Dubai: Pro-democracy demonstrators clashed with police in Bahrain on Thursday as they marked the third anniversary of an Arab Spring-inspired protest movement that was quelled with the help of GCC troops, witnesses said.
It was the first of three days of protests called by the Shiite-led opposition to mark Friday’s anniversary as they seek to give new momentum to their campaign for a constitutional monarchy in the Gulf state.
Clouds of tear gas billowed from the streets of several villages outside the capital Manama as security forces attempted to dismantle roadblocks of burning tyres, the witnesses said. The opposition has been demanding an elected government.
The protesters defied a heavy security presence to set up makeshift roadblocks of felled trees and burning tyres in several villages, where persistent demonstrations have sparked repeated clashes with police.
The interior ministry said police “confronted groups of vandals and cleared blocked roads.”
The main Shiite opposition party Al Wefaq, which has boycotted parliament since the unrest, posted images of protesters being tear-gassed and police in riot gear patrolling deserted streets.
Al Wefaq said several areas observed a complete shutdown following its call for a strike on Thursday — the last day of the working week in Bahrain — ahead of a mass rally on Saturday.
The underground February 14 youth coalition has called on its supporters to try on Friday to reach Pearl roundabout, where demonstrators camped out for a month before being violently dispersed by GCC troops.
Gulf troops deployed in Bahrain on the eve of the March 2011 crackdown, manning key positions while its own security forces carried out the crackdown. The Pearl roundabout was later razed and the site remains heavily restricted.
At least 89 people have been killed in the three years since the launch of the protests, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
Two rounds of national reconciliation talks have failed to make any headway on a settlement in the Gulf archipelago.
Crown Prince Salman, who has made several overtures to the opposition, called last month for a third round of national talks.