On the third anniversary of the last uprising against the ruling family in Bahrain, members of the ruling family have launched a new dialogue with opponents in an effort to dispel simmering discontent among the masses. Three years ago, Bahraini security forces subdued a popular uprising on February 14 that was spearheaded by majority Shi’ites seeking democratic reform. The majority Shi’ites have long complained of what they see as discrimination by the Sunni Muslim monarchy and continue to demand an end to the discriminatory practices.
The stability of the island monarchy is very important to Bahrain’s fellow conservative Gulf Arab states and the West. The country has been at the center of a regional power struggle between Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, the world No. 1 oil producer, and Shi’ite Muslim Iran. The country also hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
On the third anniversary of the uprising, the low-level political conflict continued to fester. The main opposition al-Wefaq movement called for marches on February 14 and on Saturday. In different areas around the country, dozens of protesters demonstrated. Witnesses described scenes in which police fired tear gas rounds at youths who threw stones at them.
Around the capital Manama, young men staged small rallies and blocked roads with metal bars, garbage containers and cinder blocks to keep security forces out of villages inhabited by Shi’ites. According to an Interior Ministry spokesman, two separate “terrorist” explosions targeting police patrols injured at least four policemen. Extra police forces were deployed and some roads leading out of villages around Manama were closed.
There are protests in the streets on the matter almost daily. Abu Ali, a 34-year-old clerk in the village of Saar, said, “After three years since the start of the protests, we have seen no peace. Every day there is a problem in our area. The youngsters go out and burn tyres on the roads and the police attack them with teargas.”