In an interview with Press TV, Sheikh Ali Salman from the Al-Wifaq Society elaborates on the Bahraini uprising as being an internal issue better resolved among the people and their government and not through the involvement of foreign intruders that try to incite divisions between Sunnis and Shias.
Press TV: The images we’re broadcasting, the tearing down of Pearl Square, do you think this will dishearten the protesters?
Salman: The people in Bahrain will continue their demand for peace. And it’s not going to happen to let all the people go home without a resolution, what they demand.
Press TV: You’re from the Al-Wifaq party, how strong is the opposition? How strongly unified is the opposition in Bahrain? Is there a certified leadership in Bahrain that can lead this uprising, or revolution, in a certain direction?
Salman: When you speak about strong, the people didn’t have any weapons in their hands. They only have the flag of their country and demands to reform to a democratic country. This is most of the Bahraini people’s demand. This regime does not reflect what the Bahrainis feel; it is only the regime for the Al-Khalifa families and a very small part of the Bahraini people. This kind of regime doesn’t have the eligibility to continue, it must have a different institution to be a different opportunity for the country.
Press TV: If you take a look at Libya, people there have taken up arms and weapons, something that many analysts have described as a civil war. What are the chances of a civil war happening Bahrain? How likely is it to happen?
Salman: We are working hard to be a peaceful revolution, or intifada. We call our people at different times, continually, to be a peaceful protest. And not put yourself in fighting, in any way, with the police or army. We believe in a peaceful movement and we will continue to do that to reach our demands.
We are the people, we don’t like the regime to continue like this, and we will do what we want to do but we won’t share with the [regime]. We will continue with our demands…The army will try to capture the [city], but the people will refuse that. For this situation, I think the regime will not be able to continue because of the outside history of the development of the region.
Press TV: We have reports, I want you to confirm and verify those for us, that several opposition figures have been detained and they’ve been sent to Saudi Arabia.
Salman: I don’t have any confirmation for that and I don’t believe it will happen because the regime wouldn’t do this. The prisons of Bahrain have a lot of prisoners there, and there are a large number of people who went there this last week. Five or six revolutionary figures…were captured.
Press TV: Let’s now talk about the opposition. What plans does the opposition have for the future developments in Bahrain?
Salman: The opposition is asking people to continue the efforts of the war, and you can see anywhere in Bahrain people are continually [standing] where they are in the roundabouts, and their houses demanding the end the regime. Today, at four to five o’clock, there was an order to destroy the [Pearl Square] roundabout – and it’s still there on every house in Bahrain.
Press TV: The people are demanding political reforms and a constitutional monarchy. Bahraini authorities have detained many opposition figures. With a military crackdown on the people and the detention of several opposition figures, how likely is it that there will be a negotiation between the opposition and the government?
Salman: The negotiations are not under a tank in the streets. If you want a negotiation, let the Saudi people return to their house, the army return to their base, give the people freedom of speech, and investigate what happened up until now. The military has a bad role in the fight. We need a political solution, a democratic way to not just do anything.
Press TV: We know that Saudi troops and troops from the United Arab Emirates have been deployed to Bahrain. What are they doing right now, what are their positions right now in the city?
Salman: I can’t believe that these troops are in the city right now. But I cannot confirm where they are. Just, they came to Bahrain in this situation, they’ve come to deal with the people in Bahrain and I refuse the occupation of them in my country because most of the people disagreeing with the troops. There is no agreement to a peaceful demonstration from any outside soldier.
Press TV: Well, of course, with Saudi Arabia and what it has done by deploying troops to Bahrain, it has literally invaded Bahrain, what does this mean to regional security?
Salman: Unfortunately, it’s a wrong decision that makes other problems in Bahrain more complicated. And it’s now ruined the region, and maybe it’s an international problem. It’s a very bad thing. We want our problems to be solved by Bahrain, a Bahraini problem not an international problem.
Press TV: What consequences will this military interference by Saudi Arabia have for the region itself, the fact that the country has invaded another country without any authorization?
Salman: This is a bad thing. I ask the international community who is working with this kind of government to discuss the problem and to ask the Saudis to return home.
Press TV: Why do you think the United States has remained silent on Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Bahrain?
Salman: The United States’ potential is between two things: the first thing is the advantage of the relationship with the GCC council; and the other hand, there is a demand for democracy in the norm of the western style where, in this situation, tries to make fear…
Press TV: The fact that the West is inciting sectarian hatred and divide between the Sunnis and Shias, how do you see the Sunni and Shias in Bahrain? We’re seeing from the pictures and images that they are standing united, shoulder to shoulder with each other.
Salman: In Bahrain there are no problems between the Sunnis and Shias. This is a [tactic] they try to use. This is not for the advantage of the Sunnis or Shias. This is a political part where they try to stop the demand of people to reach a goal…This is a [tactic] they’ve used before to try to divide the people like the Christians and Muslims. They try to divide the north and south. In Bahrain, there are Sunnis and Shias, but there is no problem between the Sunnis and Shias; there is a problem between the regime where they have more than half of the cabinet, and they treat the people not as citizens but something under humanity.
Press TV: How much is the Al-Khalifa family ready to make political reforms?
Salman: This is the time where it must be political reform. And if you don’t do it today, you don’t know that after a while the people [will react]. We cannot continue to [treat the government like the past] after what’s happened in Egypt. The Arab world, they are now demanding and achieving in Morocco, Jordan, Libya, and already in Tunisia and Egypt. The Gulf States are not exempt from that. It must develop to reach a point where the people can elect a government where they are represented, not [to cater] to those men who don’t reflect on their situation and development.
Press TV: Do you think the Al-Khalifa family will stay in power or will it end up having a fate like Mubarak and Ben Ali?
Salman: If the people and government do reform and make an agreement between the people, it gives a power to the institution, not the power to the ministers and half the cabinet…[this will not be accepted by the opposition]. We will not accept that kind of regime. You cannot put us in prison. The people will not accept it. We will not share with them this system.
Press TV: Suppose the Al-Khalifa family steps down and leaves, how do you see the political structures of Bahrain for a transition of power?
Salman: We all demand a civil state where the state belongs under the law, and an election from time to time. A prime minister cannot be in power more than eight years. It’s this kind of a system and national election, accepted by Western democracies, and open to everybody….
Press TV: Is there anyone ready to lead the country after the Al-Khalifa family leaves?
Salman: We ask for a real institution monarchy where the Al-Khalifa family will be obtained but the Prime Minister must be from the people. And this system where everyone can lead and share, and have an elected government under military reform from the parliament.
Press TV: Can you tell us what role the armed forces play in Bahrain? After Mubarak in Egypt, the army took control.
Salman: The army in Bahrain has killed his people. This army up until now is the enemy of his people. Unfortunately, they seized the hospital in Bahrain. Last night, they took the injured people to beat and torture them, and housed them in another place…
Press TV: How different is Bahrain compared to Tunisia and Egypt and other Arab countries in terms of the form and concept of the uprising?
Salman: Every country has a different situation but the main thing is the same in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, and Libya…that there’s a real problem with the dictatorship and the people want them to give up and to rule democratically. This is the main problem.
Press TV: Now, of course, the situation is indeed deteriorating in Bahrain, once again can you tell us more about the opposition? What kind of role can the opposition play in Bahrain?
Salman: The opposition will try to listen to the peaceful protests give people reforms, gather the people, and govern them to accept reform.