The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Bahrain's huge demo

I forgot to mention it yesterday being so busy, but while a really ultimately small protest was quashed heavily in Egypt, there was this huge -- especially considering the size of the country -- protest for constitutional reform in Bahrain on Friday. Chan'ad Bahraini as always has the goods:

In a massive show of force yesterday, Al Wefaq held a huge rally in Sitra demanding constitutional reform, despite orders from the Interior Ministry to cancel it. Thankfully though the government didn't try to shut down the protest with force (as it did a couple weeks back). Instead, the police blocked the Sitra bridge at about 3pm I think (the protest was scheduled to start at 3.30pm), forcing latecomers to walk across. At the site of the protest itself there were no cops in sight anywhere... actually there was no one around except for the protesters and journalists because of the roadblock.

One of protest organizers that I spoke to said that 120,000 was the number they were telling the press, but from my past experience a more accurate number is half or three quarters of the numbers touted by the organizers. Actually the report from Reuters (via AlJazeera) says that the organizers were only claiming 80,000. And some of the journalists I spoke to at the protests were saying it was around 50,000. Pick what you want. In any case though, this was a HUGE one... certainly the largest political protest I have seen in Bahrain I think. Even if we use the conservative estimate of 50,000 it's still big considering that the total population of Bahraini nationals is only about 400,000, and that the police had blocked off the roads.

Juan Cole also had a post looking at the constitutional and sectarian politics involved.

Starting a "Bahrain" category with this post... this is a story to keep watching.