At least 14 injured in clashes; helicopters circle Manama, heavy security in villages
Small-scale clashes erupted in two Bahraini villages as security forces tightened their grip on Shi'ite communities for Monday's 'Day of Rage' protests inspired by upheaval in Egypt and Tunisia.
Helicopters circled over the capital Manama, where protesters were expected to gather in the afternoon, and police cars stepped up their presence in Shi'ite villages, breaking up one protest with teargas and rubber bullets. At least 14 people were injured in clashes overnight and on Monday.
Bahrain, where a Sunni family rules over a Shi'ite majority, has offered cash payouts in the run-up to the protest to prevent Shi'ite discontent from bubbling over as popular revolts spread in the Arab world.
"We call on all Bahraini people - men, women, boys and girls - to share in our rallies in a peaceful and civilised way to guarantee a stable and promising future for ourselves and our children," Bahraini activists said in a statement issued on Twitter.
"We would like to stress that Feb. 14 is only the beginning. The road may be long and the rallies may continue for days and weeks, but if a people one day chooses life, then destiny will respond."
Diplomats say Bahrain's demonstrations, organised on the social media websites Facebook and Twitter, will be a gauge of whether a larger base of Shi'ites can be drawn on to the streets. The big test will be if demonstrations take hold in Manama, where demonstrations are rare.
Big protests in the Gulf Arab island state could embolden other marginalised Shi'ites in nearby Saudi Arabia, political analysts say.
There was no immediate comment from Bahraini authorities.
Police clashed late on Sunday with residents in Karzakan village, where security forces regularly skirmish with Shi'ite youths, and one protester was injured, witnesses said. Police said three officers were hurt.
In the village of Nuweidrat, police used teargas and rubber bullets on Monday to disperse a crowd demanding the release of Shi'ite detainees, witnesses said, adding that 10 people were slightly injured.
"There were 2,000 sitting in the street voicing their demands when police started firing," 24-year-old Kamel told Reuters, declining to give his full name. Nearby, streets were littered with teargas canisters and rubber bullets.
The scene was different in Manama, where government supporters honked car horns and waved Bahraini flags to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a national charter introduced after unrest in the 1990s. Many Shi'ites believe they still do not have enough say in the country's affairs.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, trying to defuse the tension, said he would give 1,000 dinars ($2,650) to each local family, and the government has indicated that it may free minors arrested under a security crackdown last year.
Non-OPEC Bahrain, which unlike its Gulf Arab peers has little spare cash to use for social problems, said last week it would spend an extra $417 million on social items, including food subsidies, reversing its attempts to prepare the public for cuts in subsidies.
Bahrain is a lovely country and wiser action needs to be taken by the authorities.
I do not think that any democracy could do better then the system running in Gulf countries. A long term and stable govt is required to maintain a country. according to my knowledge and observation I didnt see any country with democracy and stability together in past 3 decades.
People must see that the system which is going on in Arab countries is the best for this territory. I am Ex-pat here but I believe in it.
Bahrain people need to be educate and must show them the world and reality that there is no real shape of democracy available in the world, and what we have is the best here. other wise short term, unstable kind of people will come and ruin the system.
You have your opinion and the right to voice that opinion, this is you using one of the main principles of democracy (free speech). You are also using the platform of a news service to exercise your right of free speech, this is another principle of democracy is that to have a free and uncensored media (not sure how "free" AB is of course).
Democratic countries may seem chaotic but that is because people get to say what they think and we, as humans, all pretty much have our own ideas about things.
You comments about Bharani people needing to be "educated" about the fact democracy does not work are quite weird and Orwellian. In fact go read George Orwell's Animal Farm and educate yourself about why some people are more equal than others...a good place to start...
Meaning a unsustainable welfare system?
Democracy & Stability not seen together for the past 3 decades ?? In the Middle East, you mean ?
Or in the wider world ?.. because in that case, I hate to break it to you Ahmad, but you need to find something called a "history book" and read about US, Western Europe, Australia, India .. there are more countries of course, but I think you could start with these.
This is merely a suggestion, since you had advised Bahrainis to get educated !
All you guys obsessed with democracy, explain me, what's wrong with the current system in the Gulf? Please don't tell me its because of lack of democracy you can't drink alcohol on streets and kiss a girl.
Oh well, maybe thats why indeed Gulf needs democracy and the western world really knows better, right?
Kim Jong Ill and Robert Mugabe would both agree with what you say.
You are in exalted company
Clearly a number of guys in Bahrain disagree with you. Are their opinions more or less or the same valuable as yours?
I think you have a misconception of democracy. It is not an economic or cultural system but a political one. The Gulf countries and their governments are doing more or less OK since 40 years because of their wealth! Small local populations (except KSA and Oman) and rich income through the treasures of the Earth guarantee prosperity and welfare for their people. But their leaders are autocrats. If one has a closer look into the less privileged Sheikdoms of this world, one will see clear mistakes and inequities which can and will lead to protests and uprisings. North Africa has started and no one can turn the clock back.
Middle East and democracy.............no way. People here in ME needs a autocracy. Just see what happened in Iran. Now it is Egypt's turn, it will go Iran way, fanatics will be ruling the country. Democracy won't work here, current system is the best system for this part of the world.