Bahrain opposition call for government elected by people


THOUSANDS OF Shia Bahrainis swarmed one of their country’s best-known landmarks yesterday, to continue the wave of demonstrations against the ruling government.

Pearl Roundabout, in the capital city of Manama, was transformed into a temporary campsite for the second successive day, as unrest spread around the Middle East region.

Meanwhile, the main Shia opposition group demanded a new constitution for the Gulf Arab country, in which the government would be elected by the people.

About 3,000 people, mostly teenagers and young men, had converged on the monument, a tribute to Bahrain’s pearling history, by lunchtime yesterday.

As well as setting up tents and shacks on the roundabout itself, the demonstrators also formed a human message calling for the change of government on the side of the adjacent grass verge.

Anti-government chants rang out through the crowd but there was a sense of calm and good humour. Demonstrators greeted passersby, conveying signs of peace at every opportunity.

The police presence was minimal yesterday afternoon, with only two interior ministry helicopters hovering overhead.

Despite traffic practically coming to a standstill at the roundabout, there were minimal disruptions on the city’s other main routes for much of the day. Roads were closed later in the evening as people joined the demonstrations after the close of business.

As crowds continued to grow at the Pearl Roundabout, the pro-government Sunni majority began their own demonstrations in the city of Muharraq.

A procession, organised through Facebook, was also started at the national football stadium in the town of Riffa.

Bahrain’s ruler, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, was quick to condemn the deaths of two protesters during events earlier this week and offered his condolences to the families.

In a statement issued by interior minister Lieut Gen Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla al-Khalifa, he revealed police officers had been arrested over the deaths.

The minister has pledged his full backing for a special inquiry set up by the king to investigate the events of the last few days.

“Those involved in the two deaths are being detained,” he said, without revealing how many officers were in custody.

“Having already launched investigations, we express our readiness for full co-operation with the committee His Majesty has ordered to be formed.”

Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima died on Monday from injuries suffered during a protest in the village of Daih.

A second man, Fadhel Salman Matrook, was killed on Tuesday following clashes with police at Mr Mushaima’s funeral procession in Salmaniya.

The protests began as part of Bahrain’s “day of rage” on Sunday. They are expected to continue over the coming days and into the weekend.

Sporting events, such as a charity marathon and a local rugby match, due to take place tomorrow, have already been cancelled because of the unrest.

Organisers of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, which is due to open the Formula One season on March 12th, meanwhile, have moved to reassure fans that preparations are going ahead as normal.