The Middle East Channel

Heavy security prevents Bahraini activists from returning to Pearl Roundabout

Heavy security prevents Bahraini activists from returning to Pearl Roundabout

Bahraini activists and security forces have clashed as protesters attempted to return to the site of Manama’s Pearl Roundabout, on the anniversary of last year’s pro-democracy demonstrations. Beginning on February 14, 2011, mainly Shiite activists camped on the symbolic monument for a month before a siege razed tents and destroyed the Pearl Roundabout. Security forces have fired tear gas and were reported to have used stun grenades and shotguns to disburse protesters, some of whom have reportedly retaliated with Molotov cocktails. The government has blamed Bahrain’s lead Shiite group, Al Wefaq, for instigating violence as the government-approved rally turned into a riot as activists broke off in an attempt to reoccupy the Pearl Roundabout. Up to 3,000 people have been detained since last year’s uprisings and have been subject to extreme sentences and unfair trials, according to activists. Additionally, over 4,000 people have lost their jobs after being accused of anti-government activity. The Bahraini opposition and human rights groups say little has changed despite government promises and are calling for democratic reform. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa addressed the country on the eve of the anniversary claiming a commitment to the "modernization process" and said he had pardoned 291 prisoners. However, none of those released included activists arrested in last year’s revolt.


  • Government attacks continued on multiple fronts across Syria as the U.N. Human Rights chief chastised the Security Council for failing to take steps to end the violence. 
  • Indian and Georgian authorities are investigating yesterday’s bombing and bombing attempt targeting Israeli diplomats for which Israel has blamed Iran and Hezbollah. 
  • A man thought to be Iranian suffered severe injuries in an attempt to throw a bomb at police in Thailand’s capital of Bangkok a month after the U.S. embassy warned of attacks.
  • A Yemeni man was killed as he was planting a bomb in an election booth a week before scheduled polling for presidential elections aimed to officially replace Ali Abudullah Saleh.

Arguments & Analysis

‘Yemen: Can AQAP mount an insurgency?’ (Gabriel Koehler-Derrick, The Arabist)

"Al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula has thus far proven successful in Yemen thanks to a cadre of leaders who have imposed unusual discipline on the group, balancing competing constituents while pursuing local, regional, and more recently international agendas.  However, the principles that help to explain AQAP’s success as a small, leader-centric group will not predispose them for success in insurgency.  Disciplining a tightly bound group focused on terrorist attacks and assassinations is one thing; keeping a hodgepodge of "insurgents" in check and on message is another. A larger AQAP means a broader movement, one less under the direct control of the Yemeni leaders who have guided the organization for more than five years."

‘One year later, Bahrain slow to reform’ (Gregg Carlstrom, Al Jazeera English)

"King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa quickly announced a few changes. He enlisted the help of John Timoney, a former police chief in the United States, and John Yates, a former assistant commissioner with the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom. And he issued a royal decree barring the National Security Agency, responsible for dozens of unlawful detentions last year, from carrying out arrests. Yet residents of many Bahraini villages say the abuses have continued. Police continue to raid homes in the dead of night; one unit last week even fired a tear gas canister into the house of Ali Salman, the leader of Al Wefaq. Two people have died under mysterious circumstances in police custody over the past month. Opposition activists say they were tortured."

‘The agony of Nabeel Rajab’ (Karen Leigh, The Atlantic)

"Many Bahrainis follow his example of peaceful protest and cyber activism. Fearing a media blackout, they bombard foreign rights workers and journalists with Tweets and emails about the violence they say is being perpetrated almost daily in Shi’a neighborhoods like Sitra, the country’s hotbed of revolution, and to protesters serving what they say are unjust sentences…"We don’t get as much coverage as Syria or Libya, but with our limited resources we have done our best," Rajab says. Bahrainis are some of the most active Arab protesters on social media. In a sense, they provide much of their own coverage."

–Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey