|Bahrainis call for massive demos to mark anniversary of uprising||
Bahrain’s opposition has called for two demonstrations and a strike to mark the third anniversary of an Arab Spring revolt that has faced a brutal crackdown by the Saudi-backed monarchy.
According to AFP, the main opposition group Al Wefaq is calling for a strike on Thursday and a rally Saturday to commemorate the February 14 uprising, which was inspired by the pro-democracy revolts that swept the Arab world in early 2011.
The clandestine February 14 youth coalition has called on protesters to mass together on Friday and try to reach Pearl Square, where demonstrators camped for a month before being violently driven out by security forces in March 2011.
The roundabout and its central monument, which became a symbol of the uprising, were later razed and the site remains heavily restricted.
Two rounds of national reconciliation talks have so far failed to bring the two sides anywhere near common ground on the future of the tiny but strategic Persian Gulf archipelago.
Crown Prince Salman, who has made several overtures to the opposition, called for a third round of national talks last month.
But many in the opposition believe his efforts have been undercut by more hawkish members of the royal family, including his great uncle Prince Khalifa, who has been prime minister ever since independence from Britain in 1971.
The opposition says the monarchy, which has cracked down on the uprising with the aid of a Saudi-led Persian Gulf intervention force, has little interest in sharing power, much less in accepting a constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister that could bring the majority to power.
“The dialogue has failed because of the lack of a real will by the regime to find a political solution,” Al Wefaq General Secretary Shaikh Ali Salman told AFP.
“The royal family monopolizes all the powers… and refuses to make concessions,” Salman said, accusing the government of trying to “buy time and deceive the international community” during previous talks.
The Wefaq-led opposition responded to the latest call for dialogue with a roadmap reiterating its demands for “a parliament with full legislative powers” and an “elected government” as well as the release of political prisoners.
The government has in turn sought to dilute the opposition’s presence by widening the dialogue to include Sunni associations that support the monarchy.
“There is no place for bilateral talks between the government and the opposition,” Information Minister Samira Rajab said, adding that the authorities had requested proposals from all parties and would prepare an “agreed” agenda after studying them.
Human Rights Watch accused the Bahraini authorities last month of “seriously” undermining prospects for a political solution, citing an increase in “restrictions on the exercise of core human rights like freedom of speech, assembly, and association.”
The Persian Gulf state is deeply divided, with persistent protests on the outskirts of the capital Manama that ignite clashes with police, scores of activists jailed on “terror” charges, deadlocked reconciliation talks, and simmering sectarian distrust.
At least 89 people have been killed since the protests began, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
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