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Bahrain: Coming Out in Numbers in Search for Unity

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Bahrain, Freedom of Speech, Politics, Protest

This post is part of our special coverage of Bahrain Protests 2011 [1].

A week has passed since protests broke in the capital Manama on February 14th calling for real democracy in the Kingdom. Seven men have lost their lives, with the latest martyr Abdulredha Mohammed passing away on Monday in Salmaniya Hospital after being shot [2] by military forces on Friday.

@Sabeeka_A [3] All bahraini's should now take a moment of silent & pray for the soul of the late A.Redha, he belonged to this land, like all of us #UniteBH

In support of the protesters at Pearl (Lulu) Roundabout, the Bahrain Teachers Society [4] [ar] continued their strike from Sunday despite other labor unions in the kingdom lifted their plans of holding a nationwide strike.

Largest banner: Teachers standing with the people's demands. Taken from the Bahrain Teachers Society website [4]

Largest banner: Teachers standing with the people's demands. Taken from the Bahrain Teachers Society website

With the strike hitting hard on schools across the country, the Ministry of Education had no choice but to make an appeal for volunteer teachers to fill in for the striking teachers. The Minister of Education Dr. Majed Al-Noaimi appeared on national TV and announced that over 1074 people came forward to teach and run the schools.

Volunteer teachers queuing outside the Visitors Reception at the Ministry of Education in Manama [5]

Volunteer teachers queuing outside the Visitors Reception at the Ministry of Education in Manama. Photo by Fatima Alawadhi on Facebook

Meanwhile on Twitter, blogger Manaf Al-Muhandis @Redbelt [6], growing tired of the growing sectarian tensions on Twitter created the hashtag #UniteBH to share ideas, thoughts and common grounds on creating national unity during these hard times:

@Absology [7] All the Bahrainis I know, however defensive of the government, were very upset about the recent deaths. #UniteBH

@marcowenjones [8] The number of people at AlFateh versus the number at Lulu is irrelevant. Unitiy cannot be a competition. #Bahrain #Feb14 #Lulu #UniteBH

@ViViD_BH [9] Sunna and shia love 7alwa shwai6er [Halwa Showaiter] (Traditional Bahraini sweet) #UniteBH

@Redbelt [10] I gotta make #UniteBH a Tshirt, just like I did with #jan25

@bahrain_bahrain [11] #Bahrain #unitebh: Even if a unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is.

The hashtag was lauded by Bahrain's Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa – an enthusiastic Twitter user during a live interview on National TV.

@abdullaameer [12] Congrats @Redbelt, @khalidalkhalifa just mentioned the #UniteBH you started on BTV!

@RshRsho [13] #Bahrain Foreign Affairs minister at Btv: I've seen Bahrainis on twitter today discussing what unite us not what differentiate us!! #uniteBH

@Redbelt [14] So today as I typed #UniteBH I never thought it would catch on and end up mentioned on tv by our foreign minister @khalidalkhalifa! Thanks!

Blogger Redha Haji also touched upon the topic of National Unity in his latest post [15]:

I implore people to stop listening to the hogwash lies being spread, done so to scare people and ensure we are divided.

Who would benefit from this divide, certainly not Bahrain’s citizens?

Try looking at similarities not differences, you'll notice they far out weight the differences, make them your priority and concentrate on them when you meet your fellow Bahraini.

We can all agree to disagree, but we do not have to stop being courteous, well mannered, pleasant; or to stop talking & fight one another.
Let us instead understand the other point of view.

A rally calling for National Unity was held at Al-Fateh [16] Mosque with unprecedented numbers of attendees with national TV announcing that there was over 300,000 people.

@Sabira_Ahmed [17] Peace rally at Al Fateh Masjid youtube.com/watch?v=7ZTUpz… via @youtube

@aldoyh [18] ~400,000 ppl around, ~2,000 checkins #Bahrain (@ Al Fateh Grand Mosque w/ 11 others) [pic]: http://4sq.com/eWE4UD [19]

The highlight of the rally was the speech given by prominent Islamic Scholar Dr. Abdullatif Al-Mahmood who has become the spokesperson of what is being called the “The committee of National Unity”. The main highlights of his speech were tweeted by blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif @mahmood [20]:

@mahmood [21] BTV: Al-Mahmood: #4 – request the government to release the political prisoners. #bahrain #feb14

@mahmood [22] BTV: Al-Mahmood – calls on the youth especially to work toward unity #bahrain #feb14

@mahmood [23] BTV: Al-Mahmood; directing call to protestors at Pearl: we are one people and one country regardless of our differences #bahrain #feb14

@mahmood [24] BTV: Al-Mahmood: here are our hands extended to you, come let's cooperate on good and not on sin and enmity #bahrain #feb14

@Ali_Fareed [25] Sh. Abdullatif: We demand all sorts of corruption to be highly fought. And 2 seek a solution 4 housing/living issuses. #Fateh

@mahmood [26] BTV: Al-Mahmood: we demand all the powers in people's hands in fact rather than fiction; (crowd quiet!!)

@mahmood [27] BTV: Al-Mahmood: the positions must be given to those who are eligible and uncorrupt so we can protect national wealth #bahrain #feb

@mahmood [28] BTV: Al-Mahmood: we are against (constitutional) changes which create strife between the community

Many in the Bahrain Twittersphere reacted positively to Al-Mahmood's speech.

@alyaa [29] Never saw as many bahrainis congregated. Reasonable demands in line w lulu. No hate messages. A genuine candid call. I see hope #uniteBH

@iBahrain [30] مسيرة الفاتح أثبتت للجميع رحابة ساحة التلاقي البحرينية بين جميع اطراف المجتمع فلندخل فيها جميعا ونرجم من يدعو للفرقة والفوءية #bahrain

“The Al-Fateh rally proved to everyone the openness of all corners of society, so let us enter it and stone all those who aim at seperating us”

National TV showed images of the gathered crowds shot from helicopters and @mahmood wondered:

@mahmood [31] BTV, MOI, can we get those snazzy helicopter images for tomorrow's demo as well streamed live on BTV? #bahrain #feb14

On the other hand, the live video feed to Pearl (Lulu) Roundabout has been reinstated and can be viewed here [32].

This post is part of our special coverage of Bahrain Protests 2011 [1].