Bahrain, which was once seen in the West as one of the most safe and stable of the Gulf states, has become over the past few months an island of fear for many of its Shia citizens.
Here’s why: at least 30 people have died since Bahrain’s Shia majority took to the streets in February.
No More State Of Emergency
But apparently, things are improving. According to the BBC, Bahrain’s king has ordered the state of emergency imposed in mid-March during weeks of protests to be lifted from next month, the state news agency says.
From the BBC:
“The state of national safety is lifted across the kingdom of Bahrain from 1 June,” the agency BNA quoted the king’s decree as saying.
More than 20 activists are charged with attempting to oust the Sunni monarchy.
Emboldened by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrain’s Shias began protesting on 14 February demanding greater freedom and rights.
Some called for the overthrow of the monarchy.
The government imposed martial law and invited troops from Sunni-ruled neighbours such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help quell the unrest.
Bahrain accused Iran of fomenting the unrest — a charge Tehran denied.
Crackdown On Doctors, Bloggers, Opposition Activists
In recent weeks, the government has cracked down on doctors, bloggers and opposition activists — some of whom have simply “disappeared,” according to reports from family, friends and rights groups.
It is difficult to verify the reports, as journalists are not being allowed to report freely from the tiny Gulf kingdom that has been shaken by a wave of pro-democracy protests since mid-February.
At Least 27 People Killed
At least 27 people have been killed in clashes with security forces, and the protesters’ makeshift camp at Pearl Roundabout has been razed to the ground. The Ministry of Interior says that four police officers have also died in the disturbances.
From the BBC:
Joe Stork of the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the apparent police beatings featured in the latest pictures as “extremely disturbing”.
“Bahrain is now a state where the police are acting with complete impunity. There is no accountability, not even an effort to cover up what is going on,” said Mr Stork, HRW’s Middle East and Bahraini expert.
Bahrain Has A Majority Shia Muslim Population
Bahrain is a country with a majority Shia Muslim population ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family.
According to activists, the government has discriminated against Shia for years: Shia villages are impoverished, housing is inadequate, schools are often dilapidated and unemployment is rampant.
Again from the BBC:
Activists who had been released by royal decree in the early days of the protest have either been re-arrested or gone into hiding. Six doctors who treated injured protesters are among the imprisoned.
And in a bizarre twist, photos of popular athletes — showing them at Pearl Roundabout supporting the call for democracy in February — were carried on state television.
The athletes were then called live to recant. “They grovel and say they are ready to die for the king,” said one journalist who cannot be named. “It is excruciating to watch.”
Let’s hope all this will improve when the state of emergency is lifted on June 1.
Photo Credit: justDONQUE via Creative Commons