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Cablegate: Al-Haq Challenges Gob On Land Access

VZCZCXRO3188
PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #0950 2911439
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181439Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7312
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAMA 000950

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/18/2017
TAGS: PGOV ASEC SOCI BA
SUBJECT: AL-HAQ CHALLENGES GOB ON LAND ACCESS

REF: MANAMA 939

Classified By: DCM Christopher Henzel for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 1. (SBU) Summary: The Shi'a village of Al Malikiya, site of an August confrontation over fishing rights, witnessed more tension during the recent Eid holiday as Shi'a activists challenged restrictions on public access to an island used as a ruling family retreat. End summary.

2. (SBU) On October 14 and 15, activists of the Al-Haq Movement, which advocates extra-parliamentary efforts to address Shi'a grievances, attempted to travel the few kilometers from the village of Al-Malikiya to the island of Um an-Nassan, just off Bahrain's western coast. On October 14, security forces intercepted the boats and turned back several dozen protesters. Activists subsequently circulated an "invitation" for ordinary Bahrainis to "visit" the island on the following day. Al-Haq organizers claimed that security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd on October 15 before they could launch their boats. However, Al-Wifaq society (which participates in Bahrain's parliament) told media that the protest was essentially peaceful. The acting police chief for the area publicly praised Al-Wifaq's mediation efforts for helping to defuse the situation. A Malikiya municipal council official told media that some protestors attempted, but failed, to explode a propane gas cylinder.

3. (SBU) Land reform is a key demand of Bahrain's Shi'a, and both Wifaq and Haq are pressing the regime to open up more real estate for the Shi'a majority housing needs. Um an-Nassan is known in Bahrain as the King's private island. Following the October 14 confrontation, the government issued a statement in local media saying that the island was essential for Bahrain Defense Forces training and would therefore remain off-limits to the general public. (Note: The government restricts access to some thirty smaller islands and large swaths of the southern part of Bahrain's main island. While it uses national security to justify these restrictions, it is widely believed that the access restrictions are used to reserve prime real estate for the ruling family.)

4. (C) Comment: The incident in Al-Malikiya is an extension of Al-Haq's focus on the issue of land rights and the ruling family's preferential access to large parts of the country. In September, Al-Haq leaders attended a conference in London in which they laid out their case against the Prime Minister, accusing him of corruption in acquiring the title to land that was to become the Bahrain Financial Harbor development. Its decision to challenge the status of Um an-Nassan island points to Al-Haq's continued determination to challenge GOB redlines, even to the point of provocation.

5. (C) Comment continued: Al-Haq uses tactics such as these to challenge Al-Wifaq for the hearts and minds of the Shi'a community. By daring to challenge the King's claim to Um an-Nassan, Al-Haq again appealed to the more hot-headed sector of the Shi'a street. Meanwhile, Al-Wifaq representatives undertook the more difficult work of defusing the situation and avoiding violence. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ********
ERELI

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