Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bahrain protests

Bahrain’s government continued to face demonstrations and political unrest as the majority Shiite community campaigns for a more equitable constitution. The US was forced to reduce the number of navy and other military personnel stationed in Manama. The hard line Sunni monarchy accuses its Arab Shiites of being cat’s paws of Iran, but this is a red herring. The regime has resorted to the most despicable arbitrary arrests, absurd charges, punishments for thought crimes, and torture. The US has not done enough to condemn this situation or dissociate itself from the monarchy.

Juan Cole

The US State Department took the unusual step this week of warning the Bahrain government that the country could break apart if the monarchy went on with its heavy-handed repression of protesters. The Shiite majority in Bahrain wants constitutional reform and a greater say in governing, whereas the Sunni monarchy insists on something close to absolute monarchy and Sunni dominance. (There is a show parliament, but the king can overrule it and the Shiites have never had a majority even in the elected lower house, because of regime gerrymandering).

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Bahraini police fired tear gas and stun bombs to break up protests overnight in Shiite-populated villages around Manama, leading to arrests and injuries, witnesses said on Saturday.

The protesters took to the streets in response to a call by the February 14 Youth Coalition for rallies against a blockage imposed on the Shiite locality of Mahazza, near the capital, since November 7.

"The blockade will not make us afraid" and "Down with Hamad," chanted the protesters, in reference to King Hamad.

The protesters, some of whom wore masks, waved the Bahraini flag and pictures of prisoners.

Police responded by firing tear gas, sound bombs and buck shot, injuring some of the protesters, according to the witnesses who did not specify the number of casualties.

People injured at anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain avoid going to hospital for fear of being arrested.

In the latest clashes, police detained several demonstrators, and the skirmishes continued until dawn on Saturday, according to the witnesses.

Demonstrations have shaken Bahrain since its security forces crushed a Shiite-led uprising against the ruling Sunni regime in March last year.

The United States last week expressed concern about rising violence in Bahrain, one year after an inquiry report was issued on the violence, saying the country needed to put more of its recommendations into effect.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

A heavy police presence is preventing people marking the first anniversary of pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain's capital, Manama.

Opposition activists have called on protesters to march on the site of the now-demolished Pearl Roundabout - the focus of last year's unrest.

A BBC correspondent says the area is quiet, but that in outlying villages there have been violent clashes.

Police have been firing rubber bullets and tear gas at stone-throwing youths.

Most of the demonstrators are from the Gulf kingdom's Shia Muslim majority, which has long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Sunni royal family, the Al Khalifa, and wants democratic reforms.

The BBC's Bill Law, who is in Manama, says the centre of the capital remains quiet, with no sign of the mass protest called by the opposition a year on from the peaceful takeover of Pearl Roundabout.

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