Bahrain. When the demands for democracy began to be heard around the Arab world at the turn of the year, the King of Bahrain, Shaykh Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, first tried to appease his subjects with money – each family would receive the equivalent of $ 2,700 in grants. But the opposition, based in the country’s Shiite Muslim majority, did not settle, but began demonstrations in mid-February. They were immediately met by violence, but managed to occupy the so-called Pearl Square, a roundabout near the center of the capital Manama, and took control of much of the city in the following weeks. Most demonstrations demanded that the country become a constitutional monarchy. Strong criticism was directed at the Prime Minister for 41 years, King’s uncle Khalifah ibn Salman Al Khalifa.
The regime introduced martial law and deployed 1,500 soldiers and riot police from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on March 14. Two days later, the forces stormed the Pearl Square and leveled the protesters’ camp with the ground. At the same time, a number of opposition leaders were arrested. The protests then continued but in more low-intensity forms. The laws of war were lifted on 1 June and the newly established military courts were dissolved. In October, a local human rights organization reported that a total of 40 deaths had been claimed since February. At the end of the year, new demonstrations were held and on New Year’s Eve, a 16-year-old boy, Sayed Hashem Said, was killed, after which riots broke out again.
According to Countryaah, the King commissioned an international commission to investigate the causes of the unrest and review the allegations of abuse. The Commission, led by Egyptian former UN lawyer Cherif Bassiouni, presented its report in November, stating that police and military had used force against the protesters, that some of them had been tortured and that legal security had been breached. The connection to Iran for which the regime had accused the protesters could not be proved, investigators noted after more than 5,000 interviews.
The king responded by promising to dismiss all those who were guilty of abuse and reform the laws to protect basic human rights. In December, he appointed a committee to be responsible for it. Several opposition parties, whose leaders were still imprisoned, abstained. In October, of the hundreds of activists arrested in connection with the demonstrations, five had been sentenced to death and 80 in prison. Twenty doctors and nurses, all Shi’ites, were sentenced to long prison terms for supporting the protesters. Several hundred public servants were also dismissed from their jobs with reference to their participation in the demonstrations.