Following recent violence, the tiny Persian Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain on Tuesday banned all public rallies and demonstrations due to “repeated violations” by protest organizers, including staging riots, attacking property, and calling to remove “leading national figures,” according to a statement made by the interior minister. It is unclear how the ban, which the government says is temporary, will change Manama’s response to demonstrations, as it already considers many of the current protests illegal and thus meets them with force.
Bahrain has experienced unrest since the Arab uprising spread to it in February of last year. At that time, protests led by the Shi’ite Muslim majority were suppressed by the Sunni Muslim rulers with help from troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The outside intervention did not put an end to the protests, however, as numerous violent clashes have broken out between security forces and protesters since. As a U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, the White House said little about the crackdown at the time or the continuing unrest.
Bahraini anti-government protesters carry petrol bombs ahead of a march on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012. (Photo: Hasan Jamali/AP)
Manama undertook minimal reforms to quell the protesters, such as ratifying amendments to Bahrain’s constitution to give more powers to the elected parliament. But the changes fell short of the opposition’s demands, which include instituting an elected government and removing the parliament’s appointed upper house. Moreover, according to human rights groups and activists, abuses, such as the jailing of peaceful protesters, continue. The opposition claims that some 80 people have died in political violence since unrest began in February 2011; Manama disputes that number.
With the Bahraini government doing little to reform, the continuing unrest inside the country has the real ability to escalate yet again. And, without a U.S. response, this time protesters may focus their attention toward Washington.