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And now, will Bahrain's ship finally set sail? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report on the country’s recent unrest has surprised everyone. News reports indicate that the commission’s findings are 500 pages long, but according to initial conclusions, the report has sided with the Shiite opposition’s version of events in many aspects, but not entirely.

The report said that the government used excessive violence against protesters, and that there was no evidence linking the opposition to Iran. For his part, Dr. Bassiouni, the head of the fact-finding commission, denied the claim that the Gulf Peninsula Shield Force had played a role in the security suppression carried out against the protesters. He argued that the Peninsula Shield’s role was confined to its official mandate, namely to protect public facilities and the state infrastructure. This statement runs contrary to the propaganda aired by the “Alalam” satellite TV station, and similar networks whether Iranian, quasi-Iranian or international.

In an interview with al-Arabiya television station about Iran and its accusation of interfering in Bahrain’s unrest, Bassiouni said that “Iran embarked upon a media campaign to support the opposition, and that can’t be regarded as an act of incitement.” Bassiouni added that “the government did not provide any evidence indicating that Iran was financing specific individuals in Bahrain, and this is possibly due to security reasons.”

Concerning the opposition’s rejection of the dialogue proposition offered by Bahraini Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa; Bassiouni said that “the opposition passed up this opportunity which could have brought about genuine reforms in the country”. He pointed out that “Al Wefaq [National Islamic] Society looked to the street and found that it wielded immense power. Thus it anticipated that the street would impose its will and consequently obtain better results [than national dialogue].”

Bassiouni delivered the summary of his report to the Bahraini monarch in a televised event, before presenting his full report to the King who accepted it with good grace, despite the damning condemnation of the Bahraini government’s performance during the crisis. King Hamad has pledged to take the report’s findings and recommendations seriously.

In truth, the report represents a giant stride in the Bahraini political process, and a historic landmark decision by the Bahraini government. This is true even if some consider it to be prejudiced against the government’s account, or to put it in sectarian language, against the Sunni foundation loyal to the ruling dynasty in Bahrain.

Now the Shiite opposition – and those supporting it abroad – have achieved a moral victory. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry has acquitted the Shiite sect of the accusation of being connected to Iran, and security apparatuses have been officially censured. The Shiite opposition must realize that this is something highly unusual and extremely difficult to achieve in our region. Thus it should respond to this step by taking a better one. It should stop hiding under the cover of the victim and become involved in the political process of the Kingdom of Bahrain. This is of course if the opposition genuinely wants to rearrange the house from within, and has no ulterior motives.

As a keen observer of the successive Iranian media campaigns on Bahrain, which have been going on for several months, I have a lot to say about their potential meanings and interpretations. However, it is suffice for me and everyone else to accept what the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report has said. Accusations of who is right and who is wrong are not important now. What is important is for Bahrain’s ship to set sail peacefully.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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