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Friday, October 15, 2010

Bahrain's pre-election jitters

from the Economist

Manama Oct 14th 2010

Backward steps

A Gulf monarchy’s experiment in controlled democracy is looking shaky
ALMOST every day since mid-August, the Bahraini authorities have sent out batches of workers with paint-rollers to blot out, with grey smudges, the graffiti that have covered virtually every wall in the main streets of several of the drab Shia Muslim villages half an hour’s drive from the gleaming skyscrapers of the capital, Manama. In bright shades of red, blue and green, the slogans demand, among other things, “Power to parliament!”, “Give us back our human rights!”, “Free the prisoners!” and—most provocatively—“Down with the al-Khalifa!”, the royal family that has run the place since the British handed over power in 1971. The streets are also spattered with patches of black, where protesters have been burning tyres. According to the justice minister, more than a dozen Molotov cocktails were thrown at the police on the day the protests began.

No one has been killed in the unrest (which the police have damped down), but hundreds of young men have been arrested, along with 23 more prominent figures, including at least four Shia clerics, and the island’s cheekiest blogger, all said by the government to have spread false information, incited violence, fomented terrorism or plotted the government’s overthrow.


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