News / Middle East

Anti-Government Protests Continue in Bahrain

Protesters at the Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain, February 15, 2011
Protesters at the Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain, February 15, 2011

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Opposition supporters in Bahrain have held protests for a third straight day, calling for more rights and for the prime minister to step down.

Wednesday’s demonstrations passed without incident, in contrast to earlier in the week when two people were killed during crackdowns by riot police.

Bahrain’s interior minister said those involved in the killings have been arrested.

In a television address on Tuesday, King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa vowed to investigate the deaths.

Some demonstrators are calling for the ouster of the king, while all are demanding the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has been in power for nearly 40 years.

Protesters also want a new constitution, more representation in parliament, more jobs and housing and for political prisoners to be released.

Most of the people participating in Bahrain’s demonstrations have been Shi’ite Muslims, who represent about 70 percent of the country’s population, but say they are treated like second-class citizens by the ruling Sunni minority.

A Bahraini national who only wanted to be known as S.Y. says many Bahrainis are aggravated by the division of wealth in the country.

"This divide that we have between the people that live in the villages and the people who live in these villas, these beautiful villas, and work in banks and studied in England and America, this has got to stop," said S.Y. "This has got to end. We are a quarter of a million people and you don’t know what’s happening down the road from you. It’s absolutely disgusting."

Bahrain is one of several Middle Eastern nations experiencing unrest in the wake of the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Director of Research and Development at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, Theodore Karasik, says it is impossible to predict when the regional tensions will begin to ease.

"I liken this to a tsunami sweeping the region and it is of historical proportions," said Karasik. "I don’t think it is going to go away anytime soon. And as Egypt progresses in the coming weeks and months, that will have reverberations across the region too. We’re in a new order now."

Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, and Washington has expressed concern over the recent violence in the Gulf kingdom.

A U.S. State Department spokesman urged Bahraini authorities to follow through on promises to investigate the two killings as soon as possible.

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