News / Middle East

Bahrain Outlaws Public Gatherings

Protesters and shoppers run for cover from a sound grenade thrown by riot police to disperse protesters, during an anti-government protest in the capital Manama, October 26, 2012.
Protesters and shoppers run for cover from a sound grenade thrown by riot police to disperse protesters, during an anti-government protest in the capital Manama, October 26, 2012.
Phillip Walter Wellman
As part of its continuing crackdown on dissent, Bahrain this week banned public gatherings, saying violence associated with anti-government demonstrations is spiraling out of control.  

Near-nightly clashes between police and opposition demonstrators have led to several recent deaths, prompting leaders from both sides of the conflict to express concern.

A policeman was killed and another injured during protests in a village south of the capital, Manama, earlier this month. A 17-year-old died after security forces fired shotgun pellets at him during a demonstration in September.

Salman al-Jalahma, a spokesperson for Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority, says outlawing public gatherings is aimed at protecting everyone in the country.

"This ban is not based on people disagreeing with the government although that’s how it is being perceived by the media," said al-Jalahma. "The ban is because there has been a history of violence at these protests, which has often resulted in loss of lives and injuries to security personnel as well as to the rioters themselves and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage."

Bahrain has seen repeated protests since February 2011 when the nation’s majority Shi’ite Muslims took to the streets to demand political reforms from their Sunni rulers.

Since then, breakaway factions of the opposition have increasingly resorted to more violent tactics, including the frequent use of fire bombs.

Despite the violence, rights groups and opposition supporters condemn Bahrain’s new law on public gatherings, which they insist violates the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Matar Matar, a spokesperson for the country’s main opposition party Al-Wefaq, says suppression could have dangerous implications.
 
"Banning the peaceful gatherings, we feel that it will have a negative impact on the level of violence in Bahrain," said Matar. "We are worried that the level of violence will increase."

Prohibiting demonstrations is the latest effort by the Bahraini government to crack down on unrest.

Authorities jailed a number of activists for organizing and taking part in unlicensed protests earlier in the year. Activists also claim security forces have increased their use of shotgun pellets, a claim the government has neither confirmed nor denied.

The heavy security presence in Bahrain has, so far, been effective in preventing another mass uprising like one last year.

But London School of Economics analyst Kristian Coates Ulrichsen says the opposition’s deep discontent remains a major concern for the government.

"The fact that probably keeps rulers of the Gulf awake at night is these unlawful demonstrations escalating to the point where ruling families could be put at peril and this is why they are trying to act preemptively to ensure that never happens," said Ulrichsen.

Bahrain’s Gulf neighbor Kuwait is also grappling with unrest. Several people were injured there last week when police and demonstrators clashed at a protest over electoral laws. A new rally has been called for November 4.

Analyst Ulrichsen says the regional unrest highlights the difficulties that Gulf countries, especially Bahrain, are facing following widespread democratic uprisings in the Middle East.

"It’s a reminder to the outside world who perhaps had moved on from Bahrain that the trouble is continuing and it’s not likely to be resolved anytime soon," said Ulrichsen.

Authorities in Bahrain say they are unable to predict how long the ban on public gatherings might last.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More