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article imagePolice clash with protesters in Bahrain

By Ken Hanly     Feb 13, 2014 in Politics
Manama - Opposition protesters clashed with police in Bahrain on the first of three days of protest that will end on Saturday February 15. The demonstrations mark the third anniversary of anti-government protests in Bahrain during the Arab Spring.
The opposition is demanding that King Khalifa and his ruling family give up their iron grip on power in favor of a constitutional monarchy and an elected government. The monarch controls all key cabinet posts now. The opposition is mainly from the majority Shia population, whereas the ruling Khalifa family is from the majority Sunni. The monarchy blames the protests on Iran, which supports the demands of the protesters. The protests are often lead by the main Shiite opposition party Al-Wefaq that has boycotted parliament since the 2011 uprising and have been demanding democratic reforms.
Protests are banned in the capital Manama but there have been continued protests in Shia villages surrounding Manama. The villagers have set up makeshift roadblocks often of burning tires. Some protesters chanted "Down with Hamad" referring to the king and "Only to Allah we kneel." The Interior Ministry said that it had "confronted groups of vandals and cleared blocked roads."
On Friday the February 14th youth coalition is calling on supporters to storm Pearl Square where in March 2011 demonstrators had camped for a month before being dispersed with the help of Saudi-backed troops sent in to help put down the demonstrations. The central monument and roundabout were later destroyed by the regime as a symbol of the uprising. The area is still heavily restricted. In the three years since the start of the protests at least 89 have been killed according to the International Federation of Human Rights. There have been two unsuccessful rounds of reconciliation talks.
Amnesty International feared that Bahraini authorities would use violence to stop the demonstrations. Said Boumedouha who is Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa said: “The authorities’ relentless repression of dissent continues unabated – with security forces repeatedly using excessive force to quash anti-government protests, Scores of people, including dozens of children have been detained for participating in peaceful protests over the last year. Many of them alleged that they were tortured in detention. Protesters must be allowed to take part in peaceful demonstrations without the fear of reprisal or attack”.
The Bahraini government itself set up an Independent Commission of Inquiry in 2011 that came out with a very critical report on government actions : The report confirmed the Bahraini government's use of systematic torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse on detainees, as well as other human rights violations.[4](p298) It also rejected the government's claims that the protests were instigated by Shi'a Iran. The Bahraini government has yet to act on key recommendations. As Boumedouha remarked: “The authorities are losing credibility. Repeated promises of reform have been broken. Until concrete steps are taken to show they are serious about respecting its international obligations, it is unlikely Bahrain will make genuine progress on human rights”. The U.S. fifth fleet is stationed in Bahrain. The U.S. still provides aid for Bahrain in spite of its dismal human rights record.
More about protests in Bahrain, King Khalifa, Al Wefaq party
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