Protests in Bahrain from 2011

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Protesters on Perlenplatz (February 19, 2011)

The protests in Bahrain since 2011 are directed against the political leadership in the Kingdom of Bahrain . You are part of the Arab Spring . The wave of protests began on February 14, 2011. The main demands of the demonstrators are a change of government, a new constitution, an end to human rights violations and the improvement of living conditions. People also want to be able to vote directly for the Prime Minister and the government in future.


Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is the head of state of Bahrain, against whom the protests are directed

Bahrain is a monarchy with a constitutional character. The king appoints the government as well as the members of the upper house . He can dissolve parliament at any time and call new elections. The royal house belongs to the Sunni branch of Islam , while around 70% of Muslims in Bahrain are Shiites . The religious head of the local Shiites is Ayatollah Isa Qassim .

Efforts have been made to diversify the economy, particularly in recent years. This should enable stable and independent development also for the future. At the same time, the unemployment rate was reduced from 16% (2006) to below 4% (2011). Health care, like education, is freely accessible and well developed.

54% of the population of Bahrain are foreign workers, the rest are Bahraines, of whom about two thirds are Shiite. The foreign workers are mainly employed in low-wage trades as construction workers, factory workers and salesmen. Most come from Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

Almost 2/3 of the world's proven oil reserves and 45% of the world's gas reserves are located in the area around the Persian Gulf . Bahrain is connected by a dam to the eastern part of Saudi Arabia , whose regional population is also predominantly Shiite. This part of Saudi Arabia has the largest oil reserves in the country.

A conflict between Sunnis and Shiites , often described as religious, is more likely to hide political, social and economic causes.

The Shiite-Muslim majority of the population has a hard time finding a job or adequate and affordable housing. They are largely excluded from government jobs at ministries, the police or the army. There is suspicion among Bahraini officials and Sunnis about the Shiites about their national loyalty and about their co-religionists in Iran and Iraq. The proportion of Shiites in higher government positions has fallen from 30 percent to ten percent over the past ten years. Only two percent of the security forces are Shiites. The prime minister, who has been in office for 40 years and is an uncle of the king, is accused of having divided up the electoral districts in such a way that the Shiite majority cannot obtain a majority in the electoral lower house . Although the Shiites make up almost 70 percent of the citizens, only 18 of the 40 seats in the lower house are Shiite groups.

The National Guard and some special forces were repeatedly used against demonstrators. The majority of these units consist of newcomers from Sunni countries outside Germany (Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Jordan) who now live with their families in Bahrain and who have not infrequently become citizens of Bahrain.

In the run-up to the elections to the House of Representatives scheduled for October 23, 2010, the government took massive action against the opposition. After numerous arrests there were protests, some of which were violent, by opposition youth. Lawyers for those detained in this context brought charges of torture against the authorities.

Bahrain is home to the US 5th Fleet , the main military force in the region.



February 11th to 19th

In light of the Arab Spring , the Bahraini government increased social spending and announced the release of some Shiite regime critics who had been arrested six months earlier in a raid . After calls for protests in Bahrain on the tenth anniversary of the Bahraini constitution , King Hamad ibn Isa Al Chalifa announced on February 11th, for February 14th, the anniversary of the adoption of the National Action Charter, every family would have 1000 Bahraini dinars (approx €) to give.

The announced demonstrations on February 14 led to clashes between demonstrators and security forces who used tear gas and rubber bullets, killing one protester. The next day, during the funeral procession for the man who had been killed, another protester suffered fatal injuries from police shotgun ammunition. Thereupon the party al-Wifaq , which has 18 seats in the 40-member parliament, announced that it would suspend its participation in parliament.

Clearance of the Perlenplatz on February 17th, 2011

Similar to the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo during the revolution in Egypt in 2011 , Pearl Square in Bahrain's capital Manama was occupied in the further course of the protests , which was initially tolerated. In the early morning of February 17, the National Guard and the riot police (English: riot police) evacuated the place. Five people were shot dead by the security forces and more than 200 injured. In the center of Manama, tanks were posted on central streets and squares and further unauthorized political rallies there were no longer tolerated.

Around 15,000 people attended the funeral of the demonstrators who were killed during the evacuation of Perlenplatz. Calls for the death of the king were loud. When the ruling family ordered the military to leave the streets of Manama and other towns the next day, thousands of people moved to Pearl Square in Manama that evening.

February 21-27

Due to the ongoing protests in Bahrain, the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Bahrain originally scheduled for March 13 was canceled.

On February 21, there was a large march of supporters of the royal family.

King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa pardoned several hundred people on February 22nd, including 23 Shiites who had been in custody since last year for overthrowing plans and membership in a terrorist network. Blogger Ali Abdulemam , who also writes on Global Voices Online , was also released. During the day, several thousand people gathered for the largest protest march to date against the government in the capital Manama and marched towards Pearl Square.

