Bahrainis hope national dialogue will tackle fissures

March 1, 2013

The main road in Daih was strewn with stones, debris and broken lampposts, bearing witness to the clashes that pitted anti-government demonstrators against anti-riot police.

The scars on the once-fine road traversing the village west of the Bahraini capital Manama were ugly reminders of what has hit the country recently.

Two were killed, a 16-year-old demonstrator, and a 23-year-old policeman. They left behind emotions that ran deep in the small community and confirmed an emerging disturbing picture of the onslaught on the deep-rooted conviviality that has been Bahrain’s hallmark since time immemorial.

For Mohammad, a resident of Daih, the village where the teenager was killed, the clashes on the second anniversary of the unrest that divided the country were “a bitter testament to a physical and psychological fissure that is now cruelly revealing that overcoming the crisis was a truly formidable task.”

“God help those who believe it can be done,” he said, sipping his tea. “I am not pessimistic and I wish to believe that the situation would improve soon. Unfortunately, what we are now witnessing does not permit me to look ahead with optimism. I see the mistrust that my neighbours have and the determination by some people to have things their way regardless of the costs, and I am concerned about the future,” he said.

Why the mistrust? “Because promises made before had not been fulfilled and people here are saying that they simply cannot believe the future would be any different.”

Mohammad, an accountant with a private company, said that he was finding it increasingly hard to relate to his friends and colleagues who did not share his background.

“Many of them have withdrawn into their shells, often quietly. They now believe that good fences make good neighbours. I have never thought it would come to this. Maybe I should now keep some distance as well. But I will have first to wait for the results of the dialogue launched this month.”

The flashy highway from Daih to Muharraq, the second largest of the 33 islands making up the archipelago of Bahrain, ran along the seacoast. The glistening expanse of water festooned with birds unfailingly evoked a sense of romantic mystery, blissfully oblivious to time.

It was a fascinating backdrop of an idyllic shore that has stubbornly refused to allow its generous geography to recoil under the onslaught of the recent events that hit the placid country.

“We are sorry about what had happened,” Ebrahim, a government officer, said in a traditional café by the sea. “But the events proved that my friends and I were right to view those who allowed the tragic events to unfold with deep suspicion. To us, they have turned into strangers even though we live in the same country. We have now realised that unfortunately, symbols, institutions and visions are too distant to be shared,” he said as he puffed on his shisha.

Disagreements over issues were immediately obvious.


“How do I feel about the massive presence of police others complained about? To us, security men are a most welcome sight. They are the fortress against acts of terror targeting the nation, the protection against aggression destroying peaceful lives. To the outside world, peace and security in your own country are simple words taken for granted, but to us, they are currently the essence of our lives.”

For Ebrahim, the dialogue could help tackle the fissure. “It all depends on the intentions of the people sitting at the table., but also those behind them.”

Ahead of him, the cluster of stones and the limpid waters formed a remarkably serene landscape that belied the political fissures in the country. It was a perfect postcard that contrasted sharply with the reality on the ground.

In Manama, Maysa, a secretary, refused to allow “negativity and pessimism to shape her world.”

“Despite all the setbacks, there are now better hopes for both communities,” she said, twirling her short dark around her fingers. “The conditions today with the start of the national dialogue are better than before, and we should all be more optimistic.

The mother of two insisted that she had to be optimistic for the sake of the country and future generations.

“Even though people complain that the intentions by the participants are not as clear as they should be, we should cling to hope because open dialogue is truly the only way out of the crisis,” she said.



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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