Late on Sunday, Bahrain’s principal allies the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, reiterated its support for the steps undertaken by King Hamad to “restore security and stability to the island kingdom”. By KHADIJA PATEL.
Bahrain has been mired in civil unrest since 14 February this year when pro-democracy protesters, emboldened by the successes of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, began demonstrating for greater political freedom. The protests were quashed a month later as government troops and military units from neighbouring Gulf states clamped down on demonstrations.
At least 30 people were killed during the unrest. The protest for greater political freedom turned into a battle for power between Bahrain’s majority Shia population and its Sunni royal family. Some protesters called on Bahrain’s ruling Al-Khalifa family to grant Shi’ites a greater role in a constitutional monarchy, while others called for the ouster of the Sunni dynasty entirely.
Among those detained in the crackdown against protesters were 48 doctors and nurses who treated wounded demonstrators. Charges against the medics ranged from inciting the overthrow of the government to provoking hatred. Last week, after reports that many of the detained doctors had led a hunger strike, Bahraini officials announced that the doctors and medics detained were released on bail and their trial would resume on 29 September.
The island kingdom is yet to recover from the unrest and the ruling family has moved to foster dialogue with detractors. In June King Hamad also appointed, “The Royal Independent Investigation Commission” to investigate events during the uprising. The commission is expected to report its findings by 30 October 2011 and King Hamad during his reconciliatory message to the people of Bahrain at the end of the Muslim fasting months of Ramadan, said the decision to set up BICI was “the best indication of our full commitments to knowing the whole truth and to giving people their rights”.
Bahrain is also scheduled to hold by-elections on 24 September to fill the 17 seats in Bahrain’s parliament vacated by the opposition al Wefaq society in protest of the government’s crackdown. DM
Photo: Empty tear gas canisters placed on the ground to read ”Selmiya” meaning ”Peaceful” in Arabic, during a rally held by the main opposition al-Wefaq party in Budaiya, west of Manama September 9, 2011. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
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