Bahrain crown prince stresses need for dialogue

December 14, 2012

Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa has stressed that dialogue involving all sections of society is the only way forward for the nation.

“I believe that dialogue is the only way forward,” Prince Salman said.

“Geopolitically, demographically and historically, the differing political views represented in disparate political groups here in Bahrain must be reconciled. They will only be reconciled by sitting together and agreeing a framework where the limit of what is acceptable is the limit of what is unacceptable to the other, with the ultimate goal being to reach an agreement,” Prince Salman said as he opened the Manama Dialogue on Friday evening.

Bahrain has experienced sporadic political unrest since early 2011 that has deepened sectarian faults. Prince Salman insisted on the importance of all sides holding a meeting to address differences. “I am not a prince of Sunni Bahrain; I am not a prince of Shiite Bahrain. I am a prince of the kingdom of Bahrain and all mean a great deal to me personally,” he said. “I soon hope to see a meeting between all sides — and I call for a meeting between all sides — as I believe that only through face to face contact will any real progress be made. It does not even have to be on a very serious subject, but meetings must start to take place to prevent us sliding into an abyss that will only threaten all of our national interests as we, here in the kingdom of Bahrain, although small, are large in what we symbolise, what we represent and what we have achieved.”

Prince Salman said that the bitter standoff had to end for the sake of the nation and highlighted the need for a “responsible leadership”. “There is a silent majority here in the kingdom of Bahrain who feel their voices are unheard,” he said.

“They are the ones who go to sleep at night with no security on their gates. They are the ones who live in mixed communities, representing different sects, ethnicities and political beliefs. They are the ones who have to live, day to day, with the spectre of a sectarian conflict erupting that may damage themselves or their own interests, their future or their children at any time. That cannot be allowed to happen. Responsible leadership is called for. That is because the majority of the people of Bahrain want a solution that puts the events of last year firmly in the past,” he said.

Prince Salman also called on the international community to let go of wishful thinking and assume a more constructive approach to help heal the wounds, he said. “We have our work cut out for us, but the international community must play its part. Wishing for peace never works, but peace making does. I call on our friends in the West to engage like the United Kingdom has done — engage all stakeholders, train all groups, work with us to make our environment and our capacity greater and stronger. Stop exclusively scrutinising government actions alone. There is a moral responsibility on all sides to work to bring the Bahraini body politic together. We must heal these wounds. We must stop the violence. We must reduce the fear and we must stop the bigotry. I call on you unequivocally to condemn violence if ever it occurs. We will continue to do our part, but you will help us all if you do yours.”

Prince Salman refused to absolve any side of its responsibilities. “The government — I believe — has taken significant steps, but more work needs to be done, specifically reform and capacity-building in the judiciary. I believe fundamentally that only through the genuine application of a just, fair and inclusive legal system will people feel that their own rights and their own futures are protected. We must do more to improve the training and capacity of our own judges. We must do more to change laws which still can lead to, in my opinion, judgments which go against the protections guaranteed in our constitution. We must do more to stop the selective enforcement of law. This is key. This is what will build trust across the whole of the society here in the kingdom of Bahrain,” he said.

“Also, the responsibility does not lie solely with those who are in a position of authority. Political figures who disagree with either the constitutional structure or the performance of the government must condemn violence. Silence is not an option. I call on all of the senior leadership of those who disagree, including the Ayatollahs, to condemn the violence on the streets unequivocally, and more, to prohibit it,” he said. The annual conference organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry brings together political, security and military leaders from 30 countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab world, Asia, Europe, Australia and North America.



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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