Yemeni Ballistic Missile Hits Saudi Mercenaries’ Camp in Asir


TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Yemeni army forces and their allies fired a domestically-manufactured ballistic missile at a camp in Saudi Arabia’s southern region of Asir belonging to Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to Yemen’s former president, killing dozens of them and injuring several others.

September, 20, 2019 

An unnamed Yemeni military source told Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that Yemeni missile defense units launched a Zelzal-1 (Earthquake-1) missile at a position of Saudi mercenaries near al-Alab border crossing on Thursday afternoon.
He added that the missile hit the designated target with great precision, leaving dozens of Saudi-paid militiamen dead or injured.
Earlier in the day, Yemeni snipers fired shots at a group of Saudi troopers south of Harad district in Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah, killing and injuring several of them.
Separately, Yemeni forces targeted a dozen Saudi-paid militiamen with a roadside bomb as they were traveling along a road south of Hayran district in the country’s northern province of al-Jawf. A number of the Riyadh regime’s mercenaries were killed or injured as a result.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 91,000 lives over the past four and a half years.
The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.


Saudi oil explosions: Amateur footage captures plant ablaze


The world's largest oil processing facility is one of two sites targeted by drones in attacks claimed by Houthi rebels.
by Osama Bin Javaid

Yemen's Houthi rebels say they are responsible for drone attacks on two major oil facilities in Saudi Arabia run by Saudi Aramco.
The state-owned energy giant says exports are continuing, however, the Reuters News Agency is quoting sources saying production has been disrupted.
The drones hit as the kingdom's energy giant has been preparing for a much-anticipated stock listing.
Amateur videos have captured the fire and smoke at Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq unit.
Al Jazeera's Osama Bin Javaid reports.


Saudi Arabia accidentally prints textbook showing Yoda sitting next to the king


The photograph of King Faisal and the Star Wars character ended up in a history textbook

The founding of the United Nations was a Thistoric moment that saw leaders from across the planet join together to commit to a more peaceful world.
But most historians don’t remember the Jedi master Yoda being among them.
The Saudi government is scrambling to withdraw a history textbook that accidentally included a doctored photograph of King Faisal sitting next to the little green Star Wars character.
The picture was supposed to illustrate a section on the King’s rule but somehow the book’s editors used a version that showed Yoda perched next to the monarch as he signed the UN charter. 

“The Ministry of Education regrets the inadvertent error,” said Ahmed al-Eissa, the Saudi education minister. 
“The ministry has began printing a corrected copy of the decision and withdrawing the previous versions, and has formed a legal committee to determine the source of the error and to take appropriate action.”
The black-and-white photograph of Faisal and Yoda is the work of a 26-year-old Saudi artist named Abdullah al-Sheri. 
“I am the one who designed it, but I am not the one who put it in the book,” he told the New York Times
Mr al-Sheri goes by the nickname Shaweesh and the picture was part of a series that showed film characters discreetly added to photographs of major moments in Arab history.
One image shows Darth Vader standing behind Lawrence of Arabia and the king of Iraq at the Paris peace conference in 1919, which divided up much of the Middle East.
Another has a young Arab boy looking down at Captain America from the back of a truck. 
Mr al-Sheri said that he paired up the king and Yoda because both were intelligent and because Yoda’s green skin and green lightsaber matched the green of the Saudi flag. 
“He was wise and was always strong in his speeches,” Mr. Shehri said of the king. “So I found that Yoda was the closest character to the king. And also Yoda and his light saber – it’s all green.”
He only became aware that his picture had found its way into a textbook when his mother, who is a teacher, texted him after seeing a copy. 
“I meant no offense to the king at all,” he told the New York Times.

Bahrain files complaint against Al Jazeera with Arab League


Sources tell Al Jazeera Manama's complaint will be received by meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Tuesday.

