Bahraini protesters demand end of Khalifa regime

February 26, 2011 - 0:0

MANAMA (Agencies) - Bahraini protesters thronged Manama on Friday to demand the end of the ruling Sunni regime. Tens of thousands of Shia protesters headed for Pearl Square, epicenter of daily demonstrations since February 14, chanting: “The people want to topple the regime!”

Young and old, men and women, the demonstrators marched in gender-segregated processions on either side of a main highway, waving the red-and-white flag of Bahrain or draping it across their shoulders, AFP reported.
Some of the protesters carried megaphones, blaring slogans and speeches as the protest snaked towards the square, renamed “Martyrs' Roundabout” in honor of the seven victims of a deadly police raid on a protest last week.
Meanwhile visiting U.S. military officer Mike Mullen reaffirmed Washington's commitment to embattled King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
Mullen wrapped up his visit to Bahrain, a key U.S. ally and home to Washington's Fifth Fleet, before heading to Kuwait.
The U.S. admiral reaffirmed his country's support for the monarch and “strong commitment” to Bahrain's army before leaving Manama, an AFP correspondent said.
The country's defense force was also the center of angry chants among the crowds on Friday, who shouted: “How bizarre, how bizarre, the army's killing the people.”
Bahraini troops raid protesters' camp
Bahraini troops raided the protest camp in Pearl Square on Friday.
According to BBC, the troops attacked the protesters in the early hours of Friday as they were asleep.
At least seven people have been killed in 11 consecutive days of popular protests, calling for the ouster of the Al-Khalifa dynasty, which has ruled the country for over 200 years.
The Shias enjoy demographic predominance in the kingdom. They, however, have long complained about being discriminated against by the Sunni-led government when it comes to employment opportunities and the right to services.
Opposition leader detained in Lebanon
In another development, the leader of one of Bahrain's opposition parties said Friday that he didn't know when he can go back home and blamed the Bahrain’s kingdom for blocking his return to the country.
According to CNN, Hassan Mushaimaa, leader of the Haq Movement, said he was unable to return home because he was detained in Lebanon.
Mushaimaa said Lebanese authorities seized his passport, saying there was a warrant for him from Interpol, the international police organization.
“My lawyer confirmed that no such warrant have been issued,” Mushaimaa said. “If I was wanted by the Interpol, I would have not been allowed to leave London.”
Mushaimaa said he was not sure when he can go back to Bahrain.
“What is happening to me would show clearly how this regime (in Bahrain) is using lies and deceptions,” he said. “How can there be a call for national dialogue while I am banned from returning to Bahrain?”
Talks must come with guarantees
A senior Bahraini cleric, Imam Isa Qassim, said Friday that any dialogue between anti-government protesters and the kingdom's rulers must lead to clear results that achieve the demands of the people, AP reported.
In a sermon at a Shia village mosque in the an anti-government hotbed of Diraz, Qassim called for talks that are “clear, comprehensive and productive.” He said demonstrators want guarantees on what would be accomplished by the talks.
“We don't want dialogue for the sake of dialogue, we don't want dialogue to waste time or to absorb anger,” Qassim told worshippers. “We want a meaningful, viable and sustainable process. ... We seek a fundamental change to the current political process based on legitimate demands.”
Photo: Bahrainis march in an anti-regime demonstration headed towards Pearl Square in the Bahraini capital of Manama, February 25, 2011.