Myndighetene i Bahrain må ha blitt grepet av panikk. Voldsbruken mot fredelige demonstranter gjør spillet farligere og høyere. Det er nå innført forsamlingsforbud, likevel varsler opposisjonen nye demonstrasjoner fredag.
Hours after the attack on Manama’s main Pearl Square, the military announced a ban on gatherings, saying on state TV that it had «key parts» of the capital under its control.
Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa justified the crackdown as necessary because the demonstrators were «polarizing the country and» pushing it to the «brink of the sectarian abyss.»
Hvorfor gikk myndighetene til et så desperat tiltak? Noe av svaret kan være økende tegn på at også sunnier sluttet seg til protesten.
Shiites have clashed with police before in protests over their complaints. But the growing numbers of Sunnis joining the latest protests have come as a surprise to authorities, said Simon Henderson, a Gulf specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
«The Sunnis seem to increasingly dislike what is a very paternalistic government,» he said, adding that the crackdown was «symptomatic» of Gulf nations’ response to crises. «As far as the Gulf rulers are concerned there’s only one proper way with this and that is: be tough and be tough early.»
Sikkerhetsstyrkene som angrep var hensynsløse. De var ikke en gang arabere, mange av dem. En lege som ble slått helseløs, hørte de snakk urdu.
Sunni-eliten er i mindretall og importerer pakistanere for å balansere. De får statsborgerskap og havner ofte i politiet. Det skaper ekstra spenninger i forhold til shia-flertallet på 70 prosent.
Dr. Sadek Al-Ikri, 44, said he was tending to sick protesters at a makeshift medical tent in the square when the police stormed in. He said he was tied up and severely beaten, then thrown on a bus with others.
«They were beating me so hard I could no longer see. There was so much blood running from my head,» he said. «I was yelling, ‘I’m a doctor. I’m a doctor.’ But they didn’t stop.»
He said the police beating him spoke Urdu, the main language of Pakistan. A pillar of the protest demands is to end the Sunni regime’s practice of giving citizenship to other Sunnis from around the region to try to offset the demographic strength of Shiites. Many of the new Bahrainis are given security posts.
Bahrain er et svakt ledd i den sunnittiske kjeden i Midtøsten. Iran spøker i bakgrunnen.
The stability of Bahrain’s government is seen as crucial by its other allies in the Gulf, who — though they rarely say it in public — see Bahrain’s Shiite majority as the weak link in their unity against Iranian influence.