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

10 Migrants Drown, While 4,100 Rescued off Libyan Coast

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudi-led Airstrikes Use Banned Cluster Bombs

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen More

Hopes Fade of Finding Survivors of Nepal Earthquake

US military aircraft, heavy equipment and air traffic controllers arrive in Nepal to help manage growing piles of relief supplies clogging Kathmandu airport More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs