Continuing my coverage of events related to the Al-Khawaja affair, here is my report on the protest march held last night (Thursday) in Manama. (Sorry for taking so long to post this, I've been busy). There was a relatively large turnout; somewhere between 2000 and 2500 demonstrators, including many women, children and old folks. Still though, I was expecting far more people to show up. I suspect that Ramadan probably had something it. The march route started from Ras Rumman mosque and went up Palace Avenue to the junction with King Faisal Highway. From here the marchers hung a left and walked down until the turning for the Prime Minister's office, but they didn't actually go the office. Instead they took a U-turn and marched back to Ras Rumman.
There was, thankfully, no violence or any sort of trouble whatsoever. Before the march started Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, gave specific instructions, repeatedly telling the demostrators to remain peaceful under any circumstances and not to resort to violence at all. The march was very well organized and the demonstrators behaved according to the instructions they were given. The police also did a good job by staying out of sight entirely. I think everyone involved (the protesters, the organizers and the police) can be pleased about themselves for holding this peaceful demonstration and redeeming the damage done to the cause by the hooligans of Wednesday's protest.
The slogans that were on their signboards and that were being chanted demanded the release of Al-Khawaja, and the resignation of the Prime Minister. As I have said before, I fully support the right of the people to express their point of view, however extreme it may be, in a peaceful manner as was done last night. However from a strategic viewpoint I do not think it was wise for the protest organizers to continue insisting on the PM's resignation. In my opinion they should have focused specifically on the violations of human rights, and therefore should be demanding (i) the release of Al-Khawaja, (ii) the annulment of the ban on the BCHR, and (iii) scrapping, or a review, of the archaic Society laws under which the BCHR was banned. I don't think that anyone with a conscience can disagree with those demands. However it is possible for someone (such as myself) to support the cause of human rights, but not be concerned with the political demand for the resignation of the Prime Minister. In my opinion, if we stress that ultimate goal is the implementation of the principles of human rights, then whatever political changes that are necessary (be it the resignation of the PM, or of the King himself) will naturally fall into place. But since it is disputable whether that the PM's resignation is necessarily the only way to secure the implementation of human rights, I think it would be better leave out that demand right now, so as to get as much public support as possible.
Anyhow, I am just extremely relieved to see that the protesters have gone back to their usual ways of peaceful protest.
To see all of my pictures from the event click here. A note about the pictures: I am neither a good photographer, nor is my camera very good, so it wasn't that easy for me to take decent pictures at night time. I was constantly fooling around with the different flash and exposure settings to get the right effect (which is why many of the photos are repeated). Since I was far away from the subject(s), most of the time I opted to turn off the flash and go with the over-exposure, to get better colours. This is why most of the pictures are blurred somewhat since all the people were moving around (as was my hand). However taking overexposed is always fun and interesting because it allows you to also capture the motion of the subjects, rather than capture just a single moment in time.
If you want to see photos by someone else check out the coverage by montadayat.org. To see video of the march click here (wmv 2.95MB) to see the report from Al-Jazeera News, or click here(wmv 1.88MB) for a video edited with 'Braveheart-esque' music playing in the background.
The next event will be a demonstration near Pearl Roundabout on Sunday at 8pm, where they will be screening a video about poverty (I think). Then on Monday there will be a demonstration in front of the Justice Ministry at 9am during the third session of Al-Khawaja's trial. And Thursday evening at 8pm will be a car rally demonstration, but I'm not sure what the venue is.
Finally of course, here are some pictures of activist kids from last night: