Many Shia citizens of Gulf island demand ouster of PM, and less power for the ruling Khalifa family.
|Protesters in Bahrain are demanding the resignation of MPs, following the deaths at Pearl Roundabout [AFP]|
Bahrainis campaigning for democratic reforms in the Gulf Arab state have staged a protest outside parliament, demanding that all its members resign over recent protester deaths.
“We came to this parliament to say that you represent the people and you represent us – take an honourable position over the killings by the army,” said Mirza al-Shihabi, one of around 500 protesters outside the building in central Manama on Monday.
Seven people were killed and hundreds wounded in protests earlier this month by Bahrainis, mainly from the majority Shia Muslim community, who complain of repression by the Sunni monarchy and the Sunni ruling elite.
On Monday, the crowd carried banners complaining of Sunni Muslim foreign nationals employed in the army and police, who they say are given nationality and enjoy many benefits.
Meanwhile, Bahrain’s crown prince is leading efforts to launch a dialogue with the Shia opposition. He said some opposition groups, who have rejected talks and continued protests, were hurting the economy of the island state, which is a regional banking hub.
“There are those who do not want reforms and work to stall them by unacceptable means. This disruption has … started to harm the citizens’ interests, damage their economic and living conditions and disrupt life in several areas,” state news agency BNA quoted Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa as saying.
“This has harmed … the banking, financial and economic sectors,” the crown prince added.
Earlier on Monday, protesters marching towards the chamber of parliament chanted: “The people want to topple the regime” and “Unity, national unity!”
They also carried banners that read “Bring down the Shura Council,” in reference to the 40-member consultative council, appointed by the king, which has the power to block legislation from the lower house.
Shia Bahrainis say the government excludes them from jobs, healthcare and other opportunities, a charge the government has denied.
They also say the authorities, who are close to Sunni Muslim power, Saudi Arabia, have settled Sunnis from other Arab countries and Pakistan in an effort to offset Shia numbers.
“There are Yemenis and Pakistanis in the police force while our children can’t get jobs. Everyone in parliament has to resign because they are doing nothing about it,” said Umm Jasser, another protester.
Also on Sunday, 18 members of the Shia Wefaq bloc resigned from parliament over the deaths of anti-regime protesters at Pearl Roundabout, which has become the epicentre of Bahrain’s protests.
Wefaq makes up the largest single bloc in the Bahraini parliament.
But parliament has little power and the cabinet is appointed by the king and most ministers are from the royal family.
Jassem Hussein, a Wefaq MP, told the AFP news agency on Monday that the official resignation of the party’s 18 members was awaiting approval.
Meanwhile, official Bahraini opposition groups, led by Wefaq, have stopped short of demanding outright regime change, instead calling for major reforms, including an elected prime minister and the creation of a “real” constitutional monarchy.
Protesters continue trying to put pressure on the government by staging protests around the city, while maintaining their presence at Pearl Roundabout.
Tens of thousands of pro-government supporters have also taken to the streets in recent days, saying that reforms launched by Bahrain’s king a decade ago have resulted in freedoms and democracy unique in the Gulf Arab region.