Politics & Policy

Bahrain’s Uprising

The most serious middle-eastern imitation of the Egyptian protesters seems to be happening in Bahrain. The Times reports:


Hours after thousands of protesters poured into this nation’s symbolic center, Pearl Square, hundreds of people carried pro-democracy protests into a third straight day on Wednesday, joining a procession to mourn a demonstrator killed in a clash with security forces.

Emulating the occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square that helped toppled Hosni Mubarak as president, news reports said, around 2,000 people camped out at the major road junction in the city center demanding a change in the government of this strategically placed Persian Gulf kingdom that is home to the United States Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The police massed nearby but did not intervene, apparently anxious to avoid further violent confrontation like the one on Tuesday in which Fadel Matrouq, a demonstrator, was killed, propelling a further day of protest centered on his funeral. He was the second person to be killed in confrontations with the authorities since Monday.

The renewed unrest was the latest in a wave of dissent spreading from the shores of the Gulf as far west as the Mediterranean coastline of Libya where, for the first time, demonstrations were reported to have broken out overnight in the second city of Benghazi. Police reinforcements also took to the streets of Sana, the Yemeni capital, as hundreds of demonstrators for and against the pro-American government massed for a sixth consecutive day. And there were reports of fresh clashes in Iran between government forces and protesters at the funeral of a demonstrator killed on Monday.

Late on Tuesday in Bahrain, protesters entered Pearl Square in a raucous rally that again demonstrated the power of popular movements that are transforming the political landscape of the Middle East.

In a matter of hours on Tuesday, this small monarchy experienced the now familiar sequence of events that has rocked the Arab world. What started as an online call for a “Day of Rage” progressed within 24 hours to an exuberant group of demonstrators, cheering, waving flags, setting up tents and taking over the grassy traffic circle beneath the towering monument of a pearl in the heart of Manama, the capital.

The crowd grew bolder as it grew larger, and as in Tunisia and Egypt, modest concessions from the government only raised expectations among the protesters, who by day’s end were talking about tearing the whole system down, monarchy and all.

Then as momentum built up behind the protests on Tuesday, the 18 members of Parliament from the Islamic National Accord Association, the traditional opposition, announced that they were suspending participation in the legislature.

The mood of exhilaration stood in marked contrast to a day that began in sorrow and violence, when mourners who had gathered to bury a young man killed by the police the night before clashed again with the security forces.

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