Manama (AsiaNews / Agencies) - More violent
clashes between protesters and police near the Bahrain Sakhir circuit, where the
Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place tomorrow. The
security forces have fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the thousands
of people who took to the streets in the villages of Damistan, Karkzakkan,
Malkiya and Sadad, less than four kilometers from the runway. Some
of the demonstrators, including women, have responded by throwing stones and
Molotov cocktails. For the moment, no
casualties were reported.
The protests have been ongoing for days, and have intensified since the rulers confirmed the Grand Prix tomorrow. The Shiite opposition leaders had announced new demonstrations, to exploit the international resonance of the car race to highlight violations of human rights carried out by the Sunni regime. They demand the release of 14 activists arrested during the protests of 2011, denouncing the killing of over 70 people in a year of events.
Bahrain is a Shia majority country, but ruled by a Sunni royal family an ally of Saudi Arabia. For over a year the population is demanding constitutional reforms and the removal of the prime minister, Sheik Khalifah bin Salman al-Khalifah, in power since 1971. In March 2011, the Shiite opposition organized a popular uprising in the wake of the "Arab spring". To quell the demonstrations, the government asked ally Saudi Arabia for help, which intervened by sending special forces authorized to fire on demonstrators. 24 people died in the clashes, including 4 policemen. The tensions had forced the FIA to cancel the race, which brings from 400 to 500 million U.S. dollars into the state coffers.