Interview of Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH.

18/02/2011
Press release

Could you tell us briefly what the situation is like on the ground ? What is the extent of the current mobilisation? Who are the people protesting?

The situation has been very tough for the past few days. Right now, I am headed to the funeral of the fourth person who was shot and killed during these protests. We have already buried three people. The situation is sad, shocking and also very frightening because of the violence of the repression against the protesters.

The protests started on the 14th of February when 20 to 30 demonstrations broke out throughout the country and have continued every day since then. These protests differed in size and amplitude ranging from several hundred people to up to 70 000 people in the biggest demonstration in Siitra. Bahrain is a very small nation of 600 000 people, so these are very important numbers, a large proportion of the Bahraini community are involved in these protests. These are people from all walks of life; people from different religious and social backgrounds. There is a great sense of unity in this movement. This is the first time in Bahrain that people have come together in this way.

What is the extent of the repression?

Six people have already been killed in the five days of protest and hundreds of people have been injured, these are also very important numbers for such a small population as in Bahrain. Army personnel are in the streets and there have been attacks by the special forces

What are the people’s demands?

At first people were not asking for a change of regime. They were asking for political reform and political participation. They want greater respect for their human rights and the liberation of political prisoners. They demand an end to discrimination and torture. They are asking for the right to elect their government, they want a new prime minister and a new written Constitution. However, as the situation has progressed, the people have become more and more angry over the government’s response to these peaceful protests. They will not accept a government that kills it’s own people and their demands are changing, they are now requesting a regime change.

How would you compare the situation in Bahrain to the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the ongoing events throughout the world?

The Bahraini people have been very much inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and their apparent success. They were also very much inspired by the unity those revolutions created within those societies. However, the difference in Bahrain is that at first the people were not requesting a regime change.

What, in your opinion, will be the long-term results of these demonstrations?

I think that these demonstrations will lead to more and more confrontations between the government, civil society and the Bahraini people. The government must take steps toward greater democratisation and must address the grievances of its people. The protest movement will not die down unless the people’s demands are met.

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