Bahrain’s National Dialogue: A breakthrough?

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After several months with few public announcements about the National Dialogue process, it is reassuring to discover that progress has been made which goes a long way to addressing the opposition’s concerns.

There are to be five “core elements” where the next rounds of Dialogue are to be focused:

Electoral reform:  “Redefining electoral districts to ensure greater representation and measures to further enhance electoral oversight”.

Legislative authority: “A revised appointment process for members of the Shura Council” and new measures to “protect the legislative cycle from interruption, and the ability for Parliament to question the actions of ministers, including the Prime Minister and his deputies”.

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With the US reluctant to put “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Kurdish fighters focused on defending the Kurdistan region; hopes are staked on Shia fighters “liberating” the areas of Iraq captured by ISIS.

The reliance on these militias is seen as particularly crucial, given the almost total collapse of the Iraqi army after the fall of Mosul earlier in the year. In areas where the Iraqi army is still operating, reports consistently portray it as dysfunctional and divided, playing a secondary role to the Shia militias funded and trained by Iran.

The head of Iraq’s powerful Qods force, Qassem Soleimani has recently been on the front lines in Iraq and the Qods Force and Republican Guard are training and expanding these militias, as well as keeping them well supplied with weapons. Hundreds of Iranian Republican Guards are embedded within these militias as “leaders and advisors” according to on-the-ground reports.

As is the case in Lebanon, where Hezbollah are a far better equipped and stronger force than the Lebanese army and in Syria where Bashar Al-Assad is effectively an Iranian puppet kept in place through Iranian financial and military power – these pro-Iran militias are becoming the dominant military entity in Iraq.

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It is good to see candidates for Bahrain’s parliamentary elections putting issues like housing, education and public services at the top of their agenda – although we’ll believe their promises when we see the results!

However, there is a single existential threat facing Bahrain which poses a threat above all others and which - so far - few nominees have dared to mention.

As long as we are divided by sectarianism, Bahrain cannot exist as a unified and coherent entity. This threat is tearing our society apart.

Official reports show how clerics from both of Bahrain’s major sects have abused their prominent positions to spread sectarian discord in society. We only need spend a few minutes on social media to come across sectarian incitement and hatred of the worst forms.

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Open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

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Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Your Excellency,

Firstly, we would like to congratulate you on your accession to this role, particularly as the first figure from the Arab world to be given this honour.

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