News / Middle East

    Bahrain Protest Attracts Tens of Thousands

    Tens of thousands of Bahraini pro-democracy protesters wave signs and national flags during a march along a divided four-lane highway near Barbar, Bahrain, west of the capital of Manama, Feb. 15, 2014.
    Tens of thousands of Bahraini pro-democracy protesters wave signs and national flags during a march along a divided four-lane highway near Barbar, Bahrain, west of the capital of Manama, Feb. 15, 2014.
    Reuters
    Tens of thousands of Bahrainis joined a peaceful demonstration on Saturday to mark the third anniversary of an abortive pro-democracy uprising led by majority Shi'ite Muslims.

    The rally organized by the kingdom's main opposition al-Wefaq movement was one of the biggest staged since 2011.

    Vast crowds of men, women and children took to the streets of the small Gulf Arab nation calling for democracy, political reform and the release of political prisoners, witnesses said.

    "We will not stop until we achieve our demands," protesters shouted. "Shi'ites and Sunnis, we all love this country."

    Police could not be seen at the rally on Budaiya Highway, which links Bahrain's southern Budaiya region with the capital Manama, witnesses said. No clashes were reported.

    The Interior Ministry said a policeman had died after being wounded by a "terrorist" blast on Friday. Three other policemenwere wounded the same day, while 26 people had been arrested.

    "Some villages saw rioting, vandalism and the targeting of policemen," the ministry said, referring to Friday's unrest.

    Bahrain, with Saudi help, crushed the demonstrations that began on Feb. 14, 2011 inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere, but has yet to resolve the conflict between majority Shi'ites and the Sunni-led monarchy they accuse of oppressing them.

    The ruling family has launched a third round of dialogue with its opponents, but no political agreement is in sight.

    The Bahraini authorities, along with their Saudi backers, view Shi'ite demands for political reform as Iranian-inspired subversion. Their handling of the unrest has embarrassed the United States, which has had to balance its support for an ally that hosts its Fifth Fleet against human rights concerns.

    "Three years since the start of the protests, we have seen no peace," said a 34-year-old clerk in Saar village who gave his name only as Abu Ali. "Every day...youngsters go out and burn tires on the roads and the police attack them with teargas."

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was concerned about reports of clashes between demonstrators and security forces on Friday, and urged the authorities to act in strict accordance with their international human rights obligations.

    "Unprovoked attacks"

    In response, the Interior Ministry said the constitution guaranteed the right to peaceful protest and assembly and that numerous peaceful rallies and protests had taken place in the past week without police interference, but added: "Over the past two days there have been a series of unprovoked attacks on police by groups who use urban guerrilla warfare tactics. This includes the use of deadly homemade weapons and the detonation of two bombs... When they use force it is done in a proportionate and necessary manner."

    Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a relative moderate in the Sunni al-Khalifa family that has ruled Bahrain for more than 200 years, stepped in last month to try to revive a dialogue that the opposition had boycotted for four months.

    Royal Court Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa has since met opposition leaders and other figures, but formal talks have yet to resume and the two sides still seem far apart.

    The opposition had boycotted the talks after the government investigated at least two of its leaders on incitement charges.

    Concern is rising that young Shi'ites will resort more and more to violent militancy if mainstream opposition leaders fail to advance a political settlement that would give Shi'ites a bigger say in government and improve living conditions.

    A tiny Gulf archipelago of 1.7 million people, Bahrain has been in turmoil since the original revolt. The government says it has implemented some reforms recommended by international investigators and that it is willing to discuss further demands.

    Shi'ites want wider-ranging democratization, entailing Cabinets chosen by an elected parliament rather than appointed exclusively by the king. They also call for an end to alleged discrimination in jobs, housing and other benefits. The government denies any policy of marginalizing Shi'ites.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.