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Bahrain: Audacity of hope - People & Power - Al Jazeera English

In mid February 2011, pro-democracy activists in the Gulf state of Bahrain took to the streets of the capital Manama in an attempt to win the kind of dramatic results achieved by their counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia. At first the demands of this predominantly Shia-led group were for constitutional reform and a reduction of the powers of King Hamad and the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty. But opinion soon hardened into calls for the end of the monarchy when seven demonstrators were killed during a police action at Manama's Pearl Roundabout.

After a month of continued protests, Bahrain's government invited some 1,500 troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to enter the country in support of local security forces before imposing martial law and instituting a fierce crackdown. Hundreds of activists were arrested; many were beaten and tortured in detention. Medical staff at the island's main Salmaniyya Hospital, where many injured protestors were treated and where demonstrators gathered after Peal Roundabout was cleared, were also targeted for arrests - and many of them subsequently received long prison sentences for their alleged complicity in plots to overthrow the government. 

In November last year, the government was forced to acknowledge that its security forces had used unnecessary force against mostly unarmed civilians. A commission of inquiry, established by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, but led by respected international human rights lawyer Cherif Bassiouini, reported in November and documented widespread abuses by the security services - routine torture, arbitrary arrests, detainees held incommunicado for weeks, unfair trials and people dismissed from their jobs without cause. Since then a further commission has been set up to institute some of the inquiry's recommendations - though critics say that so far little has been achieved.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 17th, 2012 at 02:59:37 PM EST
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