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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.