There are no backward steps in Bahrain. All sacrifices are possible in exchange of freedom, equality, and democracy the Bahraini people are rising to achieve. The island’s uprising has been two-years old, yet it becomes more popular than its very first day on February 14, 2011.
Q: When concerns were raised about dialogue and its seriousness, Bahrainis inaugurated the third year of their revolution sacrificing three martyrs. Where does the dialogue stand after those events?
Sheikh Salman: It is true that the ongoing dialogue might not be fruitful because the regime does not take it seriously till the moment, and what we see is a kind of political maneuver and evasiveness. As for our way to deal with it, we will be much aware and alerted. Political administration will take local and foreign situations into consideration to prevent authorities’ tricks from showing the opposition rejecting the solutions that come up via serious dialogues.
We, as opposition political forces, are serious to transform any opportunity for negotiation and dialogue into a real exit from the crisis in Bahrain. However, sacrificing martyrs and the increasing number of victims of the official violence assert the regime’s unseriousness regarding dialogue. Indicators show what is opposite to the chances of the dialogue success, as well as to the end of the crisis via solutions that are convincing for the people and meet their expectations.
Democratic national opposition forces are looking forward to a permanent and inclusive political solution which achieves equality, justice, and democracy among citizens rather than being nominal and fragile agreements.
The primary sessions of those meetings are still discussing those points without reaching any agreement due to the official partner’s inflexibility.
Q: You paid several visits recently to Egypt and Russia, how do you evaluate such visits, and how do they benefit solving the Bahraini issue? Did you notice sympathy and understanding to the Bahraini popular demands?
Sheikh Salman: It is normal for the opposition, in applying its strategy, to communicate with various countries, explain its viewpoint and present its vision in solving the Bahraini issue to meet the people’s expectations. This is not considered an intervention in our local affairs; and the regime is paying very big amounts to gain support. The regime also employs several companies of public relations on which it spent more than 26 million Bahraini Dinars only in 2012.
The national democratic opposition is working to communicate with different international sides effective in the Bahraini arena.
Q: Some would say that any solution for the Bahraini crisis is linked to the developments in Syria. How precise this view is? Do you believe that any solution in the country needs an international sponsorship?
Sheikh Salman: The two issues are not related. We don’t know if any international party has linked the issues to each other. It is untrue that our revolution and its success entirely rely on a regional factor, especially the Syrian one. We advise the regime not to wait for the people in Bahrain to recede their demands for a regional or international factor.
Yet, the causes of the Arab nation are interrelated, but not in the way mentioned in your question. Formerly, some linked Gadhafi’s toppling or his victory to the issue in Bahrain, yet what we witnessed was the opposite. Yes, the freedom of a group of people motivates other suffering peoples and gives them hope.
Q: In its speech, the Bahraini opposition always discriminates between a strict wing in the royal family and another moderate one. Till the moment, the protesters weren’t treated but strictly. Then where is that moderate wing? Why was it excluded from the political scene? Will it lead the scene soon instead of the strict one?
Sheikh Salman: The strict wing is the one shedding blood increasingly and causing more and more troubles. It kills, releases its civil militias to commit crimes, burns, attacks banks and stores. It also invents bombs and cells in an attempt to show that popular parties are behind all the violations and attacks it is committing. This aims at hindering any chance for dialogue, although it is not serious, as well as discouraging the chance to meet. In fact, it refuses approaching dialogue or discussing solutions.
The strict wing that devotes dictatorship does not accept the presence of any reform demander. It excludes every who demands democracy. Some wants to end the crisis from inside the regime by any mean. However, others refuse the very thought to meet with the opposition.
As for the moderate parties in the regime, they hold the responsibility of neutrality or surrendering to the strict wing. Most of the Bahranis consider them partners of the strict wing in oppressing people. What they say about reforms is only to be marketed to the international community.
Q: Within the escalation of the crisis in Bahrain, the Bahrani street has been divided between the associations that called for reforms in the regime, and other movements that called for toppling the regime. Do you see that division is not in favor of the opposition?
