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23-01-2012 - deutsche Press agentur

Bahrain spirals into escalating violence

Bahrain has spiraled into escalating violence on the streets in recent days, several weeks after an independent commission report into last year's violence was released in November.

 

On Saturday police and pro-government supporters clashed with hundreds of mourners in Muharraq, north of the Bahraini capital Manama, as they marched in the funeral of 24-year-old Yousif Muwali, who died in controversial circumstances on January 13th.

 

Muwali had gone missing on January 11th before his body was found on the sea-shore. Authorities say he died after drowning at sea, while relatives claim that he died in police custody and later had his body dumped by the shore.

The body was released to the family Saturday morning, but the authorities declined to authorize a funeral march. Mourners attempted to march inside the graveyard but clashes broke-out as they tried to head from the graveyard to a near-by street.

 

The clashes, which initially broke out with pro-government Sunni supporters as they tried to lock the mourners in the graveyard, were an unprecedented escalation in an area with large Sunni and Shiite residential mix, taking place inside the graveyard, a sacred location for Muslims.

The clashes left several injuries and several cars of people taking part in the funeral were damaged. The vice chairman of the opposition grouping Ekha, Ali Yousif Qodrat, was detained by police after they stormed the graveyard firing tear-gas.

 

The police action was backed-up by pro-government supporters armed with sticks and hurling rocks at mourners from various sides of the graveyard, before police finally stopped their assault but allowed them to remain in the vicinity and behind police lines.

 

Shortly after the clashes, several Shiite-owned businesses were vandalized by the pro-government supporters, in a repeat of the sectarian targeting seen in February and March of last year when the pro-reform protests broke-out.

Clashes were also reported in several areas across the small Gulf island on Saturday, with tire-burning protests to demand the release of political detainees.

In November a commission set up by Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa found that excessive force had been used against pro-reform protesters in a crack-down that began in mid-March with the introduction of martial law for almost 3 months, before being lifted.

Since the report's release, some proposed reforms had been pushed forward by the government, but the key demands of the protesters have not been addressed while scores of people remain detained or facing trials, including political and religious leaders, medics, and other professionals.

 

The death toll from protest-related also continued to mount, surpassing 50 so far since February 14th, with many in the opposition now vowing to re-ignite the large protests by the first anniversary if the demands of political reform are not met. Those include a constitutional monarchy with a fully elected legislature and government.

 

Hardliners in the opposition and on the street continue to call for bringing down the regime.

 

The opposition protests in Lulu roundabout, in the heart of the capital, have attracted massive turnout for a month, before the authorities moved in against them taking control of the site.

 

The protest site remains locked-down and guarded by heavy security with protesters regularly attempting to retake it unsuccessfully. Tight security presence also remains across most parts of the country, with several protests flaring up on an almost daily basis.

 

Pro-government supporters have also escalated their tone in recent weeks, with some demanding strict implementation of anti-protest laws and vowing to stand-up against opposition groups.

 

Other sources on GCC civil society and human rights