Protesters defy ban under martial law but police fire tear gas to disperse demonstrations
Small protests broke out in
Bahrain's capital for a planned Day of Rage on Friday 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
U.S. 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 on Friday, shouting "down with the
regime" as women swathed in black waved Bahraini flags and held
up copies of the Quran. 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 percent 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
on Friday 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 on Friday 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
bahrain totally different then other unrest countries,here rulers much much better then those,for them best way to maxumise police and army by minimum 20k and maid one huge jail outside city.
the peoples who wanna disturb other normals peoples life and country,just put them behind bar for minimum 5 years without any court.