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Bahrain union suspends general strike
By Simeon Kerr and Robin Wigglesworth in Manama
Published: March 22 2011 20:56 | Last updated: March 22 2011 20:56
Bahrain’s largest trade union has suspended a week-long general strike in a move that could help the country’s embattled economy, but the opposition said strikes could still be used to apply leverage over the government.
Sayed Salman, head of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, said he had received assurances that members would be protected – a key condition for returning to work.
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“We have been given guarantees about the workers’ safety,” he said.
The main Shia Muslim opposition group, Al-Wefaq, said that it was supporting the move to test whether people could feel safe enough to travel to and from places of business.
However, politicians stressed that strikes still remained an option for the opposition as they will test the willingness of the Sunni Muslim-led government, following its recent security crackdown, to engage in a real dialogue.
As more than a thousand mourners turned out in central Manama for the funeral of Bahia al-Aradi, the first female killed by security forces in years, the fear among the majority Shia community is still palpable.
Night-time raids on activists and doctors continue, according to human rights activists.
Since last week’s bloody crackdown, dozens of military and police checkpoints have been set up near government buildings in central Manama and elsewhere in the country.
Several Shia people have complained that they have been targeted by masked officers, with reports of arrests and beatings.
Ms al-Aradi, 51, died in her car from a gunshot wound to the head near a checkpoint, bringing to about 20 the number of people killed in the country’s recent unrest.
Economic pressure via strikes remains one of the opposition’s key pressure points on the government as the country tries to rebuild itself after the violence of the past few months.
“We prefer to reach a solution without violence and without strikes,” said Matar Ibrahim Matar, of Al-Wefaq. “But we need a solid and precise initiative for the political reform, a precise mechanism.”
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