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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

Note: This page has moved to a new address. Please click on the following URL to get there: http://chanad.weblogs.us/index.php?s=Trouble on the island. Sorry for the trouble.

Trouble on the island

Saturday, May 22, 2004

There's been some action on the island apparently. I did not go towards the Manama area all day, so I wasn't aware that anything happened until I checked the news right now. The biggest thing is that Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al-Khalifa has been sacked from his position as interior minister by the King because of what happened. This really is interesting taking into account the events of this past week. It seems to go along with the stories that I often hear about the ruling family being split between the progressive camp (led by the Crown Prince) and the Old Guard (headed by the King's uncle, the Prime Minister). My immediate reaction is to suspect that even the detainees from the petition incident were arrested because of pressures from the Old Guard, and released on insistence by the progressives... but this is pure speculation.

More importantly, my wishes for swift recovery go to all those injured today. We don't know the truth about who started the violence, but everyone needs to show restraint in such conditions. It is however the responsibility of the security personnel to set an example by showing restraint, which they did not do today. Events like today's make it difficult for the government to criticize the way Israel has been dealing with protests in Rafah. At least, the King has admitted failure, and tried to correct the situation by getting changing the interior minister. I don't think the sotry is over yet -- I do hope the situation does not devolve though.

Anyways, here is the Reuters report.
Bahrain Minister Fired After Clash with Protesters

MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain's king sacked his interior minister on Friday after police attacked a demonstration to protest the U.S.-led forces in Shi'ite Muslim holy cities in Iraq , official media reported.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa replaced Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al-Khalifa with another member of the royal family, Rashed bin Abdullah bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, the official news agency said.

"We share the anger of our people over the oppression and aggression taking place in Palestine and in the holy shrines (in Iraq). People had a right to peaceful protests. We are investigating," the agency quoted the king as saying.

Police clashed with thousands of angry demonstrators in the capital Manama on Friday. More than 20 people were hurt, including Javad Firouz, a Shi'ite opposition activist and member of Manama city council.

"He received a rubber bullet in the head and is now in hospital undergoing an operation," his brother Jalal Firouz told Reuters. "Many women and children fainted from inhaling gas. This is completely unjustified. It was a peaceful rally."

The police action came two days after the king held a rare meeting with dissident leaders and ordered the release of a group of political prisoners to end growing tension between the Shi'ite-led opposition and the Sunni Muslim minority ruling Bahrain.

Friday's violence broke out after police fired shots to disperse thousands of mainly Shi'ite Muslim demonstrators demanding the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the southern Iraqi cities of Najaf and Kerbala.

Officials have not confirmed whether the police used rubber bullets against the protesters.

"Death to America... death to Israel," chanted the protesters in the pro-Western Gulf Arab state, home to the U.S. Navy (news - web sites)'s Fifth Fleet.

Marchers carried portraits of Iraq's top Shi'ite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, through a Manama suburb and some demonstrators wore white shrouds to indicate their willingness to die to defend the holy sites.

"America must leave our holy shrines... This is a red line they cannot cross. They are playing with fire," said a banner carried by the demonstrators.

U.S.-led forces have been battling followers of the radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in and around the two cities. Sistani has called on both sides to withdraw their forces.

In mainly Shi'ite Muslim Iran, demonstrators have been out in force three times in a week to protest the presence of Western forces in Iraq. Protesters hurled petrol bombs and stones at the British embassy in Tehran on Friday.
Update: As usual, Bahraini Blog has many more details.
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