BAHRAIN: Clashes mark "day of rage" as opposition, youth movements unite to press reforms
Scattered clashes between Bahraini security forces and protesters were reported Sunday night and Monday amid a nationwide "day of rage" against corruption and political oppression inspired by the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Video and pictures posted online Monday showed protesters in Nuwaydrat, a poor town on the island of Sitra, being dispersed with tear gas as helicopters hover overhead. The past six months have seen increased tension between the government, ruled by the Sunni Khalifa family, and Bahrain's Shia majority, which complains of discrimination and persecution under the current regime.
Several people were injured on Sunday night in the town of Karzkan when a wedding party turned into a spontaneous political march. In video posted online immediately after, government forces can be seen firing into the crowd. Authorities have denied using live rounds.
The incident,which garnered international and regional media attention, helped galvanized protests planned for monday organized by opposition and youth groups.
According to a statement posted on Facebook by the Bahrain Youth for Freedom, the protesters are demanding a new constitution written by the people, the establishment of an independent body to investigate authorities and hold them accountable for corruption and torture.
" We have been suffering the ills of corruption and brutal oppression on all levels for far too long established under an irresponsible and unaccountable regime," the statement read. "Our demands and objectives are positive, our means are peaceful, and is not stained with sectarianism and divide that the regime has promoted for decades. There is no difference between Sunni and Shia, rich or poor, between Bahrani, Ajami, Houli or Tribes – we are Bahrain....Yes to unity, yes to change, yes to human dignity, yes to our demands and rights!"
In a statement Monday, Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa did not refer specifically to the protests, but said Bahrain has made "many political reforms and democratic achievements" already. "These reforms, widely acknowledged and appreciated, have upgraded Bahrain's political status at international forums worldwide," he said.
--Meris Lutz in Beirut
Top Photo: Protesters in Bahrain are dispersed with tear gas. Credit: Ahrar. Top video: Protests in Nuwaydrat against corruption and poverty. Credit: YouTube. Bottom video: Several are injured when security forces fire on a wedding party-turned political march. Credit: YouTube