Thousands Protest in Bahrain for 3rd Day - Anti-Government Demonstrations

Bahrain Complete Residents' Guide
Thousands Protest in Bahrain for 3rd Day
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 - VOA

Thousands of Bahrainis are holding a third day of anti-government demonstrations 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 last week.

The Bahraini protesters joined a funeral procession for a Shi'ite man shot by police Tuesday near the funeral of another Shi'ite protester killed in clashes with police the previous day.

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, 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.

Demonstrators also want Bahrain's ruling family to free political prisoners and open more opportunities for majority Shi'ites, who have long complained of discrimination.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa made a rare televised address Tuesday, offering condolences for the deaths of the two Shi'ite protesters and promising an investigation into the incidents. He also vowed to push ahead with political reforms that he began with a 2001 referendum that restored a parliament the following year.

Bahrain's interior ministry also has pledged to prosecute anyone using “unjustified” force against the protesters, who began rallying in Shi'ite villages across the state Monday in a “Day of Rage” called by cyber activists.

Earlier, Bahrain's rulers tried to ease public grievances by offering $2,600 in cash to all families and promising to loosen state controls on the media. However, many Bahrainis remain angry about poverty, unemployment and alleged attempts by the state to grant citizenship to Sunni foreigners in order to change the demographic balance.

About half of the island kingdom's 1.3 million people are Bahraini, while the rest are foreign workers. Shi'ites make up 70 percent of the population.

Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet and also is a regional offshore banking center.

Thousands Protest in Bahrain for 3rd Day
Article from VOA

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