March of loyalty to martyrs

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March of loyalty to martyrs
Hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis taking part in march of loyalty to martyrs.jpg
Over 100,000 took part in the protest which stretched for several miles.
Time 2:00 pm till 5:00 pm
Location Manama,  Bahrain
Coordinates 26°01′39″N 50°33′00″E / 26.02750°N 50.55000°E / 26.02750; 50.55000Coordinates: 26°01′39″N 50°33′00″E / 26.02750°N 50.55000°E / 26.02750; 50.55000
Cause Part of the Bahraini uprising (2011–present)
Participants Over 100,000 protesters

The March of loyalty to martyrs (Arabic: مسيرة الوفاء للشهداء‎) was a protest on 22 February 2011 in Manama, Bahrain. Tens of thousands participated in the protest, one of the largest in the Bahraini uprising. Named after the seven victims killed by police and army forces during previous protests, the march filled the space between Bahrain mall and Pearl Roundabout. Protesters carried Bahrain's flag and demanded the fall of the government, implementation of a constitutional monarchy and other reforms, but some of them demanded the fall of regime.

The march was named the largest in the country's history by organizers; sources estimated that over 100,000 protesters (20 percent of the Bahrain population) participated, although other sources gave higher and lower estimations. A number of ambulance drivers, police and army officers joined the protest. Security forces were not present and unlike previous protests, it ended peacefully. Analysis said the government may offer more concessions as a result of protests.

Background[edit]

Protesters gather for the first time in Pearl Roundabout on 15 February.

Protests inspired by the successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia erupted in Bahrain on 14 February.[1] Security forces responded by firing tear gas, rubber bullets, sound bombs and birdshot into the crowd of protesters.[2]:68 More than thirty protesters were injured and one died from birdshot injuries in his back.[2]:69, 229[3] Another protester was killed the same way the next day, on 15 February,[2]:70, 229–30 when over 10,000 protesters occupied Pearl Roundabout.[2]:71[4]

On 17 February, police launched a pre-dawn raid on sleeping protesters.[5] Four protesters were killed and more than 300 were injured.[5][6] Health workers and a journalist were allegedly attacked by security forces.[7][8] The army was deployed after Pearl Roundabout was cleared of protesters and checkpoints were set up.[9][10] Protesters moved to Salmaniya Hospital's car parks where thousands protested against the government.[2]:75[11]

The following day, army forces stationed in the Pearl Roundabout fired live ammunition on hundreds of protesters who tried to re-occupy the site.[12] At least 120 protesters were hurt and one was fatally wounded,[13][14] bringing the number of deaths to seven.[15] The Crown Prince offered dialogue with opposition parties. On 19 February, tens of thousands of protesters re-occupied Pearl Roundabout after the army was ordered to withdraw.[16]

On 21 February, the king canceled the Formula 1 race originally scheduled for 13 March. The Associated Press named the decision "another victory" for protesters who had called for its cancellation. "We felt it was important for the country to focus on immediate issues of national interest and leave the hosting of Bahrain's Formula One race to a later date", the king stated.[15]

In the evening, tens of thousands of government supporters, borrowing the anti-government protesters' slogan "no Sunni, no Shia, only Bahraini", gathered in Al Fateh Mosque in Juffair. One participant interviewed by The New York Times said, "The democracy they have been asking for is already here, but the Shias, they have their ayatollahs, and whatever they say, they will run and do it. If they tell them to burn a house, they will. I think they have a clear intention to disrupt this country".[17]

The next day, appearing on Bahrain's official news agency,[15] the king ordered the release of 50 political prisoners, including 25 Shia activists arrested during the 2010 crackdown and accused of forming a "terrorist network" whose goal was to overthrow the government. Ali Abdulemam, a prominent blogger and founder of Bahrain Online opposition forum, was among those who were released. Blogger and human rights activist Abduljalil al-Singace, who called the move "a good step" and a "positive gesture", was also released.[15][18] However, according to human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, about 400 more activists remained in prison on "politically inspired charges".[19]

Loyalty to Martyrs[edit]

In the afternoon of 22 February tens of thousands of children, men and women[17] occupied and marched on the main streets of Manama. The march was called "The march of loyalty to martyrs"[20] in reference to those killed in previous protests. It stretched for several miles, filling the eastern side of Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Highway[17] from Bahrain Mall to Pearl Roundabout located in Manama's business district.[20]

