September 19, 2014
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the tiny island nation of Bahrain on Friday to protest a proposal by the country’s leadership for legislative, security and judicial reforms.
The rally by members of the Shiite opposition came a day after the crown prince, Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, issued a statement summarizing proposed changes that included redefining electoral districts, promises of judicial reform and new codes of conduct for security forces.
The statement follows on-and-off again talks between opposition members and the government aimed at bringing about a political solution to more than three years of unrest. Bahrain is a strategically important Western ally, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. An opposition movement dominated by the country’s Shiite majority is demanding greater rights from the ruling Sunni monarchy.
The government moved to crush an Arab Spring-inspired uprising in 2011 with the help of security forces from Saudi Arabia and other neighboring Gulf Arab states. Dozens of protesters have been killed, as have some members of the security forces.
Protesters and opposition leaders on Friday dismissed the government’s plan as offering too little toward their goal of greater power-sharing in the kingdom. “We consider this letter to be a unilateral approach,” said Abdul-Jalil Khalil, a leading member of the main Shiite opposition bloc, al-Wefaq.