By Elizabeth Broomhall
Shop and restaurant owners say business has slumped amid the ongoing violence
Violence in Bahrain’s capital city could lead to the closure of several retail outlets on the Budaiya Highway, whose managers say they are “scared” and losing business, local media have reported.
Traders in the once busy commercial district have witnessed a steep decline in custom since the anti-government demonstrations last year, amid daily clashes between police and protesters in the area, according to a report in Gulf Daily News.
"Daily disturbances in this stretch of Bahrain [mean] we have little choice but to either leave or relocate," an owner of a Lebanese restaurant told the newspaper.
"We had no business for several days. Earlier we have had regular customers from as far away as Muharraq but we are now left with a few people from this area."
An opposition march towards the Al Farooq Junction on February 14, the first anniversary of last year’s uprising in Bahrain, became the latest in a series of demonstrations to turn violent.
Hundreds of protesters in the authorized march were headed for the main roundabout, but were stopped by police with tear gas and rubber bullet pellets. Street battles ensued with youths throwing petrol bombs, rocks and iron bars.
Bahraini protesters say they are dissatisfied with the government's attempts at reform, reviving the unrest among the majority Shi'ite Muslims.
Some shop owners said they were considering new branches, but had since abandoned their plans as business had slumped.
Many say they are also now scared of trading in the area, which has become a hotspot for graffiti and anti-social behavior as protests continue.
One owner of a computer shop told the daily that several young protesters had frightened him when they entered his store in the midst of a rally, shouting anti-government slogans.
"They did not damage anything, but I am now scared," he said.
"I am a Bahraini but I cannot live with this. My family wants me to shift from an area where I have been for the last 15 years."