliation

Too busy to attend the congressional inquiry into human rights violations in Bahrain to which he was invited, still Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman somehow found time on Friday to sit down for an interview with PBS Newshour. Predictably, the overall tone of the message was again supportive. Feltman, the main face of U.S. policy on Bahrain, noted the "positive development" of the scheduled end of martial law on June 1, and says that "the king, crown prince, and foreign minister" have "made clear that they want to get back to dialogue and reconciliation." I guess it's too bad that they're no longer in charge, then, right?

Here's a bit of "dialogue and reconciliation" for you: the prime minister, receiving members of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated al-Manbar al-Islami political society today at his royal court, is quoted in the pro-government Gulf Daily News thus:

HRH the Premier said that what had happened during the unrest would not be tolerated, overlooked or forgotten.

"Bahrain is a state of law and institutions, and those found guilty of offending the nation should be held accountable," he stressed, adding that those who stabbed the country in the back should not get away without punishment."

And at the same time, students returning to the beleaguered University of Bahrain more than six weeks after classes were suspended following a violent confrontation between Sunni and Shi'i protesters are now being forced to sign a loyalty oath as a precondition for readmission. And this is but the newest of several such loyalty pledge drives in recent weeks.

Can you feel all that dialogue and reconciliation?

In any event, since the interview says little new--the State Department line that "security alone will not solve Bahrain's problems" is getting very old--I won't go through the whole thing here but will just offer the video below.

The more revealing part of the Newshour piece is the reporting of its Bahrain correspondent, who after meeting with opposition and pro-government leaders visited the Seef Mall to conduct interviews with ordinary Bahrainis. She writes,

After a day of talking to some of the players here -- including Sheikh Ali Salman ... -- the path ahead seems more muddled than ever. Wherever things are headed, the last three months have already done damage, exacerbating and embittering the divide between the minority Sunni elite and the majority Shiites.

Tonight, I heard a disheartening tale from a group of ebullient Sunni 4th-graders cruising the mall. "We're not allowed to be friends with our Shia friends anymore," one boy said, "and they aren't allowed to be friends with us."
Even if Bahrain's rulers do eventually get around to political reconciliation, then, who is it that will bridge the larger gap in Bahraini society that is doubtless to remain for years or--if these 4th-graders are any indication--decades to come?

But so as not to end on too depressing a note, here is a great investigative video sent by a Bahraini friend that uncovers some dangerous truths about Sh. 'Ali Salman and his connections to Iran. I don't want to exaggerate, but in terms of sheer groundbreaking journalism this may surpass Bahrain TV's own exposés! Even for non-Arabic-speakers this is a must-see.

Update: the 7 remaining al-Wifaq MPs have finally been allowed to resign from parliament, their longstanding resignations accepted today. In urging his colleagues to accept the resignations, Salafi MP 'Abd al-Halim Murad is quoted in the Gulf Daily News as saying,
"I call upon my colleagues to assume their historic and patriotic responsibilities, in this defining moment facing our country, and vote unanimously to accept the resignations," Abdulhailm Murad said. ...

"We must never forget the crimes of Al Wefaq, which plunged Bahrain in the cauldron of sedition, sectarian strife, sabotage and murder," he said.

He also accused Al Wefaq of encouraging Iranian and international interference in Bahrain's internal affairs and spreading allegations.

"Al Wefaq petitioned the UN, claiming Bahraini army is committing genocide against people, aided by the "occupying" Saudi forces," he said.

"Al Wefaq members are still attending forums and hearing sessions in the US Congress and other Western countries to defame our country," he said.

"Accepting Al Wefaq MPs' resignation is the minimum we can do - being a popular demand," he said.

Reconciliation at its best.

Update 2: the entire PBS segment is now available online. The transcript is here, the video below:

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.


  1. Think we should add this too under over-the-top bulldroppings:

    One guy, one car, ran over 9 people, and no blood on his car or the police jeep he crashed into?

  2. Well at least there is some rational discussion of it here:



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