The exiled Shiite opposition leader Hassan Muschaima returned to Manama on February 26th. Muschaima is considered to be the head of the Haqq group, which is considered to be more radical than the largest Shiite opposition bloc in the House of Representatives al-Wifaq, which has led the protests in Bahrain so far. Muschaima, along with other Shiite activists, was accused of working to overthrow the Bahraini regime.

On February 26, the government was reshuffled. The ministers for health and for housing were replaced. The new Minister for Housing was Majid al-Alawi , a former anti-government activist who, among other things, had introduced a minimum wage for Bahraini and during whose time as minister unemployment had fallen sharply. The new Minister of Health was Nizar al-Baharna , who assumed this role in addition to his role as Foreign Minister. The minister is Shiite. The Minister for Cabinet Affairs, Ahmed bin Atiyyatullah Al Khalifa , a member of the royal family and alleged instigator of the Bandargate affair, has been replaced. The planned number of buildings to be built by the government each year was increased from 2,000 to 8,000 to 10,000 and the mortgage loan for government housing loans was reduced by 25 percent.

Meanwhile, there were further protest marches. Tens of thousands demonstrated in Manama on Sunday, February 27th.

March 1st to March 13th

Pearl Square on March 1st, 2011

On the evening of March 2, a pro-government demonstration took place, which, according to Bahraini state television, had 300,000 participants. The anti-government protests continued.

Tents of the demonstrators at Perlenplatz before the eviction (March 4, 2011)

On the late evening of March 3, violent clashes broke out in Madinat Hamad between opposition supporters and Bahraini people who have only recently acquired Bahraini citizenship.

The three Shiite opposition groups Wafa, Haqq and Bahrain Freedom Movement founded a so-called “Coalition for a Bahraini Republic” on March 8th, which aims to establish a republic as a form of government for Bahrain and overthrow the monarchy. The parliamentary party al-Wifaq and other opposition groups did not go so far and called for major reforms, including an elected parliament "with full legislative power".

On March 10, it was announced that the Gulf Cooperation Council would provide Bahrain with $ 10 billion over a 10-year period to expand the housing stock and infrastructure.

After the Friday prayers, demonstrations took place again on March 11, in which around 8,000 people took part. The Bahraini police initially prevented Sunni counter-demonstrators from intervening. After the demonstration ended peacefully, several hundred Shiites returned near the Royal Palace, where clashes with counter-demonstrators broke out.

After clashes between demonstrators and Bahraini police, 30,000 people demonstrated on March 12 in the city of Safriyya, north of Manama. The actions of the police from the previous day were very strongly criticized. One of the royal palaces is located in Safriyya.

Tear gas was used against demonstrators in Manama on March 13 after at least one unarmed police officer was seriously injured as a result of provocations.

state of emergency

Early in the morning of March 14, members of the Bahraini parliament called for a state of emergency to be declared.

Following a call for help from the Bahraini government, the Gulf Cooperation Council sent 2,000 soldiers and police officers (1,200 from Saudi Arabia and 800 from the United Arab Emirates ) to Bahrain in an initial phase . The Bahraini opposition interpreted this as a declaration of war and an occupation by foreign troops.

On March 15, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa declared a three-month state of emergency under Article 36 of the constitution (which can be partially or completely renewed as often as desired) and authorized the Chief of the National Armed Forces to “initiate all measures to ensure the security of the country and to protect its citizens ”. In the evening, 200 Shiites were shot and wounded by Sunni thugs in Sitra, south of Manama.

The next day, the government had the Perlenplatz and other places evacuated with armored vehicles. Three demonstrators died, three police officers and over a hundred demonstrators were injured. Bahraini security forces entered Salmaniyya Hospital, where many injured protesters had been treated. The Shiite Minister of Health, Nizar al-Baharna , who had been responsible until then, resigned after witnessing abuse of people in a wing of the hospital. The Shiite housing minister “boycotted” the government and twelve judges of the Shiite appeals court resigned, referring to “the bloody events” and the “use of excessive force and arms”. When MSF staff later visited the hospital, the hospital was practically empty. The injured reported that they had been beaten by soldiers. Other patients were arrested after it became clear that their injuries were related to the protests. MSF complained that injuries were used to identify protesters and then arrest them. Gunshot wounds from police and military operations are particularly sought after. The state uses the denial of medical treatment to deter the population from protests.

Seven opposition leaders were arrested on March 17.

Pearl Square after the monument was destroyed (March 29, 2011)

On March 18, was on the Pearl Roundabout , the Pearl Monument demolished on government orders.

The Foreign Minister announced on March 19 that three or four Gulf states would send more security forces and that they would only be used to protect, for example oil installations, and not to suppress protests.

