February 14, Six years on

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February 14 marks the day 98.4% of Bahrainis voted for a referendum to the constitution in 2001 giving more freedom to citizens in a major step towards democratizing the country. It also marks the anniversary of the unrest in 2011, hence making it a day that many view as a turning point in the history of Bahrain, both in 2001 and 2011. 

Today, Bahrain is moving forward despite the challenges it is facing as a result of political and economic instabilities. Major steps have been taken towards the implementation of reforms in different sectors. Many fail to see the progress made by Bahrain in addressing people’s concerns due to the failure of political dialogue and what many others describe as a crackdown on protests and political movements. However, the country is for the most part remarkably peaceful and stable; and moving in the right direction. 

During the past year, the country faced many challenges on the political scene. The closing down of Al-Wefaq Islamic Society following accusations of sectarian incitement, has transformed the political atmosphere. Al-Wefaq’s failure to engage in dialogue and to participate in the 2014 parliamentary elections, led to it becoming an irrelevant institution that has repeatedly lost opportunities to be a major player in Bahraini politics.

Al Wefaq lost its support base with many of its constituents blaming it for its rejectionist behaviour and others being radicalized by extremist groups. The liberal wing of the opposition which does not enjoy strong support represented by the National Democratic Action Society is today taking the lead in in the opposition coalition due the dissolution of Al-Wefaq. The current situation has led the opposition into a complete failure of engagement with the public and the government, while increasing sectarian divisions.

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Iran’s threats against Bahrain are nothing new

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In the context of heightened US-Iranian tensions, Tehran is once again making threats against Bahrain, this time threatening to launch missile attacks in which sovereign Bahraini port facilities will be “raised to the ground”. Such aggressive language falls within a pattern of consistent incitement against Bahrain by Iranian leadership figures. Below we look at the broader context of these attacks against Bahrain in recent years:

US base in Bahrain to be “raised to the ground”

Prominent Iranian MP and member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Mojtaba Zonour, warned on 6 February 2017 that if America takes measures against Iran, Iran would retaliate against US assets in Bahrain:

“The US Army's Fifth Fleet has occupied a part of Bahrain, and the enemy's farthest military base is in the Indian Ocean, but these points are all within the range of Iran's missile systems and they will be razed to the ground if the enemy makes a mistake… Only seven minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.” 

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Analysis: Bahraini views on #MuslimBan

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One of the first executive orders signed by President Donald Trump was to ban nationals of seven Muslim majority countries from entering the US. The decision has caused a wave of protests across America and major discontent all over the world.

In Bahrain the decision is generally being perceived as a discriminatory step towards Muslims and nationals of these seven countries. Many Bahrainis worry that this will adversely affect perceptions of America and the West and lead to further radicalization.

Below is a sample of some of the opinions from a range of Bahrainis on the Muslim ban: 

“They should not pay for the mistakes of their Administration”

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Bahraini views on terrorism executions

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When Citizens for Bahrain asked a cross-section of people what they thought of the death sentence penalties for three individuals convicted of killing three policemen in March 2014, there were several unsurprisingly strong responses.

While many loyalists strongly supported the sentences for those convicted of murder and terrorism; and opposition sympathisers cast doubt on the sentences; there were also many more thoughtful responses which considered the impact of the rare usage of the death penalty for Bahraini society.

“The law will be implemented from now on”

“Bahrain has finally proven that terrorists get what they deserve. People who were convicted for killing others in the events of 1990s were later pardoned by the King in a show of good faith towards starting a new page in 2001. However, terrorists are terrorists and they should be punished;” said Khalid, age 42, from Riffa. 

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