The protesters, while carrying the white-and-red flag of Bahrain and posters of the seven victims, chanted: "Ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam" ("the people want to bring down the regime"), "Egypt, Tunisia, are we any different?"[15] and "No Shia, No Sunni, only Bahraini".[19] Most demanded the fall of the Bahrain government.[20] "Some want the family out but most only the prime minister", said a protester interviewed by BBC.[20] The march was led by ambulance drivers who reported being attacked by security forces while trying to help treat protesters from the Pearl Roundabout injured on 17 February, which came to be called Bloody Thursday.[19][21][22]

Protest organizers, which consisted of a loose coalition of seven political parties including Al Wefaq and Wa'ad,[23] named the march the largest in Bahrain's history.[17] Associated Press,[15] The Huffington Post,[24] The New York Times[17] and Voice of America[25] estimated that there were over 100,000 participants. The New York Times described the number as "astonishing", because Bahrain's total population is a little over 500,000.[17] The BBC described the course of march as a "sea of red and white flags".[20] Other estimates varied between 30,000 and 200,000 participants. In their documentary film Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark, Al Jazeera English stated, "Bahrain held its largest march in history; the world media recorded nearly a quarter of all citizens in the streets".[26] The BICI report mentioned that "by many accounts more than 100,000 people were marching" and that the number of protesters at Pearl Roundabout peaked at over 150,000.[2]:88 IFEX estimated the number to be as high as 200,000; however, CNN Arabic said the number was just about 30,000.[27][28]

Security forces did not intervene to disperse the march, however a state-owned helicopter hovered overhead.[15] A small number of police and army officers participated in the protest. Denouncing army troops who opened fire on protesters, an officer said, "What we did to the people was not heroic. We ask the people to forgive us, we ask the people for forgiveness". Another officer added, "The weapons that have been used against the people are weapons of shame, these weapons should be used to protect the people, and not be used against them. That’s why we've decided to be with the people".[24][29]

The widow of one of the seven "martyrs" read a statement after the march that listed the opposition's demands; the most important demands were the resignation of the forty-year long government headed by the king's uncle and the implementation of a constitutional monarchy. Other demands included the immediate commencement of an "impartial" investigation into the deaths, the neutralization of the state media and the release of the remaining "political" prisoners.[18][30] Analysts stated that the large size of the protest pressured the government to concede to the protesters' demands.[20] Al Jazeera English said that "unless they offered deep reforms, the Khalifas will likely fall".[31]

Panoramic image of the protest.

Aftermath[edit]

Bahrain army forces at a village entrance on 29 March

Peaceful protests, including one pro-government rally,[32] continued throughout February[33][34] and the first half of March,[35][36][37] and drew tens of thousands of participants. On 8 March, unsatisfied by the government response, a coalition of three hard-line Shia groups called for the abdication of the monarchy and the establishment of a democratic republic through peaceful means. Al Wefaq continued to demand an elected government and a constitutional monarchy.[38]

In the following days protests intensified, moving to the Royal Court in Riffa,[39] a royal palace in Safiriyya[40] and finally blocking roads leading to the financial district in Manama. Security forces clashed with protesters using tear gas and rubber bullets, but police were overwhelmed by protesters.[41][42] The government then requested help from neighbor countries,[42] which sent about 1,500 security forces to assist the government.[43][44] A state of emergency was declared[45] and the government launched a crackdown campaign to put down protests by force.[46] The Pearl Roundabout, now cleared of protesters, was torn down by government[47] and protesters found themselves pushed back into their villages.[48] The government arrested over 1,000 protesters[49]:34:50 including leading opposition and rights activists[50] (known as the Bahrain Thirteen) as well as sportsmen,[51][52] academics, businessmen, doctors, engineers, journalists and teachers.[53][54]

