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

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora