Dueling Demonstrations in Bahrain; Anti-Government Protests Continue in Yemen, Jordan & Morocco
by Brett Wilkins
A massive pro-government demonstration took place in Bahrain today as tens of thousands of people rallied to support the tiny yet strategically important emirate’s embattled monarchy. Bahrain, where a Sunni Muslim minority rules over a Shiite Muslim majority, has seen nine days of sometimes deadly protests that so far have claimed seven lives. Pro-government protesters, mostly Sunni but including some Shiites, gathered in a large courtyard in front of the Fateh Mosque in the capital city of Manama to hear a speech by Sheikh Abdul Latif, founder of the brand-new Gathering of National Unity, a pro-monarchy party.
When these pro-government demonstrators left their rally, they clashed with anti-government Bahrainis camped out in Pearl Roundabout. Last Friday, army units fired on marchers as they headed toward the roundabout, injuring more than 50 people. But the protesters flooded the square as soon as security forces left, setting up camp replete with tents and makeshift kitchens serving meals to demonstrators. The Bahraini government says they will be allowed to remain there.
Exiled opposition leader Hassan Mashaima has announced that he will return to his native Bahrain from Britain as protesters prepare for a massive rally at Pearl Roundabout tomorrow.
The Bahraini government has expressed its regret over the deaths of the seven protesters. “We are terribly sorry and this is a terrible tragedy for our nation,” Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the emirate’s crown prince, told CNN in an interview on Sunday. “I think there is a lot of anger, a lot of sadness, and on that note I would like to extend my condolences to all of the families who lost loved ones and all those who have been injured,” he said.
Meanwhile, thousands of Moroccans have taken to the streets to protest against that country’s monarchy. Five people have been killed and many buildings have been damaged in the unrest. More than 120 people have been injured. Demonstrations also continued today in Jordan and Yemen, where President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country for three decades, has vowed he will not give in to the demands of protesters who want more political and economic freedom.
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