Middle East

Bahrain opposition groups eye republic

shamlou20110309013117797Three Bahraini opposition groups have formed a new bloc called “Coalition for a Republic” which they say aims at bringing down the monarchy regime in the country.

The Shia opposition groups, al-Haq, al-Wafa and the Freedom Movement announced the formation of their coalition by issuing a joint statement on Tuesday.

“We hereby declare a tripartite coalition between al-Wafa, al-Haq and Bahrain Freedom Movement that have chosen to fight for a complete downfall of the regime , and the establishment of a democratic republic in Bahrain,” said the statement given to AFP on Tuesday by al-Haq leader Hassan Mashaima.

The move comes as thousands of people are still camped out in Manama’s Pearl Square. They refuse to go until their demands for political reforms are met.

Mushaima added that the monarchy has failed to “bring down the revolution by force.” He said people should appoint their government themselves, and decide about the content of their own constitution. The leader of al-Wafa, Abdul Wahab Hussein also accused the government of inflaming sectarian divisions.

“The coalition believe that the resistance should escalate peacefully, using diversified means across the entire length of Bahrain,” it added.

Anti-government protests in the Shia-majority, Sunni-ruled country entered their 23rd day on Tuesday. Demonstrators continue to keep vigil in hundreds of tents in the capital Manama’s Pearl Square, which has become the focal point of the protests. However, Thousands of Bahrainis have taken to the streets in the capital Manama, protesting against the kingdom’s naturalization policy.The protesters accuse the government of trying to change the demographic composition of the Shia Persian Gulf nation.

“Bahrain, free, free! Naturalized people get out!” the demonstrators chanted as they marched past the government building that deals with nationality, passports and residency. “All those that are naturalized will be pro-government, and those in the police and army will follow their orders even if they are against the Bahraini people,” said a protester. The protesters also criticized the government for providing the naturalized Sunnis with better government services such as housing, education and health.

“We want them out because they’re sharing the services with original Bahrainis. We have to wait 15 years for (government) housing, and they get it immediately after arriving,” another protester said. The protesters also called for unity between Sunnis and Shias in the country, emphasizing that the protest is against the government’s naturalization policy and not against Bahrain’s native minority Sunni population. The Shia opposition has long demanded an end to Bahrain’s practice of granting citizenship to Sunni foreigners, which is considered beneficial to the ruling Sunni minority community. Shias make up nearly 75 percent of Bahrain’s population but have long complained of discrimination in the government’s offer of jobs and services, a charge the government denies. Inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, tens of thousands of Bahrainis have poured into the streets in Manama since mid-February, calling for an end to the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty which has ruled the country for almost two centuries.

Demonstrators are keeping vigil in hundreds of tents in Manama’s Pearl Square, which has become the epicenter of anti-government protests.

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