Bahrain has lodged a complaint with the Arab League against Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network after the airing of a documentary that they say was critical of the Gulf state, sources have told Al Jazeera.
The complaint will be discussed during a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers scheduled for Tuesday at the body's headquarters in Cairo, the sources said on condition of anonymity.
The 152nd session of the Arab League Council kicked off on Sunday in the Egyptian capital.
The documentary, which aired on Al Jazeera in July, revealed that Bahraini intelligence recruited al-Qaeda members to assassinate Bahraini dissidents and opposition figures in 2003. The government in Manama has denied the allegations.
Bahrain was among four countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt, which cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017. The four nations accused Qatar of "funding terrorism" and fomenting regional instability. Doha has vehemently denied the accusations.
The blockading countries continue to impose an air, land and sea blockade against Qatar.
They have asked Doha to meet a list of conditions, including the closure of Al Jazeera and other media outlets, before they consider ending the blockade. 
Doha has rejected the demands, denouncing them as attempts to infringe on Qatar's sovereignty.


Bahrain court convicts 9 over terror links


The convicts run websites glorifying terror acts and fund illegal groups

Manama: Bahrain’s Major Criminal Court has convicted nine people of terrorism-related charges and sentenced them to varying jail terms, Bahraini newspaper Al Bilad has reported.
The charges included managing pro-terrorism sites on social media, transferring money for terrorist groups and promoting terror acts, including arson, rioting, attacks on police and unauthorised protests in the country over the period from 2013 to 2018.
They were also convicted of sheltering a number of wanted fugitives already sentenced to prison terms of up to life sentences, according to the paper.
The court sentenced the prime convict to six years in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of 100,000 dinars.
Three others were sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 2,000 dinars each.
Four co-defendants received a two-year jail term each, while the ninth was sentenced to three months in jail. The rulings are subjected to appeal.


Why we need a Middle Eastern security architecture: Part II


Marco Carnelos

As the US and Israel squeeze Iran, it is more important than ever to comprehensively address the opposing grievances throughout the region.

The risk that tensions in the Gulf will escalate into a major regional conflict has made a Middle Eastern security architecture essential: it the best possible answer to another, more threatening structure, the Middle East Security Alliance, also known as “Arab NATO”.
The latter is the name commonly used to identify the informal grouping of the US, Israel and some Arab states, engaged in promoting “peace and stability” in the Middle East by squeezing Iran and its allies and “solving” the Palestinian question through the “deal of the century”. This strategy, however, risks triggering a major regional conflict.
Could a better agreement have been reached? Possibly, but the nuclear deal was a compromise, not a panacea
The Middle Eastern security architecture should aim to prevent this, comprehensively addressing the opposing grievances throughout the region.
The first step is to achieve clarity on what negotiations with Iran, culminating in the 2015 nuclear deal, were supposed to achieve. Secondly, all players must be ready to give up some of their ambitions, interests, obsessions and distorted views; the enduring zero-sum game must be put aside.
The Iran nuclear deal was not meant to address Iran’s regional behaviour or its conventional military programme, but rather to prevent a possible military evolution of Tehran’s legitimate civilian nuclear programme.
The deal, negotiated extensively for years by top diplomats and experts, did not impose on Iran any commitments beyond those with which Tehran has been scrupulously complying until last month, as repeatedly certified by the IAEA
Now that Iran has started reducing its compliance, a year after the US withdrew from the deal, it has done so in accordance with the agreement’s legal framework, specifically articles 26 and 36. The deal was not intended to change Iran’s political alliances in the region or to modify its views and policies about Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon or Israel-Palestine. 

Nuclear ambitions

The deal’s main aim, at least from a Western standpoint, was to address the concerns of Israel and some Arab countries about a potentially nuclear-armed Iran. Despite US and Israeli claims, this result was achieved via the 2015 deal. Even some Israeli security experts recognise the agreement’s counter-proliferative value. 
Could a better agreement have been reached? Possibly, but the nuclear deal was a compromise, not a panacea - and in a compromise, both sides must give up some of their aspirations. The alternative is war or diktat; for both outcomes, no negotiations are required.
If the aim now is to address Iran’s regional behaviour and missile programme, a much more comprehensive and complex negotiation process is required. It would touch on the multifaceted crises in different areas with the awareness that they are all inextricably connected, and must be dealt with simultaneously, and not in sequence. 
The benchmark would have to be the famous “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, to deny the numerous spoilers on both sides any chance to disrupt the negotiations. 
If a fair and lasting deal is sought, there should be no room for the double standards or self-celebratory claims of moral superiority, exceptionalism or manifest destiny on either side.

Outsourcing policy

On the part of the US, it should make up its mind as to what it aims to achieve in the region, and stop outsourcing the assumptions of its regional policy to Israel and Saudi Arabia. Peace, stability and security, as well as real US interests, will neither be promoted nor safeguarded if Washington continues to grant unwavering support to Israeli and Saudi policies that are detached from reality. 
The US administration must reconcile, sooner rather than later, the fact that both its soft and hard powers are in a slow-motion decline, irrespective of President Donald Trump’s ambitions to “make America great again” (MAGA). 
Why we need a Middle Eastern security architecture: Part I
Marco Carnelos
Read More »
Washington must also finally come to terms with the 1979 Iranian Revolution and its consequences. The stabilisation of the Middle East can be achieved only with Iran’s cooperation.
Furthermore, the US establishment should rely more on Arab streets and less on Arab courts if it wishes to get a realistic picture of the regional mood and fine-tune its policies accordingly. 
If Trump is re-elected, what happens in the Middle East will determine the MAGA strategy’s success, considering how much US blunders in the region have contributed to the perception of the country’s declining power.
Ultimately, Trump’s legacy could also be defined by his capability to spare his country its third regional war in less than three decades, whether accidental or staged by its regional allies. 
A good Middle Eastern security architecture is the best antidote to such a risk. 

Existential threats

Israel, meanwhile, cannot pretend to erase the Palestinian cause through the US “deal of the century”, push for regime change in Iran as desired by US National Security Adviser John Bolton, and at the same time maintain peace and security for its own people in a Jewish state. This is hubris, not sound policy.
Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brilliantly enlisted USEvangelical Christians and some Arab Muslim leaderships to support the Zionist project, it cannot be enough to fulfil his dream, and the costs could be astronomical. 
While the evangelicals comprise tens of millions of voters who can affect a US presidential election, Israel's Arab allies are a restricted group of elites ruling over states in which they do not necessarily reflect the will of their people - and who could face in the future even more worrisome existential threats than that posed by Iran. Israeli strategists should not underestimate this eventuality. 
This is the second in a series of three articles.
Marco Carnelos
Marco Carnelos is a former Italian diplomat. He has been assigned to Somalia, Australia and the United Nations. He has served in the foreign policy staff of three Italian prime ministers between 1995 and 2011. More recently he has been Middle East Peace Process Coordinator Special Envoy for Syria for the Italian government and, until November 2017, ambassador of Italy to Iraq.


Fighting in Aden: Four key questions answered


A look at the different groups clashing and the effect the recent developments will have on Yemen's peace prospects.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition made up of several Arab states aimed at combatting Houthi rebels who had, just months earlier, overthrown Yemen's internationally recognised government and seized control of the capital, Sanaa.
More than four years later, there are increasing signs that the coalition - unable to defeat theHouthis in a multi-layered war that the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis - is splintering.
In a complicated turn of events and despite technically being part of the same military alliance, fighters backed by the UAE and forces loyal to Saudi Arabia turned on each other this week in Aden, the temporary seat of the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Though tensions have long been simmering, the effective seizure of the southern port city by the UAE-trained Security Belt force has raised fears of a "civil war within a civil war" and exposed divisions among the alliance's architects - Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - over the fate of Yemen.
After days of clashes that killed at least 40 people, according to the UN, the separatists captured government military camps and the presidential palace in Aden, prompting senior government officials to accuse the UAE of supporting a "coup".
Southern Yemen was once an independent country whose population has long complained of marginalisation since its unification with the more populous north in 1990.
The Southern Transitional Council (STC), which has the backing of Security Belt fighters and has been seeking the south's secession, has since agreed to a Saudi-brokered ceasefire and welcomed Riyadh's call for dialogue. 
Al Jazeera takes a look at the different groups fighting and the effect the recent developments will have on the prospect for peace in the war-ravaged nation.

