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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid