Bahraini rallyists 'often do not know' purpose of protests

Bahrainis had staged 498 street demonstrations in 2006, up from 259 in the previous year.

Gulf News

Manama: Bahrainis had staged 498 street demonstrations in 2006, up from 259 in the previous year.

But, according to top security officer Brigadier Abdul Lateef Al Zayani, fewer people are now involved in street protests and the violence that marred several of these has abated.

"Demonstrations used to be larger in size, but now they are smaller and less confrontational although much more frequent," said the officer in remarks published in Bahrain yesterday.

He said many demonstrators involved in the protests and clashes with police were young people who "often did not know the reasons behind the rallies".

"We have found out from the participants during their questioning that they often did not know who was behind the demonstrations and what the organisers wanted to achieve. We also discovered that the protesters did not follow any specific political ideology and that they had different reasons for their rebellion against the law," Al Zayani said.

Bahraini authorities have consistently blamed "extremists" for using young people to exert pressure on the establishment, a charge that is regularly rejected by activists who say they want to uphold their rights to steady employment and adequate housing.

Several villages in the outskirts of Manama, have in the last few months witnessed clashes between demonstrators, who burnt tyres and hurled stones, and the security staff who used tear gas.

Police 'force'

Activists say that the police often used excessive force to disperse them.

But Al Zayani yesterday said police use tear gas moderately and rubber bullets were never used.

"We take special measures to ensure that we deal with the situation swiftly and efficiently and with the least damage possible to people and properties," he said.

The US-educated officer rejected charges that the presence of foreign-born anti-riot police security personnel was a provocation to the sentiments of unemployed Bahrainis.