Who fought who?

The latest conflict in Yemen was set off by the secessionist forces' offensive against government targets in Aden on August 7.
The assault came on the same day of the funeral of Munir "Abu al-Yamama" al-Yafei, a leading commander in the Security Belt, a grouping of paramilitary forces that fall under the nominal authority of the Yemeni government. 
Yafei was among dozens killed in a Houthi-claimed missile attack on a military parade in western Aden on August 1.
Members of the STC, however, have accused al-Islah, a Yemeni affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, of being behind the attack and more broadly of acting in concert with the Houthis to destabilise southern Yemen.
This is even though al-Islah and the Houthis stand on opposite ends in the conflict pitting Saudi-backed, pro-government troops against the rebel group.
"Although Saudi Arabia and the STC are both formally part of the same coalition, the Saudi alignment with Islah, Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood, is a sore point for the STC rank-and-file," Samuel Ramani, a researcher at Oxford University, told Al Jazeera. 
"The UAE and STC used this attack on Aden to expel Saudi influence, and therefore, Islah's presence from southern Yemen.

What does the STC want?

The STC, like many groups before it, has been calling for the south's secession from Yemen. 
Separatist sentiment in the south goes back decades. 
Aden was the only British colony in the entire Arabian Peninsula to be administered directly by authorities in London between 1839 and 1967 as part of British India. 
Upon independence in 1967, South Yemen or officially the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen fell under the orbit of the Soviet Union. 
The collapse of the communism in the late 1980s hastened the reunification of the south and the north in 1990. 
But a disgruntled population angry that its wealth was being siphoned off and disproportionally allocated to northern provinces led to an attempted break away from Sanaa in 1994. 
A two-month civil war ensued in which the unionist forces of former President Ali Abdulla Saleh crushed the southern rebellion and led to power being concentrated in Sanaa. 
In 2007, al-Hirak al-Janoubi (the southern movement) was established as a way to challenge Saleh's grip on power and reaffirm the south's distinct identity. The Hirak gained momentum in 2011 after the fall of Saleh.
In the weeks prior to the 2015 Saudi-UAE-led intervention in Yemen, thousands of Hirak activists defended Aden against advances by the Houthis and Saleh. 
In May 2017, Aidarous al-Zubaidi announced the formation of the STC which he said would be tasked with "representing the will of the people".
In January last year, clashes between separatists and government forces broke out in Aden, killing dozens of people.
Even though there are still many questions surrounding last week's events, Rasha Jarhum, director of Peace Track Initiative, said the deadly violence "was not unexpected".
"We've already seen the same conflict dynamics that happened last year in January, when the presidential palace was surrounded," she added.
"The division is among those factions who have an agenda that is reclaiming the southern state and those who have a project for a united, federal Yemen."

Why is the UAE supporting the separatists? 

The STC is backed by the Security Belt, which the UAE has heavily supplied with military equipment and financial assistance since the beginning of Yemen's latest conflict in 2015. 
Analysts say that Abu Dhabi ultimately wants to secure vital shipping lanes along the strategic Bab el-Mandeb strait. 
"The UAE would've supported the Houthis if their base was in the south and this is primarily because of economic interests in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, in Aden and Socotra," said Afrah Nasser, chief editor of Sanaa Review. 
"It (the UAE) sees economic benefits to the war it is waging in Yemen."
The strategy, according to an International Crisis Group report, is part of Abu Dhabi's economic diversification model. 
It is "built around its role as a logistics hub and regional headquarters" and is premised on freedom of maritime navigation, including through the narrow Bab el-Mandeb passageway. 
Nasser said that while the UAE and Saudi Arabia "are not being transparent with their purpose in this war", both sides have "a lot of economic, political and security interests".
For Jarhum, there doesn't appear to be a conflict between Saudi Arabia and the UAE but a "different set of priorities".
"The Saudis see that they need to first support the government of Yemen to end the coup, which is happening in Sanaa by the Houthis," she said. "They want to keep the discussion in terms of the peace process to be limited to basically a coup discussion ... ignoring old grievances and what is happening in the south."

