Political protests in Bahrain have been regular but ineffective in recent months. In February, there was an incident where 72 citizenships were revoked from what human rights group, Amnesty International, described as peaceful protestors. Possibly as a result, opposition to the government has become less vociferous.
Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of the al-Wefaq movement, had been losing popularity because of Wefaq’s failure to stand at the elections but was arrested in December following what was regarded as a deliberately provocative speech by the Bahrain government because of its reference to liaison with a foreign government. He was later charged with inciting a change of government by force. Since when almost all political demonstrations have held images of Salman and called for his release.
On the 20th May, the Bahrain court deferred Ali Salman’s fifth hearing to the 16th June and protests were held both before and after the ruling in the Shia villages in the northern part of the country.
The government had offered modest but significant democratic reform prior to the elections but the reforms on offer were rejected by al Wefaq at the time. Meanwhile poor economic conditions continue to leave many feeling disillusioned.
The Bahrain government has the backing of its powerful neighbour, Saudi Arabia, so can feel secure but the failure of the government and the opposition to come to terms will only further polarise society, even if the situation remains relatively calm in the short term.