Violence ‘inevitable’ as Bahrain beefs up security ahead of protests

d384bahrain Violence inevitable as Bahrain beefs up security ahead of protests

Unlike in Egypt, where protesters against the recently ousted Muslim Brotherhood government were backed by the military, Bahrain’s security forces remain loyal to the government. Authorities warned they would “forcefully confront” any large demonstrations. Concrete barriers lined major streets in the capital, Manama, and security checkpoints surrounded by barbed wire guarded roads leading to the city from majority Shiite neighborhoods. Protesters have been urging the Sunni Muslim ruling family to allow democracy. “Based on what we are following in the field, the government violence against protesters is inevitable,” a spokesman for the group organizing the rallies, Hussain Yousif, told AP. “But we need to go ahead and show the world and the government that the Bahraini people have the right to express their political demands,”  he added. While protesters insist they’ll remain peaceful and defiant, there have been attacks in recent weeks around Bahrain, including some from bombs made with natural gas canisters. Citing the fear of violence, the US temporarily closed its embassy in Bahrain on Wednesday after activists called on people to meet nearby. The kingdom is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, and is the Pentagon’s main base to counter Iran’s expanding military presence in the Gulf and protect oil shipping lanes through the Gulf of Hormuz. The protests have been organized by the Tamarod Bahrain campaign, which features several opposition groups and has adopted the name of Egypt’s Tamarod movement. They are expected to stage nonviolent protests in nine areas of the country, with the largest expected in Manama. Wednesday coincides with the 42nd anniversary of Bahrain’s independence from Britain. It also marks 2 1/2 years since the current wave of unrest started. “The government will forcefully confront the suspicious calls to violate law and order and those who stand behind them through decisive measures,” Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa told the official Bahrain News Agency on Monday. Meanwhile, Bahrain’s largest opposition group, the Islamist al Wefaq Society, said it was not planning to join the protesters, but made it clear it supported the right to hold peaceful demonstrations. RT correspondent Lucy Kafanov says that the Bahrain government has dealt with all protests firmly in the country, since the beginning of the Arab Spring. “Bahrain has been rocked by political unrest since 2011. For the past two years the majority Shiite opposition has been pushing for democratic reforms, but those demands have been met with an iron fist,” Kafanov said. The opposition is demanding a constitutional monarchy with a government chosen from within a democratically elected parliament. It claims there is discrimination against majority Shiites in areas such as employment and public services. The government has denied any discrimination. “There have been lots of violations in Bahrain, but unfortunately there’s rarely anything in the Western media regarding all the violations. Torture is a daily act,” Jalal Fairooz, former opposition MP from the Wefaq Party, told RT. “Over the past week three major human groups, including Amnesty International, have issued a very strong urging for the UK government and other foreign governments to stop supporting the dictator and try to enforce respect of human rights,” Fairooz said. “But unfortunately the money and petrodollars talk louder than principles in the West.” While there is no clear epicenter of revolt in Bahrain’s uprising history, like Egypt’s Tahrir Square, the capital’s Pearl Square was cleared by police raids and sealed off from the public in the early weeks of the unrest. The organizers of the nationwide protests have called instead on Bahrain residents to flood the streets. The Tamarod campaign leaders have urged workers to join in a general strike and for shop owners to close their businesses. The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called on workers and business owners to ignore the protests. Clashes have calmed down in recent months after the ruling family introduced some reforms, including giving the elected parliament more oversight powers and promising deeper investigations into alleged abuses by security forces. Many Shiites have dismissed the reforms as window dressing, however, saying that the monarchy is still in control of all key decision-making. Bahrain’s parliament has passed strict new laws to curb opposition activists, including banning protests in the capital and giving authorities the right to remove citizenship from those convicted of violence. Courts also have jailed prominent opposition figures and others, including some with alleged links to Iranian-backed groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.  Bahrain and other Gulf states claim that Iran, a majority Shiite country, has a hand in the protests. Iran denies the claim. Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa office, said Bahrain should allow the protests to take place. “The fact that some protesters perpetrate acts of violence in some demonstrations does not justify a blanket ban on demonstrations and protests in the capital city,” Stork said. “Bahrain’s total ban on protests clearly violates the right of citizens and residents to come together to raise political demands peacefully.”


Violence ‘inevitable’ as Bahrain beefs up security ahead of protests

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