Q&A with Bahrain opposition leader: Revolution aims for ‘reform’, not a regime ouster

Manama — Bahraini liberal Shia opposition leader and secretary general of the Democratic Progressive Forum Society, Hassan Madan, recently told Al-Masry Al-Youm the opposition in Bahrain is split in their reform aspirations. 

In an exclusive interview, Madan said he rejects the opposition motto “The People Want to Bring Down the Regime,” saying it neither reflects the demands of the Bahraini people or the Shia community. A small group of the Shia opposition members, according to Madan, continue to escalate tensions in the country and demand the regime's abdication due to the fatal crackdown wrought on protesters in recent weeks at the hands of the Bahraini police. 
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Can we call the protests taking place in Bahrain a popular revolution to topple the regime, as in Tunisia and Egypt?
Hassan Madan: No. What is happening is not a revolution to topple the regime but rather to reform the regime. We do not want to oust the Bahraini regime, nor do we want to bring down al-Khalifa.
The whole story started with popular calls for political and constitutional reforms issued by a group of youths on Facebook, just like in Egypt and Tunisia. Those are legitimate demands that go in line with previous moves initiated since 2001 to present a reform project for the country, but to which authorities in Bahrain did not respond.
The trend to use the security solution and violence against protesters has led to the killing of one protester on the first day of protests, which has served to fuel more protests and to raise the ceiling of demands. This has given some members of the opposition an opportunity to go around the demands of the protesters and to call for the establishment of a republic and the ousting of the regime instead of the original demand of establishing a constitutional monarchy. This has, in turn, created a rift in the opposition.
Al-Masry: What do you think of the slogan “The People Want to Bring Down the Regime”?
Madan: There is no consensus over this slogan. It is illogical to issue a demand as such without reaching a consensus among the opposition or the people in general. Moreover, the balance of power in the region does not allow for this, for Bahrain, in the end, is part of the Gulf which will not allow a change in this direction to take place.
These calls are a miscalculation and the result of emotional stimulation but does not stem from a correct political vision.
Al-Masry: What do you think of offers by some countries to assist in solving the Bahraini crisis, through mediation, such as by Kuwait, or through help to the Shia, by, for instance, Iran and Hizbullah?
Madan: We want neither Iran nor Hizbullah to intervene because such intervention, including the latest speech by the secretary General of Hizbullah, has complicated matters further and created fears among Bahrainis. We call for a political role for the countries of the Gulf, such as Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates or any other Gulf country, to push for a political solution and a rapprochement between the opposition and the state. Their efforts areto find a way out of this crisis much appreciated.
Al-Masry: Why has the government removed the Lulu Roundabout if it is seeking dialogue with the opposition as is being said?
Madan: The state is saying this roundabout represents a bad memory that it wants to get rid of, which I cannot understand. The biggest squares in the world have seen tragedies and some of them have had guillotines and they still stand where they are, for you cannot erase history. I believe that move was unjustified and has not solved the problem.
Al-Masry: Even though the Bahraini state has rejected foreign intervention in its affairs, it has asked for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces to intervene, a step which was rejected by the opposition. What do you say to that?
Madan: We have all opposed the entry of these forces, just like we rejected the intervention of Iran and Hizbullah. We accept the intervention of GCC forces when there is a foreign threat, but the internal situation does not warrant such intervention. I don’t believe resorting to GCC forces was essential for the crisis could have been handled differently. Still, we cannot regard Gulf countries as enemies, ourselves being part of that system.
Al-Masry: But the state has, in all its statements, said it requested GCC forces, fearing military attacks by Iran. How do you assess that threat?
Madan: The state must present persuasive proof that Iran indeed intends to intervene militarily in Bahrain, because in such a case, not only is the government alone going to stand in their face, but the entire Bahraini nation. I still think, however, that Iran does not have such a free hand in the region due to certain international considerations.
Al-Masry: How do you see the future of Bahrain?
Madan: I believe there is still a chance for a political solution. We, and other nations, have tried the security solution more than once. A political solution is needed, and the wise state officials and opposition movements can still to push towards that end.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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