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Protest movements are not always right.

It is often taken for granted in the international media that protests are always legitimate, peaceful and responsibly conducted - and that the aims of the protesters are automatically the best vision for the country.

Surely 1,000 or 10,000 protesters can't be wrong?

With some protesters attempting to take to the streets again in Bahrain, it is reasonable to ask whether they are acting in the best interests of the country.

We will conclude that, in fact, the protests have been highly damaging for Bahrainis for a number of reasons.

Protests have harmed the economy and employment prospects - despite protesters saying they want jobs, better economic opportunities and greater social justice.

The result of two-and-a-half years of instability has been massive damage to hundreds of small businesses; growing unemployment; decreased foreign investment; and lasting harm to the tourism sector.

By campaigning against major events like the Formula One, misguided protesters have risked long-term damage to our national economy.

The agenda of the protest leaders is also harmful for Bahrain.

The clerics who lead Bahrain's protest movement do not have the best interests of all Bahrainis at heart.

They have a sectarian, religious and pro-Iran agenda which would be a disaster if it was ever implemented.

Protesters are being manipulated by dishonest religious leaders, who as well as seeking to destroy Bahrain's monarchy, want to erase our tolerant, diverse and enlightened cultural traditions.

In fact, prolonged protests actually prevent political progress.

Continual protests in Egypt and other nearby states have made these nations effectively ungovernable.

Ordinary life and economic activity grind to a halt and tensions grow between different components of society.

For each month the protests continue, the reconciliation process in Bahrain will become more difficult and traumatic.

By continuing to boycott parliament, the opposition has prevented important reforms and constitutional amendments from being properly introduced, thereby preventing implementation of their own demands.

Let's not forget that protests in Bahrain have become increasingly violent.

A sports stadium, a children's play area, a shopping mall and a mosque have been among the targets of recent terrorist attacks, which have mercifully resulted in few casualties so far.

Most major protests result in serious outbreaks of rioting, damaging of property and attacks on police. It is therefore understandable that the government has been sometimes reluctant to grant licences for protesters and that there is public support for not allowing such divisive events.

Meanwhile, the protests only serve to empower an extremist minority.

In February 2011, a large number of Bahrainis participated in initial protests calling for reform.

However, these protests were gradually hijacked by militant figures whose agenda was establishing an Islamic republic along pro-Iran sectarian lines.

It is therefore not surprising that most Bahrainis have increasingly distanced themselves from them.

However, unfortunately it is the protest movement which has been most vocal, while ordinary Bahrainis have remained silent. This has created a distorted impression of what Bahrainis want.

In fact, the protests are actually in conflict with the human rights of ordinary Bahrainis.

Protests, rioting and terrorist incidents prevent Bahrainis from going about their normal lives while citizens and residents are terrorised and public safety is undermined.

Bahrainis have a right not to live in fear, to be able to go to work and earn a living and to be able to provide for their families.

Militants have threatened citizens that they should not attend work or school on strike days; those who have spoken out against the opposition have also been threatened or attacked, thus undermining freedom of expression.

For these reasons it is right that protest leaders shouldn't be given a free hand to disrupt the lives of citizens indefinitely.

While everyone should enjoy the right to peaceful protest, this should not mean a licence to continue protesting for months on end in a manner that paralyses the nation, ruins the economy and harms national interests.

Citizens for Bahrain

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Aug 15, 2013
Words:665
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