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Bahrain's Controversial Political Associations Law


King Hamad ratified a controversial law for political associations in August despite vehement opposition from Bahrain's political societies. The new law stipulates that associations can be formed as long as they are not based on class, profession, or religion and raises the minimum age of society members from eighteen to twenty-one. It also imposes restrictions on foreign funding and requires all existing political societies to re-register with the Ministry of Justice by November 2, 2005. Political associations have been protesting the law since it was passed by parliament in July and established a coalition to push for amendments. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is urging all societies to defy the law and continue their activities without re-applying for a license. Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain's largest political society, is witnessing a split in its ranks over whether to comply with the law or reject it, and will decide by a general assembly vote in October. Political groups operate in Bahrain as associations due to a continued ban on political parties.



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