Bahrain: Brutal crackdown, occupation

March 19, 2011
Protest in Bahrain, March 18.
Protest in Bahrain, March 18.

The government of Bahrain unleashed a brutal crackdown and invited in foreign troops on March 14 in an attempt to end pro-democracy protests that have lasted for more than a month.

One thousand troops from Saudi Arabia and 500 police from the United Arab Emirates have entered Bahrain, ABC’s Lateline said on March 15.

The Bahraini government declared a three-month long “state of emergency” on March 15, the Washington Post said that day. A government statement said that “the nation’s armed forces chief is authorised to take all measures to stamp out protests”.

Since March 14 security forces and pro-government thugs have attacked gatherings of protesters and areas where pro-democracy forces are known to live.

Many eyewitness accounts detailed the savage violence unleashed by the government forces, as well as videos of protesters being murdered or brutally maimed. said on March 16: “The Saudis were being used to provide potential protection for public buildings and the King while Bahraini police and their plainclothes thugs are attacking Shia villages and any identified protesters.”

Security forces used live ammunition and helicopters in the attacks, causing a huge number of injuries and several deaths.

Early on March 16, security forces drove protesters from their camp at the Pearl Roundabout and set fire to it.

Authorities also demolished the iconic Pearl Roundabout monument in an attempt to symbolically cleanse the protesters' main focal point, the Guardian said on March 18.

Tanks and troops blocked the entrance to the Salmaniya Medical Complex, Manama’s main hospital, preventing doctors from treating the hundreds of injured protesters, the Washington Post said on March 16.

Ambulances were fired on and medical personnel were beaten while trying to help the injured. said on March 17 that several opposition leaders were arrested after raids on their homes.

A March 14 statement from Bahraini opposition groups said the invasion of Bahrain by foreign troops was an act of war: “We consider the entry of any soldier or military vehicle into the territory — whether air space, land, or waters — of the Kingdom of Bahrain an occupation of the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

At the height of the protests, up to 200,000 people rallied against the government. The crackdown is an attempt to end the protests that have demanded the end of the despotic rule of the Khalifah royal family and have threatened to spill into other Persian Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia. said on March 14: “When the Bahraini Crown Prince visited Saudi Arabia last week, he was given an ultimatum and a deadline: either the Bahraini government takes control of the situation and ends the month old anti-government protests, or Saudi Arabia would send its troops to do the job.

“While Bahrain’s ruler did issue an appeal for help to the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council], critics have said that this was in response to pressure by Saudi Arabia, whose deadline given to the Bahraini ruler expired March 13.”

The invasion followed a defeat for government forces after they attacked protesters on March 11 and 13, the Wall Street Journal said on March 14.

Hundreds received stab wounds from thugs wielding swords and knives. Many more were injured by rubber bullets fired by police.

Protesters marched on the royal family offices in Riffa on March 11 and on the Safriya palace on March 12. They set up roadblocks in the financial district and maintained a protest camp outside the Bahrain Financial Harbour.

About 80% of workers and students took part in a general strike.

A March 14 statement from the Coalition for a Republic said on March 13 security forces and thugs attacked protesters at Bahrain Financial Harbour, before heading to the protest camp at the Pearl Roundabout.

A one point, protesters were surrounded on three sides by police and thugs.

However, government forces were forced to retreat when thousands more protesters marched to the square.

The US government’s response has exposed its selective outrage at violence carried out by its allies.

During the crackdown, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton merely urged “all sides ... to negotiate toward a political resolution”, AFP said on March 16.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney said on March 14 the entrance of foreign troops into Bahrain was “not an invasion of a country”, Reuters Africa reported.

Various sources said the US was not informed of the invasion before it happened, but others claim differently.

Former British diplomat Craig Murray said on on March 14: “A senior diplomat in a western mission to the UN in New York, who I have known over ten years and trust, has told me for sure that Hillary Clinton agreed to the cross-border use of troops to crush democracy in the Gulf, as a quid pro quo for the Arab League calling for Western intervention in Libya.”

The US has a huge stake in maintaining the status quo in Bahrain.

Bahrain hosts the US Navy’s fifth fleet and a US airbase. This allows the US control over the strategically important Persian Gulf region, guarding oil fields and shipping routes, as well as maintaining a military threat against nearby Iran.

Bahrain is also a major hub for international banking.

The Khalifah royal family has ruled Bahrain for over 200 years, most of that time backed by Western powers. The Khalifahs divided society by discriminating against the Shia Muslim majority in favour of the Sunni Muslim minority to which they belong.


Pro democracy!!! Get your facts right before you report liars. All of you journalists have lost credibility. We rely on you to report facts not fiction. Why7 don't you talk to expats who live hear instead of biased foreign correspondents, or try to gain fame through the publication of lies. We need a reverse watergate to weed out the media lies!!! There are many shiaas holding good jobs and who have benefitted from the Royal Family. I agree that compared to maybe others, there is a issue, but many of these people are biting the hand that feeds them. They want too much too quickly and when dialogue is offered, go in for the talks. Change cannot happen overnight and this is what the opposition leaders should understand. Go in for dialogue, prepare a time frame for your demanda to be implemented. I have lived in this country for 6 years and am very angry with the irresponsible action of opposition leaders. I felt sorry and terrible when the first crackdown took place on 18th March, but since then, the Bahrain government has shown a lot of patience. The opposition pushed too far!!
I am wondering why no report on what has been going on there? Dissidents are being executed at a terrifying pace, protests crushed, and opposition leaders arrested without trial, yet we hear very little opposition to that regime on this site . Is GLW taking sides in an Islamic sectarian conflict, simply because the other appears to be closer to the USA? Why not try examining their respective values and see which side has a closer fit with your own? It would be interesting to hear your justification for this.

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