Sheikh Salman: The state we are seeking, which the Bahrani people moved to achieve on February 14, 2011, is a state that respects people. The revolution in Bahrain came up with legal humanitarian demands that had been achieved in many civilized nations more than two and half centuries ago, and in other countries decades ago.
The demand of opposition is reforming the regime rather than toppling it. It is the opposition represented by associations as well as national figures and symbols under many titles since February 14. Reforming the regime and working to transform it into a democratic one achieve the fixed constitutional principle “people are the source of all authorities.”
The regime tried to legally adapt the demands of some opposition to topple the regime via claiming that they did form a group that called for toppling the regime. However, everybody knows that they were calling for peaceful demands. Their demands do not give a legal excuse to detain them. For this reason, Mr. Bassyouni’s report and other international institutions considered them opinion prisoners. And it is illegal to detain any person for expressing his opinion, as well as torturing him. The prisoners asserted that they were exposed to torturing. Bassyouni’s report asserted after a medical examiner examined them that they were exposed to torturing.
They were tried because of their opposing viewpoints. The freedom of expression is mentioned in the international charters and agreements. Nothing limits this freedom since it neither did use violence nor did promote hatred. As for the viewpoint toward the staying or the departure of the regime, toward its development or opposing its policies, this belongs to the freedom of expression. We defend this freedom even if we didn’t agree with any political viewpoint of any other partner.
Q: People are not satisfied with the preformance of the political associations in Bahrain. What is the reason in your opinion. Is it in the authorities’ treatment or in stopping the protests as opposing groups?
However, it proposes a vision, finally the people can decide about all such critical decisions to give legitimacy to any political solution or an exit to the crisis through the referndum that the opposition is insisting on and demanding continuously.
The opposition movement is lucky to be supported by popular presence that found its visions and movements clear and in one direction. The protests, led by some opposition groups through peaceful protests and strikes among other ways, is one of the most distinguished movements in Bahrain to assert the demands. This is along with the peaceful protests and movements in all the Bahrani regions and squares. The most recent and significant is the February 15, 2013 protest that represented a hard digit in this continuous popular movement which third of the Bahrani population attended.
Q: Days ago, some called the opposition to rephrase a new speech which paves the way toward settlement. However, they excluded any historical settlement to the crisis, besides talking about a settlement that is divided into stages. What is your comment on this opinion? Would the opposition speech be rephrased?
Sheikh Salman: In every political solution, opposition groups assert and insist on making the people’s decision decisive with respect to any settlement, negotiation, or dialogue. The people’s decision is the one that gives legitimacy for any exit or political solution. Otherwise, it could never acquire legitimacy because people are the source of authorities and the source of legitimacy.
The opposition insists on this, asserts it, commits to it, and demand it because it considers it the protector of any misleading to the national demands it is calling for. The history of the Bahrani regime is full of maneuvers and misleading the demands. The request today is not to repeat this scenario. It would be achieved by a popular guarantee in which the Bahrani people decide about any solution or an exit to the crisis.
The solution starts from the equal citizenship between the Bahranis themselves. This achieves the requested democratic shift by most of the Bahranis. It must be a strong and inclusive agreement that won’t allow the return of a security square after a year or ten years. Bahrain needs long-term inclusive stability which allow it to engage in the challenge of inclusive economic and social development.
Sheikh Salman: “Peoples are stronger than tyrants,” and regimes can never defeat peoples. The authority has no choice but responding to the demands of people. The security choice and muzzling attempts won’t stop the popular demands. The will of peoples will always be victorious. We didn’t hear about a group of people who was defeated, neither did people ask demands without achieving them. Thus, the national demands raised in Bahrain are dues people must achieve. They are demands that are not different from the normal style all other peoples are living.
This is what the commemoration of the second anniversary of the Bahrani uprising revealed. The number of participants in the peaceful protests and movements increased in comparison with the 2011 anniversary. This indicates that the people do not know retreat, surrendering is not on their schedule. They are ready to sacrifice more in compensation of real freedom, equality, and democracy.
Translated by Zeinab Abdallah