Bahrain Crown Prince’s call for dialogue gets boost

March 5, 2011

A call by Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa for a national dialogue to help Bahrain out of its current crisis, has received a major boost on Wednesday evening when the National Unity Rally announced its readiness to sit around the table without any conditions.

Prince Salman launched the initiative two weeks ago, saying that the dialogue was open to all parties and that talks could cover any issue the participants wanted to raise.

However, the opposition, reportedly unable to reach a common stance because of the different viewpoints, has yet to respond to the initiative.

In an address to thousands of people gathered at Al Fateh Mosque, Abdul Latif Al Mahmoud, a former university professor and the head of the newly-formed National Unity Rally, said that the dialogue should start immediately so that participants can discuss suggestions and proposals to help secure a better future for Bahrain in the least amount of time.

The rally said that pre-conditions could stall moves towards the national dialogue and allow sectarianism to spread further into the minds of people, especially young students who have seemingly been dragged into the issue.

“We do not agree on the demand to dissolve the government as a condition to start the national dialogue,” Al Mahmoud said to the cheering crowd waving Bahrain’s red and white serrated flag.

“The government should not bow to these demands because they can lead to disruption and fuel sectarianism…Bahrain’s stability is the utmost priority, and this should not be compromised. It is for the benefit of everyone that stability is ensured and protected,” he said.

The religious scholar said that the government should interfere to put an end to the “assault on people’s security.”

“We stress that what has been going on has crossed the line … and is disrupting people’s lives and infringing on their freedoms,” he said.

Earlier, protesters marched from the Pearl Roundabout, the epicenter of protests, towards the interior ministry to ask for the release of the remaining detainees.

The authorities last week allowed 308 detainees and convicts to go home, but the protesters said more prisoners should be released.

The demonstration ended peacefully and many of the protesters walked back to the roundabout.

Rallies have become a way of life since protests broke out on February 14, but the civil society is now putting pressure to ensure that students are not involved.

Several students boycotted classes on Wednesday and staged a demonstration in front of the education ministry and the information affairs authority.

The Shura Council, the upper house of the bicameral parliament, said that the families of the seven men who were killed in the first days of the protests should receive compensation from the state.

The chamber called for a fair investigation of the deaths and urged the government to address urgent housing needs and to help fresh university graduates with employment opportunities.

Crown Prince Salman has continued his talks with senior Gulf leaders on the situation in Bahrain. He has already been to Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia where he has been assured of full support to his initiative to bring together all components of Bahrain’s political life and start a national dialogue.

No issue will be excluded, the crown prince has stressed.

In Cairo, the Arab League supported Bahrain’s initiative for a national dialogue open to all Bahrainis to discuss all issues.

The backing was expressed by the Arab foreign ministers at their meeting at the League headquarters.

In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Riyadh and Doha said they backed Bahrain and its people.

In a joint statement on the sidelines of the third meeting of the Saudi-Qatari Co-ordination Council, co-chaired by Saudi Crown Prince, Deputy Premier, Defence and Aviation Minister and Inspector General Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Qatari Crown Prince Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the two countries stressed full solidarity in confronting any threat to the security and stability of Bahrain or any GCC member.

In Singapore, the foreign affairs ministry welcomed the initiative. “The call by His Royal Highness Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, for dialogue is the most practical and peaceful way of meeting the expectations of the friendly Bahraini people,” the ministry said in a statement.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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