16th Aug, 2013 –

For many weeks opposition figures have been promoting a ‘rebellion’ movement which was supposed to bring Bahrain to a halt on 14 August. Many Bahrainis feared that this could spark off the unrest and instability all over again.

However, many of us who ventured out yesterday remarked that 14 August was one of the quietest days we’ve ever seen on Bahrain roads as both protesters and citizens mostly stayed at home. In most parts of the country even the police presence was remarkably low key. So when we visited some of the villages where the rioting has been fiercest, neither security forces nor protesters were present.

In the areas around the US Embassy where the ‘rebellion’ protesters were supposed to have congregated, police seem to have mostly succeeded in calmly turning away would-be demonstrators.

After all the build up in the social media for the ‘rebellion’ movement – this is an uprising which failed to move from cyberspace into the real world.

It is perhaps significant that this day of the virtual Bahrain ‘rebellion’ movement – which was inspired by the ‘rebellion’ movement which toppled Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi – coincided with the massive clashes between the Muslim brotherhood and security forces.

Therefore, 14 August marks the date when these ‘rebellion’ movements in both countries were completely discredited. However, while the world’s media watched events play out in Egypt; few international observers were on location to watch the strange death of the Bahrain protest movement.

It is also perhaps significant that the Islamist Al-Wefaq Islamic Society in Bahrain refrained from calling its supporters out on the streets for the 14 August protests, for motives that are still not entirely clear. This allows us once again to determine a familiar pattern in Bahrain’s protests:

When relatively secular figures, like opposition poster-boy Nabeel Rajab call people out onto the streets in Bahrain, their calls tend to be largely ignored, meaning that protests are small and disorganized.

When the Ayatollahs call their supporters out onto the streets – like the ‘day of rage’ earlier this year to protest about a largely imaginary insult against Ayatollah Shaikh Isa Qassim – we see rioters and demonstrators come out in force and all hell breaks loose.

This says a lot about the nature of protests in Bahrain: Calls for secular democracy and constitutional monarchy promoted by the ‘rebellion’ movement failed to inspire support among activists. Meanwhile the vision of hardliners and extremists for a sectarian and pro-Iran Islamic republic in Bahrain has consistently been capable of gaining support, as a result of the religious leadership’s ability to mobilize its core followers. This is despite the fact that most reasonable Bahrainis would find such a vision detestable and contrary to their interests, rights and freedoms.

Most reasonable Bahrainis, however, whether Sunni or Shia do support continued reform and consolidating constitutional monarchy in Bahrain. Paradoxically, most of us would support these demands promoted by the ‘rebellion’ movement – even if we don’t support their methods of trying to engineer mass protests in support of such a vision.

After two and a half years of unrest the vast majority of Bahrainis are sick of protests, rioting, vandalism and terrorism and we want our lives to return to normal and for our economy to regain its former vitality.

Therefore the National Dialogue is the best possible formula for securing consensus between Bahrain’s citizens and ensuring Bahrain continues on the path of reform and Constitutional Monarchy. Dialogue can unite us – while protests and rioting have only divided and held back our society.

Unfortunately, this Dialogue process has not made the progress it should have, because of lack of political will and periodic boycotts by certain groups. Political leaders on all sides owe it to their citizens to make this Dialogue work and to ensure it produces real results, which benefit all sections of society.

The events in Egypt which inspired the ‘rebellion’ movement have been a disaster and no reasonable person would want to see this repeated in Bahrain. We should learn from events in Egypt, Syria, Libya and elsewhere that national unity and public safety should be preserved and cherished. We should be careful of those who preach division and unrest.

The strange death of the Bahraini protest movement, after months of trying to mobilize support for the 14 August events, give us hope that Bahrainis can find a peaceful and civilized path to addressing the challenges which face us. Let’s play for wisdom and renewed political efforts for dialogue and reconciliation in the coming months.

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