Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Triangle of Conflict in Bahrain

My research partner Reza Akbari and I have finally finished our thesis on "The Triangle of Conflict: How Bahrain's Internal Divisions Inhibit Reconciliation." After months of research, two trips to Bahrain and over 50 interviews conducted, we are excited to share with you our results. You can read the entire thesis here, but let me give you a brief summary of our analysis.

In the thesis, we explore the potential for political reconciliation in Bahrain in which people can learn to live non-violently with each other despite their differences. To achieve that reconciliation, moderates from across the political spectrum must gain enough influence to be able to come to the center as part of a political process. Any political settlement will obviously not solve all of Bahrain's deep-seated problems, but it would set Bahrain on a path towards reconciliation.

In the first part of the paper, we ask who are the actors that must participate in any potential dialogue working towards reconciliation. The US media tends to oversimplify the situation in Bahrain by weaving a narrative about a Shia people demanding their rights from a Sunni government. In fact, there are three main camps in Bahraini politics - the government, the opposition, and the loyalist opposition - that do not fall neatly along sectarian lines.These three camps form what we call the “triangle of conflict” in which political struggles occur both on a systemic level between the three camps and at a group level between the factions that form those camps.