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The king, an absolute monarch presiding over a weak parliament, is Sunni Muslim, while most of his subjects are Shiite. Protests have died down for now, but the longer term is uncertain. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Bahrain's capital, Manama.
PETER KENYON: There are signs the government is willing to offer more reforms than it has implemented in the past.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
KENYON: In the audience, a man who gave his name as Hejris - many Bahrainis are still fearful of being identified in the media - said people reject the notion of a sectarian divide here, but there is a division over tactics.
HEJRIS: We cannot say Sunni/Shia. We're all family. I'm not against you. I am actually with you. Your demand is my demand. But there's a way to ask for it. If you're not on the table, how can we talk?
KENYON: Unidentified Woman: We demand the release of all political prisoners.
KENYON: As protesters listened to demands that young Bahrainis would like to put to the government, an academic named Fadel said talking with the royal family hasn't worked in the past, and there's no reason to think it will now.
FADEL: Till now there are no talks. Until the regime change, nobody would like to talk to anybody. (Unintelligible) if they would like to open the dialogue they have to change the government. The regime should go out of Bahrain.
KENYON: A lawmaker from the largest Shiite movement, al-Wefaq, says the opposition needs a sign from the king that real reform is possible. Ibrahim al- Mattar says a key demand remains a constitutional monarchy, with an elected and term-limited prime minister.
IBRAHIM AL: If he just sends a message, a signal, that he's accepting this concept, then we can sit and dialogue with the ruling family about the details - about the roadmap, about the timeframe for the change. We believe that any change will require the time. But what we want to see now, we want to see that there is a will for this move.
KENYON: Salman was at Pearl Circle with his wife and children Thursday morning when riot police moved in, and he says while he deplores violence, the lesson young Bahrainis have learned from Tunisia and Egypt is that protest, pressure and sacrifice are what bring real change.
ALI SALMAN: I just told my friend, the more you give, the more you will get. I'm talking about myself now. The more blood you give, the more rights you will get.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
KENYON: Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Manama.
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