The Battle for Bahrain
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|Martin Barillas||February 17th 2011|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
The government of Bahrain declared a state of emergency on February 17 for the entire country in an attempt to quell violent demonstrations by the Shiite Muslim community that, over the last four days, has taken to the streets demanding democratic reforms. The oil emirate’s national security council held an emergency meeting this morning, just hours after the army and police resorted to firing live rounds at protesters. According to reports, more than 60 persons are now reported missing, while the number of the dead continues to rise.
Wounded protesters were being brought to hospitals in Manama throughout the night, while some appeared to have died just before reaching emergency medical help. There are at least 300 wounded, following the affray between demonstrators and security forces. There are at least four persons known to have died, added to two other victims earlier in the week.
Thousands of protesters, among them women and children, had camped out in Pearl Square in central Manama. Women, dressed in traditional head-to-toe black garments, could be seen wailing over the dead and wounded. The emirate’s authorities declared that they wanted to clear the capital of demonstrators and force them to go home.
The ministry of interior promised through a spokesman broadcast on television that the army would use all means at its disposal to dislodge the protesters from Manama. The protest, apparently inspired by similar protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco, may still exact further bloodshed. A column of armed vehicles could be seen entering Pearl Square, which then fired rubber bullets and tear gas grenades at the assembled protesters. The Shiite protesters are demanding fair treatment from the government, which is controlled by a Sunni minority. Overall, Sunni Muslims are a majority on the Arabian peninsula as they are in Saudi Arabia, while Shiites are the majority in rival Iran.
Reports about what exactly is happening in Pearl Square are sketchy ever since access was blocked to reporters. According to reports, there are still wounded in Pearl Square who are unattended even while the army is stringing up barbed-wire barriers at various chokepoints around the capital and blocking streets with armored vehicles. Reporting by the Al-Jazeera network showed abandoned tents, food, and clothing at Pearl Square. Attack helicopters are flying over the city. The government claims that it has cleared the area.
Shiite members of the Bahraini parliament walked out in protest as developments appear to mirror the events of the last few weeks. Protesters have vowed to return on February 17 and 18 as calls for the government to step down are becoming more vocal.
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent Martin Barillas also edits Speroforum.com