1955 GMT: Catching up after an academic day away....
After talks in Washington with Crown Prince Salman, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Bahrain to take further steps to address human rights issues.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the pair discussed Manama's efforts to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry: "Clinton noted the steps already taken to implement the recommendations, but expressed that much work remains to fully address ongoing human rights issues, including individual cases. She encouraged the Bahraini government to champion a clear process -- in both word and action -- that leads to meaningful institutional and political reforms that take into account the interests and aspirations of all Bahrainis."
Nuland added, "Clinton affirmed the long-standing commitment of the United States to a strong partnership with both the people and the government of Bahrain."
0645 GMT: One of the battles since the start of the February 2011 protests has been over Bahrain's medical staff. The regime has accusing doctors and nurses, especially at the country's largest hospital, of politicising health care and carrying out acts of violence. Defenders of the medics say they were trying to do their jobs by treating injured demonstrators, even as security forces were taking patients away.
Last autumn, 20 doctors and nurses were given lengthy prison sentences by a military tribunal. Now, as they appear once again before a civilian court to review their cases, the pro-regime Gulf Daily News posts about the "sectarian agenda" of medics, "Gas Explosion Woman Raps Hospital Staff":
A woman injured in a gas cylinder explosion outside her home last month has launched a scathing attack on the treatment she received at the hands of healthcare staff at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC). Rania Abdulqadir Zain Al Abedeen claims she was mistreated, misdiagnosed and ignored by doctors at Bahrain's biggest public hospital, which was occupied by anti-government protesters during the height of unrest last year.
In an exclusive interview with the GDN's sister newspaper Akhbar Al Khaleej, she said an ambulance called to her house in Bilad Al Qadeem never arrived and accused hospital staff of trying to distort facts surrounding the incident.
The 35-year-old mother-of-three alleged they tried to cover up the explosion in medical reports, saying they wanted to blame the explosion on a gas leak in her kitchen.
0500 GMT: Yesterday a Bahrain court again postponed any resolution of the case of 21 activists and political figures, including hunger striker Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, given sentences from five year to life last June. With that context, we begin with a hard-hitting article in Foreign Policy by Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch, after a recent five-day trip by HRW staff to the Kingdom:
There has been no real resumption of dialogue between the government and opposition to pursue what moderates on both sides agree is the only viable solution to Bahrain's crisis -- a constitutional monarchy in which government ministers are chosen by an elected parliament rather than appointed by the king. This course of action would necessarily give Bahrain's Shiite majority more say in running the country, a prospect that is anathema to portions of the island's ruling family as well as its regional backers.
The government has also not ended human rights abuses against protesters. As we would see during our visit, police torture and abuse have simply moved from police stations to the alleyways and back lots of Shiite villages. The courts have agreed to retry key opposition leaders, but the government still refuses to release them, though their convictions were based on nothing more than the content of their speeches and participation in meetings and rallies challenging the monarchy. Also, for the first time in months, there is no approaching milestone -- no committee to be appointed, or report to be issued, or deadline to be met -- that might give moderate leaders reason to ask their people to be patient. The absence of hope is radicalizing both sides.
Relentless messaging in official media has convinced many Sunni supporters of the monarchy that opposition calls for democracy are an Iranian plot to impose a Shiite theocracy on Bahrain. Some demand that the king reject any compromise. Additionally, there are growing whispers about Sunni jihadi groups taking advantage of these fears to gain a foothold on the island. Meanwhile, in opposition strongholds, protesters who are beaten and gassed only come back more angry and determined to confront the police. In this climate, the toughest boys, the ones who fight back, become the heroes. Opposition leaders who preach nonviolence risk being marginalized.
At the Interior Ministry, police officials showed us videos of protesters throwing Molotov cocktails at police. In the opening sequences, the gas bombs are thrown from a distance; as the weeks go by the protesters get closer, until they are right in the officers' faces before dousing them with flames. The officials wanted us to see what their police go through, and they succeeded. Inadvertently, they also showed us that their repressive tactics are failing. Protesters are not retreating -- they are losing their fear.
Bahrain is almost broken, but not entirely so. The government is persecuting its critics, but not killing them on a large scale as in Syria. As everyone we met told us, Bahrain is a small country: The protagonists on both sides know each other, and there still seems to be room for compromise. But the window is rapidly closing, and once it shuts -- as in Syria -- it will be hard to turn back.