Despite the brutal crack-down,[55][56] smaller-scale protests and clashes continued, mostly outside Manama's business districts.[57][58] By April 2012, more than 80 people had died during the uprising.[59] As of December 2012, protests are ongoing.[60]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bahrain activists in 'Day of Rage'". Al Jazeera English. 14 February 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (Report). Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. 23 November 2011. http://files.bici.org.bh/BICIreportEN.pdf.
  3. ^ (Arabic) "قتيل وأكثر من 30 مصاباً في مسيرات احتجاجية أمس". Al Wasat. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  4. ^ (registration required) Slackman, Michael (15 February 2011). "Bahrain Takes the Stage with a Raucous Protest". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ a b Martin Chulov (17 February 2011). "Bahrain protests: Four killed as riot police storm Pearl Square". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 
  6. ^ Staff (17 February 2011). "Bahrain Protests: Police Break Up Pearl Square Crowd". BBC News. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  7. ^ Targets of Retribution: Attacks against Medics, Injured Protesters, and Health Facilities (Report). Human Rights Watch. 18 July 2011. pp. 14–15. http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/bahrain0711webwcover.pdf.
  8. ^ Ned Potter (16 February 2011). "Bahrain Protests: At Least 2 Dead in Crackdown; ABC's Miguel Marquez Roughed Up". ABC News. Retrieved 12 January 2012. 
  9. ^ CNN Wire Staff (18 February 2011). "After crackdown, army makes show of force in Bahrain's capital". CNN. Retrieved 13 January 2012. 
  10. ^ Staff (17 February 2011). "Clashes Rock Bahraini Capital – Armoured Vehicles Seen on the Streets of Manama after Police Storm Protest Site in Roundabout, Killing at Least Six". Al Jazeera English. Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  11. ^ Health Services Paralyzed: Bahrain’s Military Crackdown on Patients (Report). Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières). 7 April 2011. p. 2. http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/publications/reports/2011/Bahrain_BP_Final_06042011_2106_FR-EN%20LOGO.pdf.
  12. ^ Slackman, Michael; York, Nadim Audi; Drew, Christopher (19 February 2011). "Bahrain Forces Open Fire, First on Protesters, Then on Arriving Ambulances". The New York Times. p. 11. 
  13. ^ "Bahrain troops 'fire on crowds'". BBC News. 18 February 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  14. ^ Staff Writer (28 February 2011). "Bahrain: Hold Perpetrators of Crackdown Accountable". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 26 October 2011. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g "Bahrain king orders release of political prisoners". The Independent. Associated Press. 22 February 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  16. ^ "Protesters return to Pearl Square as army withdraws". France 24. Reuters. 20 February 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Slackman, Michael; Audi, Nadim (23 February 2011). "Protests in Bahrain Become Test of Wills". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  18. ^ a b "Bahrain protesters back in action". Al Jazeera English. 22 February 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  19. ^ a b c "As protest march unfolds, Bahrain urges 'national dialogue'". CNN. 22 February 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  20. ^ a b c d e f "Bahrain unrest: Thousands join anti-government protest". BBC News. 22 February 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  21. ^ Michael Slackman (17 February 2011). "Bahrain Turmoil Poses Fresh Test for White House". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 January 2012. 
  22. ^ Staff writer (18 February 2011). "خميس البحرين الدامي" (in Arabic). Al-Wasat. Retrieved 12 January 2012. 
  23. ^ Frederik Richter (22 February 2011). "Bahrain opposition protests resume". Reuters. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  24. ^ a b Hadeel al-Shalchi and Barbara Surk (22 February 2011). "Bahrain Protests: More Than 100,000 March Through Capital As Helicopters Circle Overhead". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  25. ^ "Bahrain Releases Political Prisoners in Gesture to Protesters". Voice of America. 22 February 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2013. 
  26. ^ Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark (in English). Bahrain: Al Jazeera English. 2011. Event occurs at 19:20. Retrieved 8 July 2012. "Bahrain held its largest march in history; the world media recorded nearly a quarter of all citizens in the streets" 
  27. ^ "Authorities free political prisoners in gesture to protesters". International Freedom of Expression Exchange. 23 February 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  28. ^ (Arabic) "30 ألفا في مظاهرة للمعارضة في البحرين". CNN Arabic. 22 February 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  29. ^ "Army and police join Bahrain protesters". Euronews. 22 February 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  30. ^ (Arabic) Wesam al-Seb'a (23 February 2011). "حشود ضخمة تحيّي شهداء البحرين". Al Wasat. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  31. ^ Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark (in English). Bahrain: Al Jazeera English. 2011. Event occurs at 19:35. Retrieved 8 July 2012. "unless they offered deep reforms, the Khalifas will likely fall" 
