Bahrain Opposition Goes ‘Out of Control’

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In times of tension – and the opposition in Bahrain is certainly suffering from it – people tend to lose their focus and therefore their strategies begin to go haywire. This is exactly what is happening to the opposition groups in Bahrain and to their followers in the street.

Nothing else would explain the daily rounds of illegal assemblies by groups of people, including women-only assemblies for the sake of effect and to win headlines, blocking of roads with garbage skips, tree trunks, wooden planks and cement bricks, throwing of stones, iron rods and Molotov cocktails on police as well as passing vehicles and menacing behaviour towards Bahrainis and expatriates alike by groups of opposition-inspired hooligans on the outskirts of the city.

As if to pointedly embarrass the government, these daily rounds were in evidence unremittingly on the four days of holidays marking the National Day and the King’s Accession Day this week. And among other instances there has been this case of an Irish expatriate woman out in her car with her two grown-up daughters to buy groceries being ambushed by some wayward youth who had blocked the highway. When the woman tried to escape in her car they were stoned, resulting in head injuries to one of the girls.

In tandem with these offensive strategies, the opposition has also got into the habit of orchestrating the world media with bogus reports of the sick and the elderly dying due to teargas inhalation allegedly while taking part in demonstrations while forensic reports have invariably shown them having died due to a variety of chronic diseases, most often in their beds. If the reports planted by the opposition are anything to go by, people in Bahrain have stopped dying of natural deaths or any ailments or diseases.

These activities and blockades, skirmishes and low-intensity scare tactics do affect the economy and hurt the all-round sense of well-being. The opposition knows it very well but has remained ambivalent when it comes to sitting down across the table with the government and take mutually-agreeable decisions.

One has lost count of the number of occasions when the opposition missed the bus of opportunity. It refused to reconsider resignations by its MPs in Parliament, then walked out of the National Reconciliation Dialogue, then spurned all invitations to join the mainstream and boycotted the by-elections which followed.

Finally, once the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report had been submitted and the King appointed a committee to implement a range of recommendations, the opposition groups boycotted the invitation to join the committee as well. The only thing it did not do was spurn the BICI experts panel, though the entire purpose of taking their grievances to the panel was defeated if they were not to be party to the implementation of the recommendations that followed.

And now the latest reports are that late on Sunday the opposition groups urged the government to embark on a “serious” dialogue to end the Gulf kingdom’s crisis and end the political deadlock! The five opposition groups, led by Al Wefaq, the largest of them all and the one that holds the key to all negotiations, were quoted as saying they were in favour of “opening a serious dialogue with the regime to exit the current political crisis that is inflicting heavy losses on the country and people.”

Well said. But it raises two interesting points. If they are keen on holding a dialogue with the government now, why did they spurn the government’s successive invitations for talks beginning with February this year, which would have spared the Kingdom much embarrassment. And more importantly, if they are so keen on a dialogue why don’t they first rein in their followers creating chaos in villages and on highways with daily demonstrations, blockades and violent skirmishes? No party can afford to have a dialogue and demonstrations at the same time.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.