Street violence in Bahrain seems to be getting out of hand despite restraint by security forces and sectarian tension stoked by Shias has been simmering. Nearly 100 riot police personnel have been injured in the last two weeks alone in clashes in troubled areas.
There have been numerous calls by society elders to put the past behind and start a new chapter of communal harmony and peace – one as recently as on 7 January by top Shia cleric Shaikh Mohsin Al Asfoor.
The latter went to the extent of slamming the opposition factions and accused them of pushing the country to the brink of destruction. Shaikh Al Asfoor, who is a Sharia Court judge, also said that the violent protests were against Islamic principles and that the largest opposition group of them all, Al Wefaq, did not necessarily represent all of Bahrain. This was proved by the fact that the representatives of two villages which had witnessed clashes recently, met the Minister of Interior to seek extra security for their villages.
The government and concerned citizens have thus begun to show a sense of urgency to curb the virtually daily rounds of street protests, rallies, violence and showdown with the security forces which render large areas of this small island out of bounds for all but their inhabitants.
For example the government is considering a crackdown on political societies that hurt the economy, harm the public and encourage sectarianism.
At the same time more than 100 concerned representatives of political societies, civil society organizations, businessmen and public figures attended a conference last week asking religious leaders and political societies to step forward to help end street violence and check sectarian tension.
After debating the issue of sectarian tension, continuing vandalism, road blocks and clashes between rioters and police, they wanted all groups to accept the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to help rebuild trust between the government and society.
Towards that end, they also recommended that immediate legal action be taken against people involved in street violence; political and religious leaders start spreading messages of peace and denounce violent acts; BICI report be used to help rebuild trust between the government and people; action be taken to check and end financial and administrative corruption in the government as well as the system of appointments based on favouritism or nepotism; security personnel accused of crimes be tried; the government and political groups accept responsibility for the current crisis and apologise to pave way for a serious dialogue with the opposition and national reconciliation; and the international community keep off Bahrain’s affairs.
It is only when serious moves are made on the ground by all parties concerned, including the opposition factions, that the current impasse with a bleak future would end and a new dawn of hope, amity and consequent prosperity would be sighted on the horizon.