Bahrain forces quash protests

Small protests broke out in Bahrain's capital for a planned "Day of Rage" today despite a ban under martial law imposed last week, but were quickly crushed by security forces fanned out across Manama.





Helicopters buzzing overhead, extra checkpoints erected on major highways and a large troop presence prevented any major demonstration from kicking off in the small Gulf Arab island kingdom, where a security crackdown last week quelled a month of protests by the mostly Shi'ite Muslim demonstrators.



Bahrain has great strategic importance because it hosts the US 5th Fleet, facing non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran across the Gulf, and is situated off-shore from Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.



Confronted by mass protests demanding constitutional reform, Bahrain's ruling Al Khalifa family, from the minority Sunni population, declared security their priority, called in troops from neighbouring Sunni-led Gulf states and imposed martial law.



But a few hundred protesters managed a short rally in the Shi'ite village of Diraz today, shouting "down with the regime" as women swathed in black waved Bahraini flags and held up copies of the Koran. But they fled when when around 100 riot police fired tear gas and tried to chase them down.



In the village of al-Dair, police fired rounds of tear gas to disperse around 100 protesters who had marched toward a main road next to a runway at Bahrain International Airport.



Residents in nearby streets rushed women and children into their house as police continued to loose tear gas. They said police had also fired birdshot ammunition at protesters.



"After so many deaths, so many sacrifices, we will continue to protest. We just want a new constitution but they're not prepared for democracy," one resident said anonymously.



More than 60 per cent of Bahrainis are Shi'ites and most are demanding a constitutional monarchy. But calls by hardliners for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed Sunnis, who fear the unrest helps Iran on the other side of the Gulf.







In signs of rising tensions in the oil-producing region, Bahrain's government has responded sharply to any signs of what it considers to be interference over its crackdown.



Bahrain expelled diplomats from Iran, just across Gulf waters, when it criticised the clampdown last week. Its foreign minister has formally complained to the Lebanese government over expressions of support from the Shi'ite movement Hezbollah.



Bahrain's social development minister accused demonstrators today of harbouring a "foreign agenda", but stopped short of blaming Iran. "We found out that those people who were doing it were instigated by a foreign country and by Hezbollah," Fatima al Beloushi told a news conference in Geneva.



"We have direct proof. Hezbollah has provided training for their people. They were serving a foreign agenda and that is why it was not something for having a better livelihood," she said.



Internet activists and Shi'ite villages tried to organise marches in different parts of Bahrain on Friday, dubbed the "Day of Rage". But Wefaq, the mainstream Shi'ite opposition movement which draws tens of thousands when it calls protests, distanced itself from the demonstrations.



"Wefaq affirms the need to protect safety and lives and not to give the killers the opportunity to shed blood," it said.



So far the largest crowds today were at the sermon of a top Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Issa Qassim. Thousands gathered but did not seek to protest after prayers.



A funeral in the Shi'ite suburb Balad al-Qadim also drew thousands, with crowds carrying Bahraini flags and pumping their fists. They shouted: "Down, down (King) Hamad" and "the people want the fall of the regime."



Bahrain has banned all marches. But security forces have not broken up the funeral processions of civilians killed in the crackdown - most of which turn into anti-government rallies.



Hani Abdulaziz, 33, died after being hit by rounds of bird shot fired by police near his home. His neighbours said he was left to bleed for an hour after he took shelter in a building.



"People have gotten to the stage where they don't want dialogue, they want these people out," said Zahra, a woman from Abdulaziz's village.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

The Grange Retirement Home: Full Time Care Team Manager

£22,400: The Grange Retirement Home: This is a key role which requires a sound...

Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

£23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada