JNN 21 July 2012 Manama : Violent clashes erupted in Bahrain as thousands protested the government’s move to limit political marches. Police used tear gas and, reportedly, rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, which responded with firebombs.
Police were using tear gas against the crowds rallying in the Bahraini capital Manama and several other places, as the protests continued into the night.
Demonstrations were aslo held in the villages of Diraz, Bilad al-Qadeem, and Musalla, where protesters called for the ouster of the royal al-Khalifa family. At least one protester was reportedly injured by riot police in Musalla.
The ruling elite want to ban anti-government marches to prevent the disruption to traffic and curb street violence, as at least 50 people have been killed in the country since February 2011.
The opposition described the move as a new attempt by the monarchy to silence it.
The kingdom has been engulfed by more than 17 months of clashes between the Al Saud Backed Wahabi monarchy and kingdom’s Shiite majority protesters, who claim systematic discrimination.
The insurrection was originally crushed during a period of martial law, but unrest has continued with repeated clashes between riot police and youths who say the monarchy marginalizes them.
Sayed Hadi al-Mosawi, a member of the opposition who participated in the protests, told that Bahraini security forces are deliberately targeting protesters for killing.
“Anyone who is trying to participate in a protest in Bahrain could be in danger, because the riot police forces, they don’t care about people’s lives and they don’t even care of how they treat [the protesters],” he said. “They don’t just prevent you or warn you, they shoot at your body.”
Al-Mosawi says that the government is trying to completely strip people of their freedom of expression.
“They know very well that our protests and our marchers and gatherings are totally peaceful,” he said. “They know that thousands of people come to our protests and they come peacefully, participate peacefully and leave peacefully.”
Anti-government protesters have hurled fire bombs and clashed with police in Bahrain, as the country was gripped by demonstrations against the recently imposed ban on rallies.
The demonstrators condemned the ruling Al Khalifa family for banning all upcoming opposition rallies. Government forces fired tear-gas to disperse the protesters, claims the Bahrain Freedom Movement website.
Bahrain says it will not be approving any further civil actions of the opposition in order to prevent street violence and disruption to traffic.
“Holding these marches will damage people’s interests and hold up traffic,” public security chief Tariq al-Hassan told state news agency BNA on Thursday, adding that march organizers had not been able to control them in the past.
Another senior official insists the government has no plans to ban rallies outright, but wants to make sure the protests stop taking a violent turn. The government also says the Interior Ministry is making up a list of “approved locations” for rallies.
However, the opposition views the move as a new attempt to silence them.
“This will lead to more escalation since people now feel no hope. There is no chance to practise their freedom, they have cornered everybody now,” said Abduljalil Khali, a senior member of the opposition Wefaq Party.
Amnesty International has slammed the bans, pointing out Bahrain is violating fundamental rights.
Since April, the Wahabi authorities have stepped up efforts to crack down on the unrest lead by the Shiite majority. Activists cite an increased use of shotgun pellets, which the authorities neither confirm nor deny.
More than 50 people have died since the uprising flared up in the Gulf kingdom, where the US Fifth Fleet is stationed, in February 2011.