15th Aug, 2013 –

It is often taken for granted in the international media that protests are always legitimate; that protests are always peaceful and responsibly conducted; and that the aims of the protesters are automatically the best vision for the country. Surely 1,000 or 10,000 protesters can’t be wrong?

As we see some protesters attempting to take to the streets again in Bahrain, it is reasonable to ask whether they are acting in the best interests of Bahrain. We will conclude that in fact, the protests have been highly damaging for Bahrainis for a number of reasons:

Protests have harmed the economy and employment prospects

Many protesters want, jobs, better economic opportunities and greater social justice. However, the result of two and a half years of instability has been massive damage to hundreds of small businesses; growing unemployment; decreased foreign investment; and lasting harm to the tourism sector. By campaigning against major events like the Formula One, misguided protesters have risked long-term damage to our national economy.

The agenda of protest leaders is harmful for Bahrain

The clerics who lead Bahrain’s protest movement do not have the best interests of all Bahrainis at heart. They have a sectarian, religious and pro-Iran agenda which would be a disaster if it was ever implemented. Protesters are being manipulated by dishonest religious leaders, who as well as seeking to destroy Bahrain’s monarchy, want to erase our tolerant, diverse and enlightened cultural traditions.

Prolonged protests prevent political progress

Continual protests in Egypt and other nearby states have made these nations effectively ungovernable. Ordinary life and economic activity grind to a halt and tensions grow between different components of society. For each month the protests continue, the reconciliation process in Bahrain will become more difficult and traumatic. By continuing to boycott Parliament, the opposition has prevented important reforms and constitutional amendments from being properly introduced, therefore preventing implementation of their own demands.

Protests have become increasingly violent

A sports stadium, a children’s play area, a shopping mall and a Mosque have been among the recent targets of recent terrorist bomb attacks, which have mercifully resulted in few casualties so far. Most major protests are the occasion for serious outbreaks of rioting, damage of property and attacks on police. It is therefore understandable that the Government has been sometimes reluctant to grant licenses for protesters, and that there is public support for not allowing such divisive events.

Protests empower an extremist minority

No matter how many people are protesting on August 14, most Bahrainis will not be part of these protests and most Bahrainis will be opposed to their aims.

In February 2011 a large number of Bahrainis participated in initial protests calling for reform. However, these protests were gradually hijacked by militant figures whose agenda was establishing an Islamic republic along pro-Iran sectarian lines. It is therefore, not surprising that most Bahrainis have increasingly distanced themselves from such an agenda. However, unfortunately it is the protest movement which has been most vocal, while ordinary Bahrainis have remained silent. This has created a distorted impression of what Bahrainis want.

Protests are in conflict with the human rights of ordinary Bahrainis

When such protests, rioting and terrorist incidents occur, these prevent Bahrainis going about their normal lives, citizens and residents are terrorized and public safety is undermined.

Bahrainis have a right not to live in fear, to be able to go to work and earn a living and to be able to provide for their families.

Militants have threatened citizens that they should not attend work or school on strike days; those who have spoken out against the opposition have also been threatened or attacked, thus undermining freedom of expression.

Conclusion

For the above reasons, it is right that protest leaders shouldn’t be given a free hand to disrupt the lives of citizens indefinitely.

While everyone should enjoy the right of peaceful protest, this should not mean a license to continue protesting for months on end in a manner, which paralyses the nation, ruins the economy and harms national interests.

For these reasons it is right that the Government is taking a firm line of protesting. Some protests have been allowed, but not all protests all the time. It is also right that the security forces behave in a proportionate and reasonable manner to contain rioting and minimize threats to people and property.

After two and a half years of unrest Bahrain needs the opportunity to get back on its feet and rebuild its economy, so that all Bahrainis can be provided for. Protesters have made themselves heard, now they need to engage fully in the dialogue process if they want to contribute to shaving our vision for the nation’s future.

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