Bahrain protesters gather in capital for third day

Published: February 16, 2011

Bahraini protesters holds signs in Arabic that read, "We will not forget you oh martyrs" (L) and "We demand the release of political prisoners" (R) as they gather in Pearl Square (roundabout) in the capital Manama, on February 16, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

MANAMA: Thousands of Shi’ite demonstrators, inspired by popular revolts that toppled rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, gathered in Bahrain’s capital on Wednesday to mourn for a second protestor killed in clashes this week.

Several hundred gathered at a funeral procession for a man shot dead when police and mourners clashed at an earlier funeral procession on Tuesday.

“We are requesting our rights in a peaceful way,” said Bakr Akil, a 20 year-old university student, wearing a sheet stained with red ink that he said was a symbol of his willingness to sacrifice his life for freedom. “I am optimistic that our big presence will achieve our demands,” Akil said.

Women dressed in black abayas followed the procession with their own chants calling for peace and Bahraini unity.

Elsewhere in central Manama, witnesses say about 2,000 protestors had spent the night in tents at Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout, similar to the number marching on the streets a day earlier. It remains to be seen whether the number would rise or fall during Wednesday.

Some will have to return to work, after a public holiday on Tuesday to mark the Prophet Mohammed’s (pbuh) birthday. Police kept their distance, mostly confining themselves to a nearby dirt lot with dozens of SUV police vehicles.

The ministry of interior announced that all roads were open. The demonstrators from Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority say the ruling Sunni minority shuts them out of housing, healthcare and government jobs.

“The United States is very concerned by recent violence surrounding protests in Bahrain,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said in a statement. “We also call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violence.”

The main Shi’ite opposition bloc Wefaq, which boycotted parliament to protest the clampdown by Sunni security forces, said it would hold talks with the government on Wednesday. Protesters said their main demand was the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has governed the Gulf Arab state since its independence in 1971. An uncle of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, he is thought to own much land and is seen as a symbol of the wealth of the ruling family.

Demographic balance

Activists say they also want the release of political prisoners, which the government has promised, and the creation of a new constitution. Poverty, high unemployment and alleged attempts by the state to grant citizenship to Sunni foreigners to change the demographic balance have intensified discontent among Bahrain’s Shi’ites.

Around half of the tiny island kingdom’s 1.3 million people are Bahraini, the rest being foreign workers. Analysts say large-scale unrest in Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a regional offshore banking centre, could embolden marginalised Shi’ites in nearby Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.

King Hamad expressed his condolences for “the deaths of two of our dear sons” in a televised speech and said a committee would investigate the killings.

Bahrain, in a move appeared aimed at preventing Shi’ite discontent from boiling over, had offered cash payouts of around 1,000 dinars ($2,650) per family in the run-up to this week’s protests.

Reader Comments (8)

  • Ben
    Feb 16, 2011 - 3:45PM

    It is very strange. The unrest in Bahrain is being fanned and fueled by Iran who wants to assume leadership position in the region. It was also a great admirer of Egyptian protesters but it has banned all protests within Iran. What was kosher for Egyptians is now forbidden for Iranians.Recommend

  • Salman
    Feb 16, 2011 - 6:51PM

    what is even more strange is that Saudis keep influencing everything everywhere using their dimes. i mean their influence in islamic world is too much too be absorbed…Recommend

  • Zain
    Feb 17, 2011 - 9:27AM

    I think what the Bahraini’s are doing is absolutely right. With 65% of the population being shia and only 18 seats in Parliament out of 40 it is unfair. I think the majority of the population should have a bigger representation. As far as Iran’s regional dominance goes, I would rather have them then the two faced cowards that are the Saudis. Who use their money to get whatever they want. At least Iran has the guts to stand up to USA and Israel. As far as banning protests go, Saudi is the worst…no religious freedom and protest are punishable by death.

    It is not about Sunni and Shia, its about who is a better representation of the people. Watch Lebanon go to Shia’s aswell. The spark has started against muslim tyrannies, we as muslims should stand against the corrupt and unjust.

    REVOLUTION IN PAKISTAN NOW!!Recommend

  • ahmed
    Feb 17, 2011 - 10:14AM

    Don’t miss the item about a cash payment of 1000 dinars !!! Its a very old method of controlling unrest.
    Things have changed. Methods must change too.
    What people want is fair-play in politics and nation building. Recommend

  • Alick
    Feb 18, 2011 - 4:13AM

    Iran is fuelling these protests. The political leaders in bahrain have big shiite support from iran. As iran wants power in this region so that in future they can start the same in eastern province of saudi arabia. Recommend

  • Meerza
    Feb 18, 2011 - 4:53PM

    Its not Iran who is fueling these protests in Bahrain. Its the western agencies which have sparked the agitations all around the Middle East; We cant take out Bahrain and put blame on Iran; We have to see the the bigger picture, as the entire Gulf seems to be getting restructured after the western governments (especially in US) has been talking about “Democracy” in the Arab countries.

    If you read history you can see how the CIA mobilized all the opponent voices against the Shah of Iran once they realized that he had gotten out of their hands, and was focusing more on the Iranian economic development rather than theirs. What has Iran got out of the revolution? Are they better off today? Certainly not.

    Has the Lawyer movement in Pakistan brought any good to us, our economy? The information that got out from Wikileaks shows that the movement was also funded. Yes they do use the legitimate concerns of the masses, but they do it for their own good.

    Have a look at the economic figures at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EconomyofPakistan and see for yourself what we were doing on roads in 2007-08Recommend

  • Meerza
    Feb 18, 2011 - 6:08PM

    Its not Iran who is fueling these protests in Bahrain. Its the western agencies which have sparked the agitations all around the Middle East; We cant take out Bahrain and put blame on Iran; We have to see the the bigger picture, as the entire Gulf seems to be getting restructured after the western governments (especially in US) has been talking about “Democracy” in the Arab countries.

    If you read history you can see how the CIA mobilized all the opponent voices against the Shah of Iran once they realized that he had gotten out of their hands, and was focusing more on the Iranian economic development rather than theirs. What has Iran got out of the revolution? Are they better off today? Certainly not.

    Has the Lawyer movement in Pakistan brought any good to us, our economy? The information that got out from Wikileaks shows that the movement was also funded. Yes they do use the legitimate concerns of the masses, but they do it for their own good.

    Have a look at the economic figures at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EconomyofPakistan and see for yourself what we were doing on roads in 2007-08Recommend

  • Bahraini Citizen
    Feb 22, 2011 - 3:11AM

    It is Iran helping these disloyal people in Bahrain. Bahrain has done a lot for its people but these minorities want Iran to govern over Bahrain and Iran pays them a lot. Not all Shia of Bahrain are against the government. These protesters have different agenda but they show something else to the media. May Allah open their secrets.Recommend

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