Bahraini riot police patrol on Thursday in the streets of Jidhafs, on the outskirts of the capital city of Manama. Security forces are moving through Shiite villages, cracking down and making arrests. (AP)
By SIRAJ WAHAB | ARAB NEWS
Published: Mar 18, 2011 01:17 Updated: Mar 18, 2011 01:26
MANAMA/ALKHOBAR: A day after Bahraini security forces cleared anti-government protesters from the landmark Pearl Roundabout, life seems to be slowly returning to normal in most parts of the Bahraini capital on a day when six prominent opposition figures were arrested by the security forces.
King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and Bahrain Defense Force Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Khalifa bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa toured the country’s financial districts on Thursday and assured Bahrainis of the government’s resolve to restore complete normalcy.
At the Pearl Roundabout and other worst affected areas, municipal employees were clearing the debris left behind after Wednesday’s military operation. A number of blockades set up by the protesters at key street intersections to halt the advance of the military personnel have now been removed. Technicians were busy repairing lampposts vandalized during the clashes.
“I went around the city on Thursday evening, and I could see a number of people, especially Indians, out in the streets,” said a prominent Manama-based journalist. “The Westerners, however, are nowhere to be seen. They are either keeping indoors or planning to move out of the country,” he said.
Most Western nations have urged their citizens to leave Bahrain, and a spokesman said the British Embassy in Manama had organized charter flights to Dubai for its citizens.
The Pearl Roundabout was off-limits to the general public, but in other areas of the capital, shops have begun to do business. Taxis are off the streets, and one particular reason for that is that most of the taxi drivers come from the country’s deprived sections.
While there are increasing signs of confidence among the government camp, the opposition parties are in a state of shock after six prominent leaders of the opposition were arrested in late-night raids on Wednesday.
Among the arrested were Hassan Mushaimaa of the hard-line Al-Haq group and Ibrahim Sharif of the liberal Al-Waad party. Mushaimaa was allowed into the country in a bid to pacify the situation just days before the anti-government protests intensified. Soon after his arrival from exile, he joined protesters at the Pearl Roundabout. His supporters were among the most defiant anti-government supporters.
The government said leaders of the civil strife were arrested for communicating with foreign countries and inciting murder and destruction of property.
Political observers told Arab News that Mushaimaa’s arrest was expected because unlike other opposition leaders, he had crossed the “red line” by actually calling for a regime change and had always taken an extreme stand against the government. His party never took part in parliamentary elections and was actually an offshoot of the main opposition Al-Wefaq party. None of the Al-Wefaq leaders, including its head Sheikh Ali Salman, were arrested. Al-Wefaq is seen as moderate and throughout the current crisis its leaders had limited their demands to wide-ranging political and constitutional reform.
However, the arrest of Sharif has surprised many. He is a Sunni and a staunch votary of dialogue and political reform. “Our party has always favored dialogue,” said Al-Waad’s Muneera Fakhro. “We want reform through dialogue… Eventually all of us will have to sit across the table to resolve these political differences. Sharif’s arrest is shocking and indicates that the government is bent upon making things worse.”
In an e-mail to journalists, Sharif’s daughter, Yara, expressed her helplessness. “May God have mercy on my father ... He is not an extremist. He is a secular man. He is not a violent person. He is a peaceful man. He asks for reform but has done so in a way where he has never laid a hand on someone and never resorted to violence,” she wrote. “I’m thinking about you Baba, I love you so much.”
Meanwhile, the anti-government protesters have decided to keep the pressure on the government. Some leaders have asked their followers to chant “Allah-o-Akbar” from their rooftops between 8 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. The prime opposition demand now is the lifting of emergency laws. The government has announced earlier that emergency will remain in place for three months and curfew will be imposed in areas where there is fear of trouble.
I think it's really great the way you helped Bahrain take care of those evil people staging their Intifada! They have the best Kings in the world and here they are asking for liberty. The protesters should be ashamed of themselves.
GEORGE Mar 19, 2011 00:09 Report abuse
The U.N. has condemned the Bahraini Government over abuses committed on demonstrators and doctors, who tried to treat the wounded were beaten up. What a wonderful world we live in. Islam is the remedy for all worlds' ills or not. Islam is a deen! Well the proof is in the pudding.
MOHAMMED Mar 19, 2011 00:15 Report abuse
what is the meaning of democracy, that a few thousand people under the disguise of demonstrators take the country underseige, start killing / attacking innocent people, hijack hospitals and vandalize the public property???? and expect government not to react at all??
is this kind of democracy that people want???
when GCC allies come to rescue security of this country (who by the way grant lot of aid for the betterment of Bahrain) and demonstrators call it act of war. But demonstrators asking the king of Bahrain to leave the country is not the act of war then???
This is complete chaos demontrators have shown and left us to doubt that demonstrators have gradually become miscreants and have jeopardized the image of them and also this free country Bahrain .