Bahrain bans all protests in new crackdown

Sunni monarchy breaks its pledge to reform and steps up repression of the island's Shia majority

The Bahraini authorities are to intensify repression by banning demonstrations and meetings to ensure public safety and prevent violence, according to the state news agency.

The Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy crushed pro-democracy protests by in the island kingdom's Shia majority last year with Saudi military help, amid allegations of widespread use of torture. There have been street protests and skirmishes since the crackdown, but the government says it will now prevent any kind of protest.

"It has been decided to stop all gatherings and marches and not to allow any activity before being reassured about security and achieving the required stability in order to preserve national unity," the Interior Minister, Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, was quoted as saying. Action would be taken against anyone organising or taking part in demonstrations, he said.

The opposition made it clear that it would continue its protests. Ali al-Aswad, a former MP for the al-Wifaq party, said: "The decision to continue has been taken. This is our right. The government is not willing to talk to the people and, if we stop marches and rallies, we will get nothing for our demands." He doubts that the police will be able to quell protests and fears that the National Guard and army may be called in.

A sign of the deepening confrontation in Bahrain has been the sealing off for almost two weeks of the Shia village of al-Aker, where the authorities say a policeman was killed and another wounded by a homemade bomb. YouTube footage shows men in uniform demolishing a ceremonial gate at the entrance to al-Aker in a move recalling the demolition of Shia mosques and holy places by the authorities last year, allegedly because they did not have planning permission.

The ban on protests will be embarrassing for the US, which has its Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, and also for Britain, which has close links to the island's rulers. It will highlight the silence or muted criticism of both countries over continued repression in Bahrain, in sharp contrast to their outrage over state violence in Syria.

Alistair Burt, Minister for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign Office, said yesterday: "I am concerned that the government of Bahrain has decided to ban all rallies and public gatherings until further notice."

The monarchy in Bahrain responded to international criticism last year by commissioning a report that condemned the Bahraini authorities for using systematic torture, killings and the imprisonment of the innocent, notably hospital doctors. Despite promises of reform, few of the report's recommendations have been implemented and the level of police violence appears to have been rising. There are YouTube videos of police taking parting the looting of a Shia-owned supermarket. In addition, sentences on human rights activists and doctors have been upheld by the courts despite criticism from international human rights organisations.

The opposition fears the authorities may escalate repression because they feel the US and Britain will continue to turn a blind eye. Mr al-Aswad says: "They think their actions are regarded as legitimate by the international community."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are currently looking to rec...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones