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    A Bahraini woman takes part in an anti-government protest that marks a 1000 days since the Shiite-led uprising demanding democratic reforms in Sunni-ruled but Shiite-majority Bahrain, in the village of al-Shakhurah, west of Manama, on December 13, 2013.

    Five Years After Protests, Bahrain Critics Facing 'Widespread Crackdown'

    © AFP 2019 / Mohammed Al-Shaikh
    Middle East
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    Five years after a wave of protests swept through Bahrain as part of the Arab Spring movement, there are major concerns over the freedom of speech and hope for reforms in the Gulf monarchy, with the government accused of engaging in a "widespread crackdown" against any form of political protest.

    Human rights campaigners have expressed their concern at the lack of progress in Bahrain following the 2011 demonstrations, which resulted in more than 90 civilian deaths and thousands of arrests, with activists accusing the government of trying to silence any form of opposition.

    "Five years since the uprising, torture, arbitrary detention and a widespread crackdown against peaceful activists and government critics have continued," James Lynch, Amnesty International UK's Middle East and North Africa deputy director said.

    "Today in Bahrain, anyone who dares to criticize the authorities — whether a human rights defender or political activist — risks punishment."

    Concerns Over Lack of Justice

    The concerns come despite assurances from authorities that the country would investigate the alleged crimes of 2011, while also committing to increase governmental transparency.

    The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) was set up later in 2011, which found the Bahraini government had engaged in the systematic use of torture and other forms of physical abuse on many of those arrested and questioned by law enforcement authorities.

    However, Mr Lynch says many of the measures implemented have failed to bring about justice.

    "Despite pledges from the authorities to prosecute security forces responsible for human rights violations in 2011, the Bahraini people are still waiting for justice. Institutions set up to protect human rights have not only failed to independently investigate or hold perpetrators to account, but now increasingly appear to be used to whitewash continuing abuses."

    2011 Uprising

    Following on from similar uprisings in neighboring Tunisia, the mass protests against Bahrain's ruling Al-Khalifa family started on 14 February 2011, with thousands of protesters calling for widespread reforms to the country's constitution, along with an end to civil rights abuses.

    Thousands of mainly Shia protesters — who make up the majority of the country's population — gathered in Bahrain's capital of Manama to demand changes from the Sunni-controlled government, but were met with violent force from Bahrain's security forces.

    Estimates suggest more than 100,000 people took part in the month-long wave of protests, with the BICI investigation accusing the government of being responsible for the deaths of 20 civilians during this time, while a further 3,000 were injured.

    Unlike in other countries during the Arab Spring, the protests didn't succeed in achieving widespread reforms after 1,5000 troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE entered to shut down demonstrators.


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    Middle East, uprising, human rights abuse, civilian deaths, democracy, government, Arab Spring, Amnesty International, Bahrain
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