In the days that followed, preparations were made to normalize the situation. According to the BNA, regular operations were started step by step in the ministries, public institutions and schools as far as possible.

Following negotiations with the government, the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions announced on March 22 that it would cancel its planned nationwide strike.

Newspaper reports that the Emir of Kuwait was mediating between the government of Bahrain and the opposition were denied by the Foreign Minister of Bahrain on March 28, saying that previous efforts had not been answered by the opposition and that the offer of talks had ended with the declaration of a state of emergency . The Gulf Cooperation Council welcomed the mediation on March 27th.

On March 29, the House of Commons decided to accept the resignation of 11 of the 18 MPs of the al-Wifaq party from their mandate. These MPs then lost their parliamentary immunity after suspending their participation in parliament on February 15.

On April 3, 2011, the Interior Ministry briefly banned the country's largest opposition newspaper, al-Wasat , after the newspaper was accused of false reports about the situation in the country. On April 4, after the founder and editor-in-chief Mansur al-Jamri as well as the managing director and the head of the domestic affairs department had been fired, the newspaper appeared again.

With the crackdown on the demonstrations in the capital Manama in mid-March, a wave of arrests began, during which, according to The Washington Post , up to 1200 people were arrested on April 22, 2011. According to the union, at least 920 people have been fired for participating in demonstrations. Four detainees were killed in police custody, according to human rights organizations. In a report of the American organization Physicians for Human Rights (Physicians for Human Rights / PHR) of 22 April 2011, the names of more lists than 30 doctors and other medical workers who were abducted during the riots and are still missing to date. The report describes, among other things, the severe mistreatment of six doctors at Salmaniyya Hospital, the kidnapping and torture of patients and the temporary takeover of hospitals by the military. The Bahraini authorities took an evasive position on the allegations and mostly justified themselves by stating that “militant forces” had used the hospitals as “bases” for their activities.

After the state of emergency was lifted

The state of emergency in Bahrain was lifted on June 1, 2011.

On August 4th, Al Jazeera English aired a 50-minute documentary entitled "Bahrain: Shouting in the dark" about the protests in Bahrain. The Qatari broadcaster had previously been harshly criticized for its lack of coverage from Bahrain, especially since it had been very active in following the protests in Tunisia and Egypt. The documentary was not broadcast on the Arab channel Al Jazeera, but it still led to tension between Qatar and Bahrain.

On September 24th there was the first round of by-elections for the 40-seat parliament, as various Shiite MPs resigned from their seats in the spring. The Shiites were called by opposition leaders to boycott the vote.

On September 29, 2011, a special court sentenced 13 doctors and nurses to prison terms of 15 years each, who had occupied Salmaniyya Medical Complex before the state of emergency. Seven other health care workers received prison terms ranging from five to ten years.

On November 18, a 16-year-old died in protests after being hit by a police vehicle that may have skidded on a deliberately designed oil spill.

On December 15, in Diraz , the place where Ayatollah Isa Qassim worked , clashes between demonstrators and police, during which tear gas was also used. Many protesters were also arrested.

Another youth died on December 31; The 15-year-old was hit by a tear gas canister in the chest area during demonstrations against the government because of the lack of reforms and died as a result in the hospital.


On January 15, 2012, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa announced that he would follow the recommendations of the “Forum for National Dialogue” and implement constitutional reform. The proposals provide for new laws to be submitted to parliament for voting in the future.

On April 22nd, the Formula 1 race was held in the Bahraini capital Manama . The year before it had been canceled due to the protests. The biggest protests to date occurred in the vicinity of this year's race. According to official information, one person was killed.


At the beginning of August 2013, the parliament loyal to the king passed massive restrictions on the right of assembly and freedom of expression , and the king simultaneously tightened the penalties for “terrorism” in two decrees. In the previous month, the opposition declared the “national dialogue” called for by the king with the aim of social reforms to be “clinically dead” and announced protests for 14 August, Independence Day. The police then cordoned off Shiite villages and used tear gas and shotguns against the demonstrators.

On August 30, at a demonstration in a Shiite village near the capital, organized by the youth of the opposition movement on February 14 , an end to “dictatorship” and “tyranny” was called for. The rally had several thousand participants. On the previous days, riots broke out in Shiite-inhabited areas after police broke up peaceful demonstrations. Four police officers were injured when a car bomb detonated in a Shiite village near the capital.

On September 29, a court sentenced 50 members of the February 14 Movement to prison terms of 5 to 15 years. Two of its leaders, the Iraqi cleric Sajed Hadi al-Modarresi and Saeed al-Schahabi, who lives in London, were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in absentia. The Bahraini chief prosecutor declared the group a "terrorist organization". The human rights organization Human Rights Watch accused the US administration of ignoring the serious human rights violations in Bahrain for reasons of alliance policy. The leader of the opposition party Wifak , Chalil al-Marsuk , was arrested on September 17th.

