New hope in Bahrain as national talks resume
Bahrainis have expressed hope that the 27 delegates in the national dialogue will be able to emulate their fellow citizens playing for the national football team and display the strong sense of unity that allowed them to win the under-23 Gulf Cup this week.
“The football team players have shown a great spirit of patriotism that went far beyond sectarian and ideological divides,” Mohammad Sultan, an accountant with a private company, said. “We know it is not as simple, of course, but the motivation to put an end to 25 months of trouble and unrest should be there,” he said.
Bahrain had been rocked by months of unrest after divergences over the events that occurred in the country in February and March 2011 caused deep political and social fracture, often alongside sectarian lines, in the country.
A national dialogue was launched to help address the rift and several recommendations that included empowering the elected chamber of the bicameral parliament were issued and endorsed.
The talks to address political issues were launched on February 10 this year, but the delegates, eight from an alliance of opposition societies, eight from another coalition of political societies, eight independent parliamentarians and three government ministers, have yet to agree on the platform and agenda of the dialogue.
Disagreements over who should take part in the talks and on the outcome of the recommendations have marred all attempts to agree on the agenda, causing concern among those keen on concrete results.
The talks are set to resume on Wednesday following a two-month recess linked to Ramadan, the month of fasting.
“The tense situation in Bahrain for the last two and a half years cannot continue,” MP Ali Al Durazi said. “There is an urgent need for genuine initiatives, positive responses and rational attitudes. We must shun everything that incites sectarian standoffs so that we can survive this terrible ordeal during which Bahrain has lost a lot,” he said.
Open talks are the only way out of the crisis and no side should exclude, dominate or replace the others, he said.
“The ultimate aim is to restore national cohesion and achieve reconciliation between all segments of the society. The first step is to make sure there is trust between the delegates. This confidence can then be radiated within the community. Without mutual trust, we cannot reach a common ground,” the lawmaker said.
Fellow MP Sawsan Al Taqawi said that the talks had been stalled by marginal issues.
“Too much time has been wasted and there is a need for serious accords,” she said.
“What we see now is an escalation of the tension between some segments of the society and the emergence of a language of hatred and acts of sabotage that are fully benefiting from the inability to reach political agreements,” she said.
Outside the opulent setting of the Manama centre where the talks are held, Ahmad Al Wazzan, a clerk, said that he was not sure how the situation would develop.
“I am for an agreement that would allow us to resume our normal lives,” he said. “At the same time, I do not see any breakthroughs that would bolster my confidence. There is a lot of talk and everybody is keeping their cards close to their chests. The shining example of the football team players who raised themselves above all divisions and attempts to defeat their sense of allegiance to the country and not to a political society or a sect, has given us great hope. The delegates should learn from the players. Maybe, we should bring in the players to explain how they did it,” he said.