Bahrain’s National Dialogue on Trial
The long awaited dialogue has begun after the King
called upon all parties, the opposition, the loyalists and the Government
to discuss the scope of a political solution for the current crisis.
The first dialogue sessions witnessed disagreements
over the number of participants and the nature of the executive
authority’s participation and how far it is representing the Government.
There were also disagreements regarding the guarantees for the implementation
of the results of the dialogue.
The important thing to note this time is that the coverage of
the dialogue by the State’s TV and the media was transparent and
balanced. The dialogue took place amidst a great amount of articles,
statements and heated debates on tweeter between the opposition
and Government officials. The crisis on the streets has also been
escalating and this has been interpreted as an objection to having
dialogue in the first place between the opposition and the authority
or as an attempt to influence the dialogue.
Dialogue is facing many challenges and this article attempts
to find answers to some crucial questions regarding its nature.
Why Dialogue Now?
This question has been raised because some loyalists and opposition
figures think that they have already won or about to win and hence
national dialogue is not needed as matters on the ground have already
been determined. For if there was a need for dialogue, why did the
citizens have to wait for two years?
In fact local, regional and international circumstances have
become more suitable for conducting dialogue. The experiences of
the past two years have exposed the failure of all political parties
in imposing their concept of a solution to the problem. In other
words, the security solution has failed and the opposition has also
reached a dead-end. For more than a year, Bahrain has been suffering
from political stagnation and a lack of initiatives and dialogue.
It is obvious now that the majority of individuals in both the opposition
and the Government have become convinced that if the situation remains
the way it is, it will cost the people, the State and the future
of Bahrain greatly; and therefore a compromise solution is neede?.
With regards to the regional situation, countries with influence
in Bahrain have also become convinced that political dialogue is
the only way out of the crisis. Reaching a compromise solution is
better than adopting a radical stances that can only lead to dire
consequences as has been illustrated by events in some of the Arab
Spring countries .
Moreover, it is feared that the protests, confrontations, violence
and casualties on the street will continue and could spread a feeling
of disappointment and despair as to the possibility of reaching
a peaceful solution; and this could escalate the situation even
more. It is also notable that violence has increased during the
past months and this will have a negative impact on Bahrain’s stability.
On the international level, dialogue has been encouraged and
the sweeping political changes taking place in the Middle East have
forced Washington and other Western countries to reassess their
positions. These countries stress that political reforms are the
best option. The international community strongly calls for a political
dialogue that is consensual, serious and potentially fruitful in
Bahrain. This was reflected by the fact that the dialogue initiated
by the King of Bahrain was welcomed by many of the world’s most
Is this Dialogue Serious Enough?
This dialogue is indeed serious. In the past, all parties claimed
that they are ready for dialogue but in fact they lacked the political
will. The King’s call for dialogue this time is genuine and this
was apparent in the statements of the Crown Prince during his meeting
with Ban Ki-Moon in Kuwait in January 2013. However, there are some
who still have doubts regarding the Government’s intentions especially
as there is a lack of trust between the various political parties.
Are Local Circumstances Suitable for Dialogue?
Yes the circumstances are suitable because all political parties
including the Shias, Sunnis and the royal family have reached the
conclusion that dialogue is the only solution and the way out of
Due to the sectarian polarizations, social division and incitement,
Bahraini society has become tired of the long standing political
conflict and sectarian division and would like to see a solution.
This does not mean that there are no extreme elements , within both
the loyalists and the opposition , who oppose dialogue.
Moreover, the procedures that were taken by the Government with
regards to implementing Bassiouni’s recommendations have contributed
to reducing the tension so that the political process can progress.
Will the Dialogue Succeed?
This depends on the requirements of the dialogue and how its
objectives, including national consensus , are achieved. The BHRM
believes that dialogue should achieve the following:
First: it should lead to a permanent
political solution so that Bahrain will not constantly face political
unrest every ten or twenty years. The country needs a long term
Second: long term solutions require
that the principles of justice and partnership are met. Compromise
is necessary so that dialogue does not result in a temporary solution.
Justice should be achieved for all Bahrainis and for all social
segments in order to guarantee a long term political solution.
Third: in order for dialogue to succeed,
all parties should make painful compromises. It is not possible
for dialogue to succeed if each party sticks to its own demands
and refuses to compromise. Finding a middle ground and reaching
a consensual solution between the royal family, Sunnis and Shias
requires a mutual compromise which addresses the problem and achieves
the optimum level of justice and balance.
Obstacles Facing Dialogue
The presence of extreme elements that do not believe in dialogue
or middle grounds. Those who call for radical solutions would like
to see the dialogue fail and would even resort to sectarian incitement
and the use of violence.
There is a lack of awareness among some political parties who
believe that dialogue will benefit one party only. In fact all the
Bahraini people will benefit from the dialogue and should believe
that making mutual compromises will benefit everyone.
The success of the dialogue will determine the success of national
reconciliation. All parties should realise that we are in the process
of political dialogue and political and social reconciliation and
that they should strive to protect the interests and the stability
of the country, and to restore life back into the social fabric
which has been torn by sectarianism.
Steps Needed to Make the Dialogue Succeed
First- calming the street, preparing
it to accept the outcome of the dialogue and giving it hope for
stability, freedom and democracy. This does not mean that the public
should be given false hops as this could lead to great disappointments
and further escalation.
Second: putting into place initiatives
aiming at reducing tension; such as releasing prisoners.
Third: Easing tension especially in
the media belonging to political parties.
What if the Dialogue Fails?
This will constitute a great obstacle to holding any future dialogues.
The country could enter a new phase of escalation that could
increase the options of violence and radicalism.
It could lead to the strengthening of the extreme factions within
the political process at the expense of the moderate forces .
It is most likely that social and sectarian divisions will widen
It could also lead to further foreign interference in the Bahraini
affairs by other countries and international organizations.
What will Dialogue Achieve?
- Bahrain will regain its position regionally and internationally
and will try to rebuild its social and national unity.
- The economy will recover and this will benefit the welfare
and prosperity of the people.
- Trust in the political leadership , the political process
and the future will increase .
- Bahrain will regain the reputation it lost due to the crisis.
- Human rights will develop greatly because of the strong
tie between political and human rights reforms.
- The positive development in Bahrain will reflect on all
GCC countries and will encourage dialogue and political reform.