Uprising anniversary alarms Bahrain rulers
A protester holds a burning Molotov cocktail as he prepares to throw it at police. REUTERS photoBahraini police clashed with protesters yesterday as the kingdom’s security chief warned citizens not to heed calls by activists to mark the first anniversary of a Shiite-led uprising today.
Police fired tear gas and sound grenades at hundreds of demonstrators in what some described as “violent” clashes in Shiite neighborhoods that lasted throughout the night Feb. 12 and into yesterday morning and afternoon, the witnesses said.
Meanwhile, public security chief Major General Tariq al-Hassan cautioned Bahrainis “not to respond to the inciting calls on (online) social networks to demonstrate,” in a statement published on the official BNA news agency early yesterday.
Hassan warned that security forces would not hesitate to respond to “those that want to take advantage ... to carry out unlawful, irresponsible acts that threaten public order.” He said the government “will prevent” such actions, but also appealed to citizens not to “escalate tensions.”
Bahrainis, mostly from the Shi’ite Muslim majority, initially took to the streets last February, inspired by uprisings in other Arab states, but the government imposed martial law and stamped out the unrest the following month with the help of Saudi troops. Demonstrations began again after the emergency law was lifted in June and are escalating before the anniversary of the 2011 protests. The ruling Al Khalifa family accuses Iran of fomenting the uprising. Tehran denies playing a role, and Bahrain’s Shi’ite groups deny they receive support from abroad.
In an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, the king accused his opponents of chanting in support of Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran’s 1979 revolution. “It’s just a case of manners. But when they shout ‘Down with the king and up with Khomeini’ that’s a problem for national unity,” the magazine quoted Hamad as saying in extracts of the interview, the rest of which would be published yesterday.