Manama needs to resolve key issues

02 May 2011

Security has been imposed in Bahrain, but at the expense of its long-term future as a financial hub

The speed with which Bahrain has been transformed from one of the most liberal and progressive corners of the Middle East, to a country that looks increasingly repressive, split along sectarian lines, is startling.

Since Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa declared a state of national safety on 15 March, effectively putting the country under emergency rule, the atmosphere in the country has changed for the worse.

Youth led-opposition protests had managed to get the government to concede on a raft of sensitive issues. Discrimination, nationalisation of foreign Sunnis, further democratic reform, all were put on the table by the Crown Prince, who was eager to agree a reform deal with opposition groups. By holding out for the head of the Prime Minister, opposition groups made a tactical blunder that they are now paying for.

That is not to say the security crackdown under way is warranted. Arresting doctors and nurses, firing people involved in protests, and allegations of torture in custody all point to the the brutality of the crackdown.

Almost all Shia in Bahrain have now been affected by either the arrests, intimidation, or sackings that have occurred since emergency rule was introduced. The crackdown has succeeded in restoring security to Bahrain, but at the expense of its long-term stability.

Unless Manama gets back to tackling the real cause of the protests, rather than just trying to repress them, a more violent future awaits.

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