|Writing on the wall: ”We are people who wont bow down but only to our Creator” [Reuters]|
Bahraini security forces have dispersed several hundred Shia demonstrators who gathered outside the capital Manama for the fourth day in a row, the AFP news agency reported.
Riot police stormed a roundabout on the Budaiya highway on Sunday where men and women had gathered and chanted slogans against the government of the Sunni-ruled kingdom.
Police fired tear gas on Sunday before they used batons to chase demonstrators out of the area.
The clashes come during 10 months of unrest in the Gulf kingdom between the Sunni monarchy and an opposition movement led by the country’s Shia majority
Highly critical report
Shia youth groups had called for a series of consecutive protests on the highway which links Shia villages with Manama’s former Pearl Square, the focal point of a month-long pro-democracy uprising that was crushed in March.
The crackdown comes even after Bahrain’s government promised reforms following the publication last month of a highly critical report into the protests in February and March.
The report said the death toll from the crackdown on the Shia-led pro-democracy protests had reached 35, and that police had used “excessive force” and tortured detainees.
On Thursday, prominent human rights blogger Zainab al-Khawaja was roughed up, handcuffed and dragged off into custody from the same roundabout for refusing to end a sit-in. Protesters had massed along the highway after the funeral of a protester who opposition supporters say died during a rally. Witnesses say the man was hit by a police car.
Ali Salman, the leader of Bahrain’s main Shia opposition group al-Wefaq, has called on the Gulf kingdom’s authorities to release al-Khawaja.
“After the report, they return to the same methods… they kill more people they put more people in prison,” said Salman.
“It sends a bad message from the regime that it does not respect the recommendations of the report.”
Salman also said he is to hold talks with the British minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, on Monday in London.