Anti-government protesters in Bahrain rallied outside parliament Monday, in an effort to step up pressure on the nation’s monarchy to establish democratic reforms. Many also have called for the removal of the ruling al-Khalifa family.
The protesters are maintaining their presence at their base in Manama’s Pearl Square while carrying out other demonstrations at sensitive locations throughout the Bahraini capital.
Bahrain’s Shi’ite-led opposition has been holding daily protests demanding the resignation of the entire government, which is dominated by the minority Sunni al-Khalifa family. Anti-government protesters also want the monarchy to transfer powers to an elected government that is representative of the Gulf state’s Shi’ite majority.
After two weeks of anti-government protests, King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa ousted four Cabinet members on Saturday, including two members of the royal family. Bahrain’s Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa – the king’s uncle – retained the post he has held for four decades.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday welcomed the move by Bahrain’s king to reshuffle the Cabinet and urged the government to respect human rights.
Obama encouraged the government of Bahrain, which he called a “long-standing partner,” to lead a “meaningful, inclusive, non-sectarian and responsive” dialogue with its people. He said the country’s stability “will be enhanced by respecting the universal rights” of its citizens and by launching reforms that “meet the aspirations of all Bahrainis.”
Thousands of anti-government protesters flooded the streets of Bahrain’s capital, Manama, Sunday, continuing to press their demands. Demonstrators marched from the epicenter of the protests in Pearl Square to Manama’s commercial district, paralyzing parts of the capital. Many waved Bahraini flags and chanted, “the people want the fall of the regime.”
Unlike those in Tunisia and Egypt, the protests in Bahrain are largely built around the competition for power between the Sunni minority and the Shi’ite majority, which complains of discrimination and lack of opportunity.
A government crackdown on opposition protests that began February 14 killed seven protesters before the island state’s rulers agreed, under pressure from their Western allies, to allow peaceful demonstrations to continue.