Bahrainis determined to continue peaceful struggle for change

Bahraini anti-government protesters wave national flags and shout slogans during a march Wednesday, March 9, 2011, around the passports and immigration building in downtown Manama, Bahrain. The Arabic signs read: "Bahrain, free, free. Naturalized go out" (left) and "No, no to political naturalization." Thousands of Shiite protesters in Bahrain are demanding naturalized Sunnis be stripped of their citizenship and sent out of the country.

As Bahraini people gear up to mark the eighth anniversary of their uprising against the ruling Al Khalifah regime on February 14, the country’s main opposition group, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, has reaffirmed its determination to continue peaceful rallies until its demands for political reforms are met.

Al-Wefaq, which has been dissolved and banned from conducting any activity by the Al Khalifah rulers, said in a statement on Tuesday that Bahrainis have increasingly witnessed Manama’s “corruption, tyranny and recklessness” over the years, Bahrain’s Lulu TV reported.

Al-Wefaq described the country’s deteriorating situation as “frightening,” and warned of a bleak future.

Eight years on, the Bahraini movement is still sticking to its demands for political reforms, and is resolved to keep up its struggle for change, it added.

Since February 14, peaceful protest rallies have been held regularly, demanding that the Al Khalifah family relinquish power and let a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.

The protesters have also been complaining against widespread discrimination against the Shia majority in the kingdom.

Manama has responded to the protests with lethal force, drawing international criticism. In March 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were also deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Bahraini authorities have also detained human rights campaigners, broken up major opposition political parties and revoked the nationality of several activists.

Since the start of the popular protests, the Manama regime has dissolved key opposition factions, including al-Wefaq and the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), arrested prominent opposition figures and rights activists, and conducted mass trials of civilians at military courts.

Rights activists have lashed out at Manama for the rampant torture and sexual abuse of political prisoners as well as numerous death sentences, lengthy jail terms, revocation of citizenships, enforced deportations and hefty financial penalties against political activists and Shia scholars in the country.

Critics argue that defendants in the mass trials, all Shia Muslims, are victims of torture and denied access to any legal representation during the investigation period

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