In October 2013, the human rights group Bahrain Watch launched a campaign against the sale and delivery of tear gas to the Bahraini police force. In March 2012, the UN Human Rights Commission criticized the excessive use of tear gas by Bahrain's police forces, which also led to two deaths. After the USA stopped delivering tear gas to Bahrain in May 2012, according to information from Bahrain Watch , the authorities are now purchasing tear gas from the companies DaeKwang Chemical Company Ltd and Korea CNO Tech Ltd from South Korea and from the German-South African company Rheinmetall Denel .


On January 7th, the South Korean arms export authority DAPA banned the delivery of large quantities of tear gas to Bahrain, justifying this with the domestic political situation there, in particular the life-threatening operations of the Bahraini police against demonstrators.

In February, to mark the third anniversary of the riots, demonstrations were organized on three consecutive days, some of which were attacked by the police with tear gas. The demonstrators also tried to get to the previously cordoned off Perlenplatz . According to the opposition, 164 protesters have been killed since the riots began three years ago. There are also more than 3,000 political prisoners who are subjected to systematic torture. According to Amnesty International, freedom of expression is becoming increasingly restricted in Bahrain.

The English High Court ruled in May 2014 that the British export authority HMRC must forward information about the export of espionage software to Bahrain to the human rights organization Privacy International . The authority had investigated the German-British company Gamma International , but refused to provide information to the human rights organization. The company was accused of having exported the FinFisher spy software, developed in Germany, to Bahrain without a permit. A Bahraini human rights activist discovered the software on her computer. Federal Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel then announced that the export of spy software would be more restrictive in the future.

International reactions

Before the state of emergency was imposed

In a special meeting of the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council on the evening of February 17, they assured Bahrain “complete support” in the areas of “politics, economy, security and defense policy”. US President Obama and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon , on the other hand, called for an end to the violence against demonstrators.

The Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced on March 10, 2011 an aid package worth 20 billion euros. The said aid package is intended to benefit the two Gulf states Bahrain and Oman . The money is to be used to create jobs over the next ten years. Furthermore, investments are to be made in the infrastructure of the two countries and the living conditions are to be further improved.

On March 12, 2011, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived to hold talks with the Bahraini government. Barack Obama , the President of the USA, called on the royal families of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to exercise maximum restraint.

On March 14, 2011, in consultation with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi troops arrived in Bahrain.

During the state of emergency

On March 16, 2011, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle declared that the violence in Bahrain had to be ended and replaced by a dialogue between the government and the opposition, with Germany on the side of the Democrats. The Foreign Office also advised all Germans who were in Bahrain to leave the country.

Oil prices continued to rise that day as a result of the events in Bahrain as investors feared the unrest would spread to Saudi Arabia.

Tehran criticized the actions of the Bahraini-Saudi military as unacceptable. In the opinion of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, it made more sense to respond to the demonstrations peacefully and without the interference of foreign troops. "Any outside interference only complicates the situation," said a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

On March 20, Hassan Nasrallah , General Secretary of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah , criticized the Bahraini government for cracking down on the protests. Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa described the criticism as undue interference. A few days later, he claimed that demonstrators had been trained by the Lebanese Hezbollah.

After not only the government in Tehran and Hezbollah, but also the Iraqi Shiite parties criticized the Bahraini government's tough course towards the demonstrators, the Bahraini leadership canceled all flights to Iraq, Lebanon and Iran on March 24.

The road connection between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia has been closed to civil traffic.

August 2013

On the occasion of new protests, the US State Department declared that it also supports freedom of expression in Bahrain and called for a renunciation of violence and dialogue.

International investigation

An international commission of inquiry set up by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and headed by Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni of Egyptian descent published its 500-page report in Manama on November 23, 2011 . The performance was broadcast on Arab television in the presence of the king. To this end, 8,000 documents were viewed and more than 5,000 witnesses questioned.

From the start, the authorities contributed to the escalation through “disproportionate force”, including arbitrary arrest, torture and humiliation of demonstrators, according to the report. A total of 559 allegations of torture with electric shocks, metal and wooden sticks, sleep deprivation and extreme temperatures are described; the security forces involved were therefore not called to account.

According to the report, 40 people died in the protests from February 14 to November 23, including five police officers. A total of 2,919 people were arrested, 741 of whom were still in prison at the time of publication. More than 4,000 people lost their jobs as a result of participating in the protests. The report lists 30 cases of destruction or damage to Shiite mosques. Attacks on Sunnis and foreign workers are also listed.

There is no evidence that Iran played a major role in fueling the protests, as claimed by the Bahraini government.

Web links

Commons : Protests in Bahrain 2011/2012  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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