Bahrain: State forces brutally attack protesters

Autocratic regime invites Saudi Arabia forces to help quell protests

State forces, including the use of tanks, attacked anti-government protesters in the centre of Bahrain’s capital Manama, yesterday, 15 March.

The regime declared martial law. On Monday it called in Saudi troops to help crush the opposition.

Reportedly, five or more people died in clashes on Tuesday and more than 200 were injured.

The security forces occupied Manama’s financial district, reopening roads which had been blocked by protesters.

Salmaniya hospital is surrounded by troops. "They are all around Salmaniya medical complex with their guns and they are shooting anybody," a doctor told the BBC.

Scores have now been killed during a month of protests. Khalid Bhatti looks at the recent events

Saudi and United Arab Emirates troops entered Bahrain on Monday 14 March to shore up the beleaguered regime. The opposition called intervention by the region’s Gulf Cooperation Council "an overt occupation of the kingdom of Bahrain and a conspiracy against the unarmed people of Bahrain."

Eyewitnesses told The New York Times a convoy of 150 armored troop carriers and 50 other vehicles crossed the bridge into the island kingdom from Saudi Arabia.

In theory, the troops are there just to protect major government facilities, such as electricity and water supplies but for the protestors, this intervention is to kill them and silence them with brutal force. The troops, sent in as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council Force, are really protecting the GCC’s way of rule. In other words: autocratic and dictatorial regimes. If Bahrain’s protesters get what they want, which is by a large a constitutional monarchy, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE and Kuwait may soon be forced to follow suit, or face the consequences. Already rulers in Oman and Saudi have been promising cash bonuses and loans, as if that could somehow hold back the democratic tide.

Protesters remained on the streets of Manama after bloody clashes Sunday and took over part of the business district, Faraz Sanei from Human Rights Watch told CNN.

Human rights activists said more than 1,000 people were hospitalized Sunday, mostly from gas-related injuries. On Monday, thousands of people marched in the capital, in largest protests, so far, demanding an end to the monarchy. This massive protest came after the arrival of the Saudi and Emirate forces that came to save the Sunni rulers. The mass protest on Monday once again showed that young male and female protestors are ready to sacrifice every thing for better life and democratic rights.

Bahrain — which is joined to Saudi Arabia by a causeway across the Gulf — has become a regional financial hub as it seeks to diversify its economy away from dependence on diminishing oil revenues. But to many of the country’s disenfranchised Shiites the banking district is a symbol of corruption, wealth and privilege.

Most workers seemed to follow a call for a general strike to protest violence by the security forces.

Region’s despots fear spread of protests

The military intervention from GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) countries is a clear indication they want to crush the protest movement because they fear that similar protest might erupt in their own countries. But trying to brutally crush protests might spark widespread protests not only in Shia majority countries but also in other Arab countries. This intervention can also increase the sectarian divide in the region. It might push the region to the brink of an armed conflict between GCC countries and Iran. Any assault by the Saudi security forces on the Shia protestors can provoke a massive revolt of the Shia majority in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province. A mass revolt in this oil rich region can cause major disruption for the oil supply. This will means skyrocketing oil prices, in the range of 150 to 180 $ per barrel. This rise in the oil prices can erode the meager and weak recovery in the world economy.

Thousands of students confronted 150 supporters of the monarchy there, CNN reported.

The unrest came as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in the city to talk with King Hamad and Crown Prince Salman. Gates told reporters Saturday the royal family was "serious about real reform and moving forward." Bahrain is the naval base of the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf.

Since demonstrations began, the king announced the government would build 50,000 new houses and double the police force with 20,000 new positions.

The fears of sectarian clashes and chaos are also rising as some reports of small-scale sectarian clashes in few villages. Sectarian clashes erupted in several schools and at the University of Bahrain, prompting the formation of vigilante groups carrying sticks and swords to guard their neighbourhoods. The authorities will use these incidents to repress the protestors in the name of saving the Sunni minority.

The unity of workers and youth from different nationalities, races and religions is necessary to combat autocracy and to win democratic rights and real social change.

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March 2011