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Bahraini protesters refuse dialogue unless government resigns

In Bahrain, protests are going into the third week. Demonstrators want political and economic reforms, urging the king to improve living conditions for the minority Shiites who feel disadvantaged.

A Bahraini anti-government protester looks at a banner showing Bahraini prime minister Shiek Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, top, and other Bahraini officials at the Pearl roundabout in Manama, Bahrain

Protesters want the government to resign

Thousands of people took to the streets again in Bahrain's capital Manama Tuesday to protest against the rule of King Hamad bin Issa el Khalifa. "We are brothers, Sunnis and Shiites," they chanted, making it the third week of protests in the kingdom with roughly one million inhabitants.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa delivers a televised speech to the nation

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's rule represses the Shiite majority, say the protesters

The majority of demonstrators are Shiites who feel repressed by the Sunni king and Sunni ruling elite. They claim they are shut out of good jobs, decent healthcare and housing.

Civil disobedience

Protesters on Pearl Square in central Manama also called for the start of a civil disobedience campaign to increase pressure on the ruling elite to implement swift democratic reforms in the Gulf Arab state. The protests also started to spread into other parts of the city.

"The purpose of civil disobedience is to put huge pressure on the regime," said one protester, addressing the crowd on Pearl Square, "and forcing it to follow through with the demands of the protesters."

Since the start of the protests, there has been no formal dialogue between the government and the Muslim Shiite opposition.

The king has pardoned political prisoners, reshuffled the cabinet, increased housing allowances and appointed the crown prince to lead a national dialogue with the opposition.

No dialogue

But the opposition has rejected the king's offer for dialogue, with protesters on Tuesday waving banners that read "No dialogue - the people want the fall of the regime."

Bahraini anti-government protesters wave flags in a demonstration in Manama

Several hundred people have been wounded since protests began over two weeks ago

Seven people have been killed and hundreds wounded since protests began in Bahrain more than two weeks ago. Members of the Shiite Wefaq bloc quit parliament on Thursday over protester deaths at nearby Pearl Square, where demonstrators have since camped out to increase the pressure on the rulers.

But parliament has little power and the cabinet is appointed by the king. Most ministers are from the royal family. "There's one family ruling the country, in sports, politics and economics, everything is controlled by the royal family," said Ali Ibrahim, a protester. "The government needs to be elected," he said.

Tens of thousands of pro-government supporters have also taken to the streets in recent days, saying that reforms launched by Bahrain's king 10 years ago have resulted in a situation of freedom and democracy which is unique in the Gulf Arab region.

Author: Nina Haase (AFP/ Reuters)
Editor: Rob Mudge

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