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Bahrain, One Year Later: One Month Of Protest, 11 Months Of Crackdown
February 13, 2012
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One year ago, on February 14, 2011, protesters gathered in Pearl Roundabout in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. Taking inspiration from the popular revolts then happening in Tunisia and Egypt, hundreds of marchers gathered to demand democratic reform, and were eventually joined by hundreds of thousands for nightly rallies at the roundabout. Many were from the Shiite Muslim majority, demanding better representation and more accountability from the kingdom's all-powerful ruling Sunni Al Khalifa family and the Sunni-led government.

A year later, the roundabout is cordoned off by barbed wire and surrounded by security forces. Police raids began on the site within days of the 2011 protests, and within a month a full crackdown was in effect, aided by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Dozens were killed and many more imprisoned. Doctors and nurses who treated wounded protesters were eventually charged and convicted for "incitement to overthrow the regime."

Today, ahead of the anniversary, protesters tried to retake the Pearl Roundabout, prompting clashes between demonstrators and riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to protect the site. The protesters broke off from a sanctioned demonstration march led by the leading Shiite opposition group.

Authorities are calling for Bahrainis to avoid public demonstrations to commemorate tomorrow's anniversary for fear of escalating violence.

Unlike many of the other uprisings from last year's Arab Spring, Bahrain's protests were quickly shut down. The Sunni-led government has made some democratic reforms, but these are still far from meeting many opposition demands. Bahrain's population is majority Shiite, but the ruling family is from the Sunni House of Al Khalifa, and most senior government posts are also held by Sunnis - although the government has recently announced the appointment of more senior-level Shiites.

The situation in Bahrainis complicated, at least in a geopolitical sense: Neighbouring Saudi Arabia, a powerful and wealthy Sunni kingdom, wants to contain the rise of Shia-led Iran, and does not want to see an allied Sunni monarchy fall. (Saudi Arabia has also had issues with its own unhappy Shiite population.) Bahrain also hosts the Fifth Fleet, which is one of the United States' main strategic military positions to contain Iranian power.

Amnesty International has released the following video to mark the one-year anniversary of Bahrain's aborted uprising. It features interviews with Bahraini poet Aya al-Qarmezi and Doctors Zahra al-Sammak and Ghassan Dhaif.

For updates on what's happening on the ground in Bahrain, you can follow some of the more prominent demonstrators on Twitter:

Maryam Alkhawaja is the head of the Foreign Relations office for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights @MARYAMALKHAWAJA

Nabeel Rajab is the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and an advisory member of Human Rights Watch @NABEELRAJAB

@angryarabiya
is another prominent human rights activist providing regular updates from uprising.

Related Stories on Strombo.com:

Bahrain Medical Workers Sentenced

Crackdown in Bahrain

Links:

Reuters

Voice of America


Financial Times


Agence France-Presse


Amnesty International

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