Bahrain: Despite the Ban, Opposition Protests in the Capital

This post is part of our special coverage Bahrain Protests 2011/12.

After stopping for a little over three months in light of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) refusing to grant permission to gatherings or marches of the opposition, societies held their second rally in the streets of Manama on Friday September 7, 2012. The MOI had announced ahead on Twitter that the gathering is not authorized and participation is illegal.

Various similar gatherings in Manama were previously denied permission, which according to a Ministry press release is because the capital is not the place to carry protests, citing traffic delays and adverse effects on businesses in the area as reasons for the ban.

Shaikh Ali Salman, the secretary-general of the opposition AlWefaq Islamic Society tweeted to comment that the ban will not stop him personally from attending the protest [ar]:

إذا منعت سوف أنزل إلى عاصمتي ماشياً أو في سيارتي من أجل ممارسة حقي في التظاهر السلمي#يوم العاصمة
@WefaqGS: If I was prevented I will walk to the capital or drive in my car to exercise my right to peaceful protest.
Ali Salman leading one of the protests in Manama on Friday, photo by yfrog user @2012_atoma

Ali Salman leading one of the protests in Manama on Friday, photo by yfrog user @2012_atoma

Salman was among the first to arrive to Manama for afternoon prayers which he lead in Moemin Mosque, one of the iconic mosques that were closed during the unrest of the 1990s as it became a gathering place for opposition leaders at the time.

This video, uploaded by mmeha89 shows part of the protest in Manama. Among the chants [ar] are a call for the freeing of political prisoners, down with Hamad [the monarch] and the all too familiar Arab Spring protest chant: “The people want the downfall of the regime.”

As hundreds responded to the call to protest, the announced route of the rally along the “Government Avenue” was soon besieged and riot police were stationed along it to prevent crowds from gathering. However, numerous spontaneous protests took place in the back allies of Manama, which were soon dispersed by riot police with stun grenades and tear gas.

Protesters carried pictures of detainees, chanted anti-government slogans and stressed their right to protest in the capital. Main entrances to the capital were later blocked by riot police armored vehicles or patrol cars, which diverted traffic to other roads. Pictures of blocked roads and open entrances were spread on Twitter.

Police presence in Manama, photo by Twitpic @AJalilKhalil

Police presence in Manama, photo by Twitpic @AJalilKhalil

The traffic diversion was not announced by MOI. Instead, it let out a tweet saying that the traffic jams around Manama are due to planned road work in the area [ar]:

ازدحام مروري على شارعي الشيخ خليفة بن سلمان والملك فيصل المؤديان للمحرق لوجود منطقة عمل من الإشارة الضوئية الواقعة بالقرب من فندق الريجنسي وحتى الإشارة الضوئية بالقرب من فندق الشيراتون، وجاري العمل على تسهيل الحركة المرورية
@moi_bahrain : Traffic congestion on Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman and King Faisal Roads leading to Muharraq because of planned roadwork near the traffic light by the Regency Hotel up until the traffic light of the Sheraton Hotel, we are working to ease traffic.

Skirmishes and small protests continued throughout the day. The situation because tense by the maghreb [sunset] prayers, when groups of riot police surrounded the mosque Ali Salman prayed in, in anticipation of the protesters regrouping demonstrating again.

The day ended with the arrest of six protesters as announced by MOI. MOI has also issued a press release the next day stating that criminal charges have been filed with the public prosecutor against AlWefaq for calling for the protest, even though five other opposition societies have called their supporters to protest on social media.

Many were not pleased with the opposition carrying their protests despite the ban and a Twitter campaign under the hashtag “Close Down AlWefaq” #أغلقوا_الوفاق was launched.  A number of public figures also expressed their concern. Among them was foreign minister Shaikh Khalid AlKhalifa, who tweeted [ar]:

على الوفاق ان تحترم سلطة قوانين مملكة البحرين .. و الا فلتريحنا و تذهب بطائفيتها و عنجهيتها الى #كوكب_آخر
@khalidalkhalifa: AlWefaq should respect the authority of the laws of the Kingdom of Bahrain, or else it should comfort us by taking its sectarianism and its arrogance to “another planet”.

This post is part of our special coverage Bahrain Protests 2011/12.

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