Bahrain Shiites mark anniversary of unrest
Protestors clash with Bahraini police in the outskirts of capital Manama. AFP photoArmored vehicles patrolled Bahrain’s capital in a security clampdown yesterday to deter protesters from retaking Pearl Square, the city’s central roundabout that had served as the epicenter of weeks of anti-government protests last year, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts.
Youths flung volleys of petrol bombs at police cars during pre-dawn skirmishes, prompting authorities to impose a massive police presence in Shi’ite Muslim villages ringing Manama, with helicopters buzzing overhead, according to Reuters. No serious injuries were reported.
Shiites account for about 70 percent of Bahrain’s population of some 525,000 people, but say they have faced decades of discrimination and are blocked from top political and security posts. The kingdom’s Sunni rulers have promised reforms, although they refused to make the far-reaching changes the protesters and the main Shiite group, Al-Wefaq, have demanded. The government accused Al-Wefaq of turning what would have been a peaceful march Feb. 13 into a riot. Al-Wefaq rejected the claim, and said yesterday that the “unfounded accusations” are part of the rulers’ efforts to discredit the group that has led the protests during last year’s uprising, the Associated Press reported.
Bahrain lifted emergency rule in June and the Sunni rulers made token concessions ahead of the U.S.-supported reconciliation talks between the monarchy and the opposition. The so-called national dialogue began in July, but Al-Wefaq delegates pulled out of the talks, saying the government was not willing to discuss political reform. At least 40 people were killed during months of unprecedented political unrest. Neighboring Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf states dispatched troops to Bahrain in March to help crush the protests.