DUBAI – A Facebook page urging “revolt” in Bahrain replicating similar calls elsewhere in the Arab world had by Tuesday amassed more than 6,000 “likes” on the social networking site.
“This is your chance to open the door for political and standard of living reforms, especially with the changes going on now in the Middle East. We will all chant ‘The people want to reform the regime’ on February 14,” a post said.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have played a major role in a wave of protests around the Arab world — fanned by poverty and unemployment — that have grown into revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.
The Bahraini activists listed 14 demands which include “releasing all (political) detainees and compensating them, reforming the judiciary system…, banning alcohol and prostitution… (and) halting torture and human rights abuses.”
They also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, the Gulf kingdom’s only premier since independence four decades ago, as well as amendments to the constitution to allow genuine popular participation in government.
Shiite-majority Bahrain is ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa family of King Hamad, which retains a tight grip on the premiership and key ministries.
The authorities opened proceedings on terror charges against 25 Shiite activists last October as the country held parliamentary elections which were again boycotted by part of the Shiite opposition.
The opposition complains that the legislative authority of the elected parliament is shared with an appointed upper house, under consitutional changes the authorities introduced in 2001 in a bid to end a decade of deadly unrest.
Unlike most other Gulf states, Bahrain’s oil production is dwindling. Last month, the tiny kingdom announced it would maintain subsidies on basic foodstuffs.