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Cablegate: Opposition Protest Highlights "Political

VZCZCXRO6164
RR RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #0639 3061233
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 021233Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8997
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0120
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 0866
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

S E C R E T MANAMA 000639

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/02/2034
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KISL AF PK BA
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION PROTEST HIGHLIGHTS "POLITICAL
NATURALIZATION"

REF: IIR 6 960 0007 10 DTG 291454Z OCT 09

Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(SBU) Summary: A peaceful anti-naturalization rally served as a reminder to the authorities that Shia opposition groups will continue to campaign against the alleged large-scale naturalization of foreign Sunnis. End summary.

2.(SBU) The Shia Al Wifaq opposition party and several minor parties brought out about 2000 supporters on October 30 to protest against the GOB's alleged drive in recent years to naturalize quietly large numbers of foreign Sunnis. Forming a human chain that snaked about two kilometers through downtown Manama, participants waved Bahraini flags and carried placards reading, "No to political naturalization."

3.(C) Wifaq, the leading Shia party, has long criticized the alleged "political" naturalizations as an effort to gradually alter the country's demographics. The government for its part claims few foreigners are being naturalized, but it has convinced few. This is in part because hard liners grouped around royal court minister Khalid bin Ahmad and cabinet minister Ahmed bin Atiyatallah have successfully resisted calls for a transparent naturalization system. Currently, we estimate Bahrain's citizen population is about 60 or 70 percent Shia.

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4.(C) Wifaq MP Jasim Husain confirmed to poloff on October 28 that "political naturalization" would be at the top of the party's agenda over the coming months and leading into the 2010 parliamentary elections. Wifaq MPs have taken to wearing "No to political naturalization," buttons during the weekly sessions of the lower house.

5.(S) Despite the hard-liners' ascendancy on this issue, at least one of the brighter GOB leaders understands the sectarian sensitivity of naturalization. Per reftel, the chief of public security, Major General Abdul Latif Al Zayani, recently blocked his subordinates' efforts to naturalize the (mostly Pakistani) Special Security Forces company that will soon deploy in support of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Zayani reportedly cited the political sensitivity of naturalizing Sunni expatriates and wanted to avoid provoking the opposition. ERELI

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