‘Bahraini opposition pays heavy price for boycotting elections’

Bahraini men take part in a protest against the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman (on the posters), head of the Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq on January 9, 2015 in the village of Karzakan, South of Manama. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
Bahraini opposition leaders are suffering not only for boycotting last year elections but also for struggling for democratic rights and freedoms, Sayed Yousif Almuhafda, Vice President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, told RT.

RT:Anti-government protests have been a regular sight in Bahrain, but they spiked again after Salman's arrest. What reaction do you expect from the government this time?

Sayed Yousif Almuhafda: From the day when Sheikh Ali Salman was arrested until today, the protest did not stop at all, especially the protest in front of his home in Bilad al Qadeem. More than 50 people were arrested that time by riot policeman. [There was] many shotgun injuries and tear gas injuries by the riot police because they are targeting the peaceful protestors. …There are many protests going on all around Bahrain and angry protest against the Al Khalifa family for arresting a prominent human rights and political leader in Bahrain.

READ MORE:Bahraini protest rages as another opposition leader arrested

RT:The main opposition movement has been banned by the Bahrain government and its leader arrested. Will the group be able to survive this clamp down?

SYA: The escalation against the political party did not stop. Today another leader of the Al-Wefaq society was arrested, Jameel Kadhim. He was arrested for a tweet. He is also another opposition leader and he was a member of the talks last year with the Crown Prince.Now both Sheikh Ali Salman and Jameel Kadhim who attended the [talks] with the Crown Prince right now are in jail.

A Bahraini protestor throws back a tear gas canister during clashes with riot police following a protest on January 3, 2015 against the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq, in Salman's home village of Bilad al-Qadeem, on the outskirts of the capital Manama. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

RT:Recent actions by the Bahraini government show the regime’s clearly not prepared to reach out to opposition groups. Why is any form of dialogue rejected?

SYA: Right now Al-Wefaq is paying a high cost for boycotting the elections last year. Also the government doesn’t want any dialogue at all. The last two or three years they just have been lying to the international community that there is progress or there is a dialogue. But this is the reality - people who should be in the dialogue are in jail right now. And the government doesn’t want any solution. They don’t want democracy in Bahrain. Those people are fighting for democracy and change.

The prime minister who has been in the position for 44 or 45 years doesn’t want to step down and that is why he wants to crack down on all the opposition leaders. [The Bahraini leadership] don’t want the change, they don’t want justice. There is discrimination in Bahrain, they don’t want social justice, they don’t want any democracy and reforms in Bahrain at all.

RT:What are we supposed to anticipate then to this heavy-handed action from the government? Do you think the Bahrain activists are going to be deterred in any way or will it just encourage them step up with their campaign?

SYA: Right now we are in situation where more than 3000 political detainees are in jail for their opinion and for calling for democracy and freedom. I don’t think that the protests will stop at all but still people are fighting and struggling for their rights and for democracy [while] the international community is against our revolution in Bahrain because it is not convenient for them, especially for the UK. They are against our struggle for democracy and change. But the struggle for democracy will not change even if the media does not cover what is happening in my country, they are silent about the Bahrain revolution. But people in Bahrain will overcome one day.

Bahraini men take part in a protest against the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq on January 9, 2015 in the village of Karzakan, South of Manama.(AFP Photo/Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

‘No reason for aggressive government move against Salman’

Fatima Al Halwachi from the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights also commented on the recent protests in Manama, Bahrain.

The authorities claim Salman was detained and charged because of his recent speeches and statements.

According to Fatima Al Halwachi, he did not say anything different from what he has been saying since February 2011.

“He has always been consistent in his speech. In fact we do not see any reason for such an aggressive action by the regime. Mr. Salman [insisted] on the peaceful movement of the opposition despite all actions by the government,” she told RT.

Bahraini men take part in a protest against the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq, in the village of Daih, west of Manama on January 6, 2015. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Al-Shaikh)

The detention of the leader of the Al-Wefaq opposition party has now entered its third week, and no formal charges have been filed.

“We as human rights activists shared the views of the opposition that the detention of Mr. Salman is a political decision,” Al Halwachi said. “As you have noticed the detention is continuing without a final decision by a court.”

The Bahraini government banned the Al-Wefaq opposition movement citing "violations against the law,” and its leaders were arrested.

“Al-Wefaq with the other opposition parties has always been playing a very noticeable role in keeping the peacefulness of the movement. The aggressive step taking by the government has serious consequences. We wish the government will take positive action and release Salman as well as all the other detainees,” the rights activist said.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.