Bahraini police have used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of protesters in Manama, as they marked the second anniversary of the Shiite-led uprising against the Sunni regime.
Demonstrators tried to march to Pearl Square, the site they occupied two years ago when the protest against the royal family – rulers for over 40 years – first began.
“Square of martyrdom, we all still have the will! Down with the corrupt government!” chanted protesters carrying Bahraini flags as reported by AFP.
“Khalifa resign,” the demonstrators also called, referring to the king’s uncle Prince Khalifa bin Salman, who has been prime minister for four decades.
The attempt to march to the square came after the main Shiite opposition bloc, al-Wefaq, organized a massive protest in which thousands took part in the Shiite village of Sanabis, near Manama.
After the opposition’s rally ended, “a group of saboteurs caused riots and blocked roads, requiring authorities to take legal action against them,” the interior ministry said on Twitter.
Opposition supporters have been demonstrating for more than a week ahead of the anniversary which is set for February 14. A Clandestine radical cyber-group Revolution Youth Coalition has reportedly called for demonstrations marking the date.
During the uprising in 2011, protesters camped for one month at Pearl Square before being forcefully driven out in mid-March. Authorities later razed the square.
Anti-government protesters have been holding demonstrations across Bahrain since that moment, calling for an end to the discrimination of the state’s Shiite majority by the predominant Sunni government.
Eighty people have been killed and thousands arrested since the unrest began. Many opposition figures have been arrested on the allegation of planning to topple the government.
The opposition believes that one of the reasons why Western powers support the “dictatorship” is the crucial US naval military base located in Bahrain. Meanwhile, Bahraini authorities claim the country has no problems with freedom of speech or democracy and denounce protesters as criminals and saboteurs trying to instigate revolution and topple the legitimate government.
Bahraini protestors stand in front of riot police and flash the “V” sign for victory during an anti-government rally to demand political reforms on February 12, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
Bahraini women take part in an anti-government rally to demand political reforms on February 12, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohammed Al-Shaikh)