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Tue 1 Mar 2011 07:33 PM

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Political divide grows between Bahrain protesters, says activist

Camp split between those calling for political reform and for the overthrow of the monarchy

Political divide grows between Bahrain protesters, says activist
Bahraini Shiite opposition leader Hassan Mashaima greets anti-government protesters in Manama on return from his self-imposed exile

Bahrain’s anti-government protest movement is facing a
growing divide between those pushing for political reform and those calling for
the overthrow of the Gulf state’s monarchy.

 “There are people in
the street, tens of thousands, and there are two different feelings. One is
represented by the political group which is asking for a constitutional
monarchy and a real change in political participation,” Nabeel Rajab, Vice
president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, told Arabian Business.

“But you have the majority of people in the streets who want
to overthrow the whole regime -   partly out of anger because of the killings
and partly because they have had this belief before.”

The island state has seen the worst unrest since the 1990s
after activists launched massive street protests against the government last
month. Seven protestors were killed in violent clashes with police and
hundreds more injured.

The unrest is estimated to have stripped at least $200m from
Bahrain’s GDP and led to the cancellation of the island’s season-opening
Formula One race on March 13.

Thousands remain camped out at Manama’s Pearl Roundabout
despite a pledge by the embattled government to engage in talks with the opposition.

In a concession to the anti-government movement, King Hamad
last week granted a royal pardon to 308 Shi’ite activists.

But the move has only boosted the determination of activists
to see their demands met, said Rajab, who accused the government of stalling on
real reform.

“I don’t see any real steps by the government that they’re
willing to negotiate,” he said. “The government doesn’t seem very serious about
it and maybe they want to buy time.”

Instead, the government has focused on painting the protests
as a religious uprising rather than as a grass-roots movement pushing for
political reform, he said.

“[The] government is trying to play on that card… and the
world understands that, especially the people in the streets. The way the
government is treating the issue in the media and in their speeches, on a
sectarian basis, shows they’re not serious [about progress],” he said.

The return of banned opposition leader Hassan Mushaimaa to
Bahrain is also likely to provide a fresh spur to protests, now entering their
third week.

 “For sure, he’s going
to give it [the revolutionary movement] a push. He’s one of the leaders who
spent many years in jail and was also charged on [the] terrorism law because of
his activity as a political opposition. He will strengthen the opposition in
the streets,” Rajab said.

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Johny 9 years ago

so far no initiative from either side to sit toghether, the leaders are happy, the suffering people who are fighting for better life are being used for politics of ruling leaders & opposition leaders.

Ali Mehdi 9 years ago

I strongly feel that protesters should talk to the govt. asap without wasting anytime. As bahrain's problem is different from other countries its based on sectarian issue. Govt there has a power to crackdown this movement very easily...if protestors win than there will be a new chapter of sectarian violence and larger fights between iran & saudi and this small island has no oil