A year on, violence erupts again at Bahrain flashpoint

Gulf state's military goes in hard to prevent a repeat of clashes that marked start of uprising

Three months after a report condemned Bahrain's use of "excessive force" in 2011, the Gulf kingdom yesterday deployed armoured vehicles and unprecedented numbers of troops in an effort to prevent a repeat of the lethal clashes.

Heavy military reinforcements were sent to the mainly Shia villages outside the capital Manama to prevent people from gathering in response to a call by the main opposition movement Al Wefaq to mark yesterday's anniversary of the uprising against their Sunni rulers.

At the same time, the government heralded a possible political crackdown on Al Wefaq by saying it would open legal procedures against the party, whom it blamed for the violence which erupted on Monday and early yesterday morning after demonstrators sought to occupy Manama's now heavily guarded Pearl Roundabout, the focal point of weeks of protests last year.

Armoured personnel carriers also patrolled the capital itself in the wake of pre-dawn skirmishes in which youths threw petrol bombs at police cars. The police responded by firing tear gas at around two dozen protesters near Pearl Square, sending canisters bouncing off civilian vehicles. They detained around 30 people, with 6 US citizens reported to be among arrested. Last night, Bahrain's information affairs authority said the six US citizens had been deported "for applying for tourist visas under false pretenses".

In a televised speech on Monday, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa told Bahrainis that he remained committed to a reform process launched ten years ago, adding that it "marked the launch of a development and modernisation process, which is still moving forward to meet the aspirations of our loyal people in all areas." He also said he had pardoned 291 prisoners.

The opposition, however, dismisses the reform process as cosmetic and points out that the released prisoners do not include those detained during last year's revolt, which was eventually suppressed with the help of Saudi forces.

Al Wefaq and other opposition parties, including the secular Waad, which is led by a Sunni politician, want the elected parliament to be able to form governments. Instead they have only been afforded greater scrutiny.

Shias, who account for around 70 percent of Bahrain's population of 525,000, remain angry about what they see as their treatment as second class citizens, denied many state jobs and given less access to good housing than the kingdom's Sunni minority.

Although the US suspended a $53m arms deal until it sees "more progress" on political reform, Bahrain's authorities largely escaped the kind of international censure levelled at other regimes undermined by the Arab spring. Geographically close to Iran, the island kingdom is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.

The authorities have hired US and British police chiefs - including the former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates - to assist in reform in the wake of last November's Commission report, which heavily criticised the handling of the 2011 protests, including the use of torture against detainees. Forty people died during the protests or in detention.

Reuters reported that on Monday, the eve of yesterday's anniversary, hundreds of protesters broke away from an authorised opposition rally to head for the Pearl Roundabout, before police stopped them with tear gas and rubber bullet pellets. Despite calls for restraint by Al Wafeq leader Sheikh Ali Salman, street battles followed with youths throwing petrol  bombs, rocks and iron bars, and chanting slogans supporting Hassan Mushaimaa, the imprisoned Shia leader who is more radical than Al Wefaq.

Meanwhile, the hackers group Anonymous yesterday managed to bring down the website of Combined Systems Inc, the Pennsylvania-based company which exports crowd control equipment, including allegedly the tear gas used by the Bahraini authorities. The group posted a message saying CSI sold "mad chemical weapons to militaries and cop shops around the world."

Britain has sold weapons worth £1m to Kingdom

Britain sold more than £1m of military equipment to Bahrain last summer while the armed crackdown on protesters was still continuing. Figures released by the Government show that artillery, naval guns and rifles were amongst the weapons approved for export.

It adds to an awkward week for Britain's relationship with the kingdom. On Monday the former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates, now serving as an adviser on police reform in Bahrain, said the crowd-control tactic of "kettling" would "work really well" there.

Suggested Topics
News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits