Chatham House Publishes Research Paper on Civil Society in Bahrain

Chatham House, an independent policy institute based in London, has published a research paper entitled "Bahrain: Civil Society and Political Imagination" that focuses on the political crisis in Bahrain and the role of civil society. 

In February 2011, Bahrain saw the beginning of a string of demonstrations calling for a new constitution, the release of hundreds of Shia men and boys being held as prisoners, and an end to civil rights abuses by the al-Khalifa regime. 

Since 2011 there have been various efforts to hold a dialogue between members and supporters of the government and members of the opposition. Two processes of official dialogue as well as recent back-channel talks between the government and officially licensed political societies, including Al Wefaq, have been unsuccessful. 

Bahrain's tight restrictions on political speech and activity have excluded much of the country's civil society from the political process, which continues to exacerbate the unrest. The conflict is also economic by nature, with opposition concentrated in poorer, predominantly Shia villages where many inhabitants feel economically and politically marginalized.

The research paper suggests that in order to solve the ongoing political crisis in Bahrain, the problems that continue to shape community divisions must be addressed. The sharing of political power and a more inclusive distribution of state resources are necessary to begin to address the crisis, but powerful actors such as the government and ruling family lack incentive to make such changes, which would have an adverse effect of their level of power. 

Overall, the paper emphasizes the important role of grassroots and civil-society level initiatives at a time when formal dialogue attempts continue to fail. The argument is also made that a less repressed civil society would have the ability to make valuable contributions to the future of Bahrain. If Bahrain is unable to begin taking the necessary steps to address this conflict, there is a very real possibility for civil society to resort to violence. 


Read the full publication here

Photo courtesy of جمعية العمل الوطني الديمقراطي - وعد.


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