Bahrain police disperse protests
Dubai - Bahraini police dispersed protesters who made several attempts on Tuesday
to mark the anniversary of last year's uprising by marching to the site of the
protest that was brutally crushed, witnesses said.
Several protests took off from Shi'ite villages on the outskirts of Manama,
with youth trying to reach the capital's former Pearl Square, where democracy
demonstrators camped for a month last year before being forcefully driven out.
Protesters marched from Sanabis, Deih and Jidhafs, which lie few kilometres west
of Manama, despite police warning that protests would be dispersed, witnesses
"Down with [King] Hamad!" they chanted, referring to the Sunni
monarch whose Al-Khalifa has ruled the Shi'ite-majority Gulf kingdom since the
The Coalition of the Youth of February 14th Revolution, a hardline group
that operates apart from the political opposition led by Al-Wefaq, declared on Tuesday
the day to return to the square that was razed after the mid-March crackdown.
"All of us are returning" to the square, read a call for protest
posted on its Facebook page.
The coalition posted footage of youth dressed in white Islamic death shrouds
running through some alleys claiming they were heading to the square that is
heavily protected by security forces.
It also posted a picture of women dressed in traditional black abayas
(cloaks) standing close to the square flashing the victory sign.
On Tuesday, Al-Wefaq accused security forces of waging a campaign of arrests
against people who took part in protests.
It said 13 people were detained, including female activist Maasouma
al-Sayyed, who is reported to have reached the square area.
It said police raided Shi'ite villages where many houses were hit by tear
gas canisters, and that several arrests took place overnight.
Activists have called for demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday at the
But the Al-Wefaq-led alliance of opposition groups said on Monday following
a large protest organised outside Manama that although Pearl Square has "become
a symbol" for protest, it is not the only one, clearly distancing itself
from the call to return.
"All squares and streets of the country are sites that we use to renew
our vows to press ahead in our struggle to achieve our demands," including
a powerful parliament, representative government and redrawn "fair"
electoral constituencies, it said.
Bahraini security forces, boosted by Gulf troops that rolled in from
neighbouring Saudi Arabia, quelled the month-long protest that appeared to take
a cue from Arab Spring uprisings.
Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who has been holding daily protests in
Manama with a group of activists, called for another march to Pearl Square.
"Let's drive at 15:30 towards the square, step out of cars and run to
the [Pearl] roundabout," he wrote on his twitter account.
Leading Wefaq activist and former MP Matar Matar said security measures
taken by authorities to prevent demonstrations amount to an "undeclared
state of emergency".
King Hamad called for "cohesion" among Bahrainis in a statement
released on Monday to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the referendum on the
charter that revived the parliament after it was dissolved in 1975.
"Lets begin a new phase of serious and sincere action aimed to achieve
what is good for our homeland and its people," he said, as the Sunni-Shi'ite
rift has grown deeper in the tiny nation.
The death toll from last year's unrest was 35, including five security
personnel and five detainees tortured to death while in custody, an international
probe found last November.
But Amnesty International said "at least a further 20 have died
since" in protests because of the continued use of excessive force by