First step to reconciliation for Bahrain

30 May 2011

The call to unite by Bahrain’s king leaves the country at a crossroads

The ‘State of National Safety’ may be over, but Bahrain’s future remains uncertain and the country still faces tough times ahead.

In an address to his nation, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa called on the country to unite and asked for a period of reconciliation, where some of the wrongs of the past few months can be put right.

Whether or not this will to happen is speculation at this point, but the king’s call for a dialogue between the Sunni minority and the Shia majority needs to be heeded.

Manama has spent decades building up its reputation as a safe haven in the Gulf, for both international business and the expatriates such businesses invariably bring.

Since the protests started and the crackdown on Shias that followed, Bahrain’s reputation has taken a battering and a huge amount of bridge-building is required to repair the damage.

No one from outside Bahrain, whether it be Saudi Arabia, Iran or the world’s media can tell the country what to do next. It is the Bahraini people who need to find the right solution.

What is essential is that the solution is found through political channels and dialogue. Oppression and extremist reaction to that oppression has no place in Bahrain. A good place for Manama to start would be to find jobs for the Shia workers dismissed from major state-owned firms, such as Bahrain Petroleum Company, Aluminium Bahrain and Gulf Air.

No one … outside Bahrain can tell the country what to do next … the people need to find the solution

If Bahrain manages to reunite Sunnis and Shias in the workplace, then that would begin the process of reconciliation. This is surely a preferable alternative to further isolating and maybe radicalising people who feel they have no hope for the future.

Bahrain has always had a reputation as a pioneer in the Middle East. It is now standing at a crossroads between reform and dialogue or continued oppression. Hopefully, it will choose to head in the right direction.

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