AFTER the most explosive week in its recent history, with seven dead and hundreds injured when troops opened fire on protesters, an uneasy truce is holding in Bahrain. Protesters have reoccupied Pearl Square in the capital, Manama, after the crown prince, Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, ordered the troops off the streets. The site now houses a sprawling camp of several thousand, with free-food stands and a barber doing a busy trade. From a small stage, a steady queue of speakers call for the downfall of the regime. A new youth movement, astonished at the speed and size of the protests it organised over social-networking sites, is finding its voice. The crown prince has now called for dialogue. His father, King Hamad, has announced the release of 23 political prisoners, including Ali Abdulemam, a blogger prominent in the youth movement, which the opposition parties had demanded before they would talk. This concession may not be enough. In the past Bahrain’s opposition groups have demanded a democratic constitutional monarchy, knowing that the king is supported strongly by other Gulf rulers. Now, however, three groups have called for revolution, saying the rulers cannot be trusted and dialogue is a trick. Meanwhile, the government is rallying its own noisy supporters.
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