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Bahrain Live Coverage: Is the Regime Fostering Sectarian Conflict?

See also Bahrain Special: How Regime Supporters Used a New York Times Reporter (Again) To Denounce the Opposition
Bahrain/Egypt Video & Transcript: Nabeel Rajab and Alaa Abd-El Fattah with Julian Assange
Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: "Last Chance to Avoid Civil War"?
Tuesday's Bahrain Live Coverage: Countering the Regime's Allegations Against Nabeel Rajab

1900 GMT: A rally is currently taking place outside Nabeel Rajab's house in Bani Jamrah, with speeches by a range of opposition activists.

Earlier in the day, balloons were released carrying pictures of Rajab on a Bahrain flag, alongside the slogans "Free Nabeel Rajab" and "No to Dictatorship". Activists shared the following videos:

0851 GMT: Wafi Al-Majed, husband of detained activist Zainab Alkhawaja, updates on her case after a brief court hearing this morning:

0529 GMT: Amnesty International has declared Nabeel Rajab, the director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, a "prisoner of conscience". It called for his immediate release after his arrest last Saturday at Bahrain's international airport.

Prosecutors have claimed that Rajab fomented violence through social media. His lawyer said about eight insulting tweets were mentioned in a court hearing on Sunday, which gave Rajab a seven-day detention order.

0520 GMT: Joost Hilterman of the International Crisis Group has posted a challenging article in The New York Review of Books:

After inviting an investigation of human rights abuses last fall, [the regime] suggested it was bringing the country back to normal; this spring’s Grand Prix would show the world it had succeeded.

But as I discovered during a five-day visit shortly before the race, nothing could be further from the truth. Talking to dozens of people both in Manama and in smaller communities outside the capital, I was told again and again that the situation was becoming worse, not better: police forces have been using large quantities of tear gas against protesters, repeatedly causing deaths; police brutality had not ended but moved from police stations to alleyways and undeclared detention centers; young activists are increasingly resorting to Molotov cocktails, subverting the peaceful nature of the protests; and the government has not opened any dialogue with the opposition or offered hope for political reform. Protests occurred nightly in Shiite villages and neighborhoods during my stay, and a veritable battle of graffiti took place on the walls of shops and houses, with protesters writing slogans calling for the end of the regime, police erasing them with a quick coat of paint, and activists scribbling new ones seemingly before the paint had dried.

And so while the Grand Prix, Bahrain’s single prestige event, did take place in late April, it happened amid clouds of tear gas and wafts of smoke from firebombs, as well as an outcry over the death of a protester apparently as a result of shotgun pellets fired by riot police. On the day of the event, a political activist, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, was into his eleventh week of a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment on allegations of plotting to overthrow the state during last year’s protests. (As of this writing, the hunger strike is now in its ninetieth day.)

Part of what makes the current situation in Bahrain so disturbing is that the regime has succeeded in replacing the narrative of a peaceful movement for reform with an altogether different one: that the country’s majority Shia are intent on driving the Sunnis off the island and handing the country over to Iran. Although last year’s protests were led by predominantly Shia opposition groups, Bahrain’s urban populations have long been mixed and the uprising also drew Sunnis dissatisfied with how the country was run. But now, by mobilizing Sunnis against Shia protesters on the claim the latter are manipulated by a predatory Iran, the regime has made Shia-Sunni hostility the conflict’s overriding theme.

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