News / Middle East

Bahrain Defends Crackdown on Anti-Government Protesters

A Bahraini anti-government demonstrator lies injured on a stretcher as Bahraini anti-government demonstrators take him to hospital in Manama, Bahrain, early Thursday morning, Feb. 17, 2011
A Bahraini anti-government demonstrator lies injured on a stretcher as Bahraini anti-government demonstrators take him to hospital in Manama, Bahrain, early Thursday morning, Feb. 17, 2011

Bahrain's foreign minister has defended a security force crackdown on anti-government demonstrators who had camped out in a main square in the capital.

In a Thursday press briefing, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Khalifa said the protest in Manama's Pearl Square was a rebellion against the government and the nation.  He added  that security forces asked the demonstrators to leave before they moved into the square in a pre-dawn raid on Thursday.

Western news reports quote the country's health minister as saying three people were killed and 231 wounded in the police operation to clear square.  There are reports that many protesters are missing.

International concern

In a Thursday news conference, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the reports from Bahrain were "deeply troubling."  He said violence should not be used on peaceful demonstrators.  

Meanwhile, U.S. officials say Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the foreign minister and expressed "deep concern" about the crackdown.   Also, the Pentagon says U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates phoned Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa Thursday to discuss the country's security situation.

Earlier this week, protesters demanding sweeping political change had set up camp in Pearl Square.  On Thursday, security forces firing tear gas, percussion grenades and rubber bullets moved into the square before dawn against the mostly Shi'ite demonstrators.  

Opposition demands

Meanwhile, news reports quote Ali Salman leader of al-Wefaq, the country's leading Shi'ite opposition group, as saying opposition groups are demanding the government's resignation.  Earlier Thursday, al-Wefaq lawmakers said they plan to quit parliament in protest.  The group's 18 deputies in the 40-member legislature had already vowed not to return to parliament until King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa agreed to transform the nation into a constitutional democracy with an elected government.

On Wednesday, security forces stayed back as tens of thousands of Bahrainis gathered, dramatically expanding the protests. By nightfall, a massive, jubilant crowd had swelled in Pearl Square. Earlier, hundreds had joined a procession to mourn one of two demonstrators killed since Monday.

The Khalifa family, which has ruled Bahrain since the 18th century, is Sunni Muslim and has long had tense relations with the country's Shi'ite majority, about 70 percent of the population.

In 2001, voters overwhelmingly approved a national charter to lead the way toward democratic changes. But a year later, the king imposed a constitution by decree that Shi'ite leaders say has diluted the rights in the charter and blocked them from achieving a majority in the parliament.

Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet and also is a regional offshore banking center.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs