Politics & Policy

Two Dead, Crowds Galvanized, in Bahrain

Bahrain is now witnessing the largest demonstrations in the island kingdom’s history. 

On Monday, one protester was killed by police, leading to outrage and more demonstrations. Here is the Times report:

 

Protesters waved flags and chanted “peaceful” under the square’s towering monument as a police helicopter hovered overhead. Hundreds of protesters also massed on a nearby bridge overpass.

While festive, the atmosphere among protesters, who passed out sandwiches and talked about creating their own version of Egypt’s Tahrir Square, was cut through with a sense of foreboding as dozens of police cars could be seen gathering nearby. The police blocked protesters from the square on Monday.

Protesters on Tuesday chanted: “We’re not Sunni. We’re not Shiite. We just want to be free.”

Hours before, protesters clashed with the police and a second demonstrator was killed by gunfire, spurring the largest Shiite bloc to suspend its participation in the country’s Parliament.

The events came after thousands of mourners gathered for the funeral of the Shiite protester shot to death during what was called a Day of Rage protest on Monday, modeled on outbursts of discontent that have toppled autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt since mid-January and spread on Monday to Iran.

With only about a million residents, half of them foreign workers, Bahrain has long been among the most politically volatile countries in the region. The principal tension is between the royal family under King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the ruling elites, who are mostly Sunnis, on one side, and the approximately 70 percent of the population that is Shiite, on the other.

But protesters young and old called for a new Constitution and democratic changes to allow for a more effective representative Parliament and government. King Hamad has been promising to open up the political system for a decade, but progress has been slow.

As protests widened around the region for a fifth day after the revolution in Egypt, the king made a rare television appearance in which he offered condolences on the protesters’ deaths and said the process of change in the kingdom “will not stop,” according to the official Bahrain News Agency.

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