  32. ^ March 2011&storyid=300970. Gulf Daily News.
  33. ^ Staff writer (25 February 2011). "Thousands Stage Anti-Government Protest in Bahrain". Reuters. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  34. ^ Michael Slackman and Nadim Audi (25 February 2011). "Protesters in Bahrain Demand More Changes". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  35. ^ "Bahrain youth march on state TV". Al Jazeera English. 4 March 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  36. ^ Staff writer (6 March 2011). "Thousands Protest in Bahrain – Demonstrators Gather Outside PM's Office in Capital, Manama, Demanding Premier Step Down and Monarchy Be Overthrown". Al Jazeera English. Archived from the original on 12 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  37. ^ Gregg Carlstrom (7 March 2011). "Protesters dig in at Bahraini financial hub". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  38. ^ Noueihed, Lin (8 March 2011). "Hardline Shiite Groups Demand Republic in Bahrain". Reuters (via The Gazette). Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  39. ^ Frederik Richter and Lin Noueihed (11 March 2011). "Bahrain police block march on royal palace". Reuters. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  40. ^ "Bahrain protesters march on palace as Gates visits". Associated Press (The Washington Post). 12 March 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2012. Archived 14 November 2012 at WebCite
  41. ^ Staff writer (13 March 2011). "Footage Shows Crackdown in Bahrain – YouTube Clip Appears To Show Man Shot in Chest with Tear Gas Canister as Police Also Use Rubber Bullets on Protesters". Al-Jazeera English. Archived from the original on 15 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  42. ^ a b "Bahrain 'asks for Gulf help'". Al Jazeera English. 14 March 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  43. ^ Staff writer (15 March 2011). "Saudi Soldiers Sent into Bahrain – Saudi Troops and Police from UAE Deployed to Gulf Neighbour To Help Protect Government Facilities After Weeks of Unrest". Al Jazeera English. Archived from the original on 15 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  44. ^ Bronner, Ethan; Slackman, Michael (14 March 2011). "Saudi Troops Enter Bahrain to Help Put Down Unrest". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 14 March 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  45. ^ Staff writer (15 March 2011). "Two Killed in Bahrain Violence Despite Martial Law". BBC News. Archived from the original on 5 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  46. ^ Staff writer (16 March 2011). "Curfew Follows Deadly Bahrain Crackdown – Curfew Enforced, Several Dead and Hundreds Injured as Security Forces Use Tanks and Helicopters To Quash Protest". Al Jazeera English. Archived from the original on 14 April 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  47. ^ Staff writer (19 March 2011). "U.S. Condemns Arrest of Opposition Figures in Bahrain". CNN. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  48. ^ Neela Banerjee (25 March 2011). "Protesters in Bahrain defy ban on rallies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  49. ^ May Ying Welsh and Tuki Laumea (2011). Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark. Bahrain: Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  50. ^ "Bahrain: Protest Leaders Arbitrarily Detained". Human Rights Watch. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  51. ^ "Bahrain cracks down on protesting footballers". Al Jazeera English. 15 April 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  52. ^ Hugh Tomlinson (8 April 2011). "Sportsmen feel heat from Bahrain regime". The Times (The Australian). Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  53. ^ Philip Kennicott (22 April 2011). "In Bahrain, government crackdown hits middle-class Shiites hard". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  54. ^ Elliott Abrams (22 April 2011). "Bahrain Heads for Disaster". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  55. ^ Law, Bill (6 April 2011). "Police Brutality Turns Bahrain Into 'Island of Fear'. Crossing Continents (via BBC News). Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  56. ^ Cockburn, Patrick (18 March 2011). "The Footage That Reveals the Brutal Truth About Bahrain's Crackdown – Seven Protest Leaders Arrested as Video Clip Highlights Regime's Ruthless Grip on Power". The Independent. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  57. ^ Staff writer (25 January 2012). "Bahrain live blog 25 Jan 2012". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  58. ^ Staff writer (15 February 2012). "Heavy police presence blocks Bahrain protests". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  59. ^ Gregg Carlstrom (23 April 2012). "Bahrain court delays ruling in activists case". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  60. ^ "Bahrain Shiite majority demands transitional government". Russia Today. 23 December 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 

External videos[edit]