JNN 22 Feb 2011 Manama : Tens of thousands of supporters of Bahrain’s Shiite-led opposition today poured into the streets of Manama calling for the government’s downfall in the largest rally in more than a week of protests.
Streets of the capital were clogged with protesters marching towards Pearl Square, the focal point of anti-regime protests, an AFP correspondent said.
Those leading the protest carried a large banner reading, “The march of loyalty to martyrs”, while a posters truned from a bridge read in English, “No dialogue before the downfall of the ruling regime.”The banner carried by the crowd bore the photographs of seven “martyrs” killed by security forces, the last of whom succumbed to his wounds yesterday and was buried earlier today.
Women in black veils chanted slogans against Bahrain monarch Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa.
“May your hands be paralysed, Hamad,” they shouted.
“Down down Khalifa,” the crowds chanted, condemning Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman, the uncle of king Hamad who has been in office since 1971 and who is widely despised by the Shiites.
The rally marked the first to be officially called by political associations since protests started on February14 in response to calls by cyber activists inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Today’s protest comes after pro-government Sunnis rallied in their thousands at a Manama mosque Monday evening pledging loyalty to the al-Khalifa family, and calling on protesters to answer an invitation by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad to engage in wide-reaching dialogue.
The rally also comes a day after King Hamad bin Isaaal-Khalifa answered a crucial opposition demand by ordering the release of political prisoners and halting trial procedures against others.
Shiite opposition MP Abdul jalil Khalil told AFP the prisoner release was an opposition demand so Crown Prince Salman could “prove his seriousness in calling for dialogue.”The Islamic National Accord Association (INAA) which is the main Shiite formation and controls 18 seats in the40-member parliament, which it self shows the height of discrimination of Sunni Rulers , as the Shiite are about 75% of the Poplulation , but they get the Minority in the Parliament even being in Majority in the countries Population, as this opposition had demanded along with other opposition groups, the release of prisoners before considering the crown prince’s call for dialogue.
INAA quit the parliament last week in protest at security forces opening fire on demonstrations, during which seven people were killed and scores injured.
The protester buried today, 20-year-old Redha Mohammed, died of his wounds on Monday after being shot by police three days earlier. (AFP)
Bahraini state media say King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has ordered the release of a group of political prisoners, in a gesture to opposition activists who have staged more than a week of anti-government protests.
Bahraini media did not name the prisoners to be freed. Most political detainees are from the Shi’ite majority of the Gulf island state, which is ruled by a minority Sunni dynasty. The prisoners include 23 Shi’ite activists on trial in Bahrain for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.
An exiled Shi’ite activist on trial in absentia for the same offense says he will return to Bahrain from London Tuesday, giving a boost to opposition demands for democratic reforms and the ouster of the ruling al-Khalifa family. Hassan Mashaima, a leader of the Haq movement, says he does not know if Bahraini authorities will arrest him on arrival.
Thousands of anti-government protesters slept early Tuesday in Manama’s Pearl Square, the focal point of their week-long uprising inspired by similar revolts that toppled autocratic leaders in Egypt and Tunisia in recent weeks.
The activists have occupied the square since Saturday, reviving an encampment they had created days earlier, but which Bahraini security forces destroyed last Thursday in a deadly pre-dawn raid.
In a Pro Government rally, thousands of government supporters gathered at a Manama mosque Monday, waving Bahraini flags and pledging allegiance to the nation’s Sunni rulers, while urging them to release prisoners of conscience.
The events tells that same events are being repeated in all the countries where the revolutions are sweeping the Nations , as the same rallies of Pro Government Influential and the People associated with these Governments , who are enjoying the Perks and Privileges of these Dictatorial regimes , are afraid as in the fall of these regimes , they will also loose all there privileges , but to show there strength they still have to hire people , to show the world their Majority.
Bahrain’s government withdrew troops from the streets Saturday, in response to international criticism of its crackdown on the opposition. The violence has killed seven opposition activists and wounded hundreds of others in recent days.
In a blow to Bahrain’s economy, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa said Sunday the government has canceled the season-opening Formula One Grand Prix due to the political unrest. The race had been scheduled for March 13. Crown Prince Salman said Bahrain’s entire attention is focussed on building a new national dialogue.
King Hamad has named the crown prince to lead a dialogue with the opposition, but opposition parties and protesters have yet to accept the proposal. They are demanding the resignation of the government and democratic reforms to strip the Sunni monarchy of its powers and end what they say is long-running discrimination against majority Shi’ites