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Bahrain - Politics - 2011 Uprising

2011 Daily News Updates
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Beginning in February 2011 the country experienced a sustained period of unrest, including mass protests calling for political reform. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Peninsula Shield Forces (PSF) troops were stationed in the country as a result of the unrest.

Thousands of Bahrainis held a third day of anti-government demonstrations on February 16, 2011 in the capital, Manama, where many of them joined a funeral for a second protester shot dead by police the day before. At least 2,000 mostly Shi'ite activists occupied Manama's Pearl Square Wednesday, after setting up a tent camp Tuesday and spending a first night in the open. The protest site mirrors the occupation of a Cairo square by Egyptian activists who ousted their president a week earlier. Many of the Pearl Square protesters say they will remain there until they achieve their goals. Some are calling for the ouster of the minority Sunni dynasty that rules the Gulf island state, while others demand the immediate resignation of longtime Bahraini Prime Minister Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

At a news conference Wednesday February 16, 2011, the head of Bahrain's main Shi'ite opposition bloc - the Islamic National Accord Society (Wefaq) - called for direct election of the prime minister, who currently is appointed by the king. The opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, said his group's members of parliament - 18 of the 40 members of the Chamber of Deputies - will boycott the chamber until their demands are met.

Military and civilian security forces carried out extensive security operations, including attacks on peaceful protesters at the former GCC Roundabout (commonly referred to as the Pearl Roundabout and subsequently renamed Al Farooq Junction) in Manama on February 17. Bahrain's military took control of the capital Thursday 17 February 2011, hours after riot police firing birdshot, rubber bullets and teargas stormed an anti-government protest camp, killing at least five people and wounding more than 230. Demonstrators say they were not given any warning before the security forces began firing on them, however the government says a notice was sounded.

Ministry of Interior spokesperson Brigadier Tariq Hassan Al Hassan announced 17 February 2011 that security forces had evacuated protesters from the area of Pearl Roundabout after trying all opportunities for a dialogue with them, to which some responded positively and left quietly. The sit-in started in the Pearl roundabout with limited demands, and developed to illegal demands, while from the beginning the gathering was unauthorised. Videos showed the possession of some protesters of guns and knifes and swords that they used against policemen who some of them sustained serious injuries. Special Security Forces called through loudspeakers upon protesters to leave, as the forces approached them in one side, while other sides were left for them to evacuate. During the evacuation two protesters died, while 92 sustained injuries and 82 of them were treated and discharged from hospital. He said a third death occurred when protesters clashed with security forces in the Pearl roundabout after the evacuation.

Security forces fired shots in Manama on Friday 18 February 2011, where demonstrators were gathering for an anti-government rally, in defiance of a government ban on protests. Hospital officials said there were casualties. Royal Decree Number 18 implemented an emergency State of National Safety (SNS) from 15 March to 01 June 2011 in accordance with the constitution. Fifty-two confirmed deaths during the year may be linked to the unrest. There were 35 deaths between February 14 and April 15 alone, according to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), and there were reports of an additional 17 related deaths throughout the rest of the year. Five of the 35 persons died as a result of torture inflicted by elements of security services during the SNS.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report entitled "Torture Redux: the Revival of Physical Coercion during Interrogations in Bahrain," at an 08 February 2012 press conference in Manama. The report and accompanying press release asserted that "since the end of 2007, officials have repeatedly resorted to torture" during questioning of detainees. The torture allegations were largely based on interviews HRW conducted with 20 former detainees in June 2009.

A national dialogue began in February 2013, aimed at resolving roughly two years of political deadlock following a Shiite-led, pro-democracy uprising that Bahrain's Sunni government quelled in 2011. The opposition rejects the structure of the dialogue, insisting that a member of the royal family should participate and that Bahraini citizens, rather than the king, should approve the final recommendations.

Bahrains main opposition party al-Wefaq, in collaboration with other opposition forces, announced a boycott on 22 May 2013. The group said the decision came after hundreds of citizens were arrested and scores of homes were raided including that of a prominent Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Qassim. On June 05, 2013 Bahrains opposition rejoined national reconciliation talks following a two-week boycott over the slow pace of dialogue and a reported crackdown by security forces. Al-Wefaq says it is ready to compromise but says talks will be futile unless certain stipulations were met.

Shiite neighborhoods provide the backdrop for near-nightly skirmishes between protesters frustrated with the slow pace of reform and security forces. By June 2013 rights groups said at least 80 people had been killed in Bahrain since unrest began in February 2011.

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