What will this lead to?

But Ramani, the researcher, said that in seizing Aden, the STC had made their presence indelible at any future peace initiative.
"Their indispensability would be guaranteed, and they could be invited to a UN peace settlement for the first time. This is an especially coveted goal after they were left out of the [December 2018] Stockholm agreement." 
For Ramani, the STC considers dialogue with Saudi Arabia productive if Riyadh refrains from further military attacks. 
"But if Saudi Arabia uses coercion to forces an STC withdrawal from Yemen, dialogue will likely break down." 
Osama al-Rawhani, deputy executive director of The Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies, said this week's events in Aden are going "to represent a radical change in Yemen's conflict".
"It's adding different layers of complexity and it is very obvious how, starting from the coalition's position towards what happens in Aden, reflects the unclear intentions of Saudi's intervention in Yemen," he added.
"Now, the government which the Saudi claims to help regain its legitimacy has no capital," added al-Rawhani, calling for "clarity on what is next".
"Now, the STC has taken over Aden, who is going to run the country?" he asked.
"The government is now in exile - the state institutions are actually based in Aden, there has been a lot of shift after the Houthi coup from Sanaa to Aden - and the question now is who is going to run these institutions? Who is going to provide basic services and who is going to pay the salaries of civil servants?"


Bahrain activist jailed after Grand Prix criticism is released


by Nosheen Iqbal


Najah Yusuf pardoned following three years in prison for Facebook post against race and regime

An activist who was assaulted, tortured and imprisoned for three years for criticising the Formula One race in Bahrain has been freed by authorities today.
Najah Yusuf, a former Bahraini civil servant and mother of four children, was jailed in April 2017 after she criticised the race and the regime on Facebook. Yusuf was pardoned under a concession ahead of the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha, which takes place on Sunday, and is the first political prisoner to be released since 2011. Her family received a phone call from Isa Town prison in Bahrain to confirm Yusuf could go home.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird) has led an international campaign to secure Yusuf’s freedom, which peaked during Bahrain’s Grand Prix in March this year. Yusuf wrote a first-person account of her experience for the Guardian in March, in which she declared: “Every moment I spend in prison in Bahrain stains the reputation of Formula One.” In it, she detailed shocking abuse and sexual assault at the hands of officers.
Initially, Formula One bosses admitted to having “concerns” about Yusuf’s case, but in a letter to Bird and Human Rights Watch in March, it said it had been assured Yusuf’s conviction “had nothing to do with peaceful protest around the Bahrain Grand Prix”. The Bahrain government also promised: “Anyone who merely criticised or continues to criticise Formula 1 is free to do so.”
The court judgement against Yusuf said she had written “no to Formula One races on occupied Bahraini land” and that she had claimed F1 coming to her country was “nothing more than a way for the [ruling] al-Khalifa family to whitewash their criminal record and gross human rights violations”. She also called for a “Freedom for the Formula detainees” march to raise awareness of the protestors jailed for criticising the race, which was cancelled after demonstrations in the country in 2011.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadei, the director of advocacy at Bird, said: “This is a monumental result for those who tirelessly campaigned to secure Najah’s release. Najah Yusuf is a fearless woman who bravely spoke out about the abuse she was subjected to at the hands of the Bahraini security apparatus. She should not have spent one second in prison, and must now be fully compensated for her unlawful imprisonment.”
There are currently six female political prisoners in Isa Town prison. Among them is is Hajer Mansoor, who has been declared arbitrarily and unlawfully imprisoned by the UN. Najah is among 105 inmates released today.


Bahrain: Playing With Fire


Did the Bahraini government collude with al-Qaeda members to target Shia opposition figures during the 2011 unrest?

27 Jul 2019
By Tamer Almisshal

In February 2011, following unrest in Tunisia and Egypt in the early days of the so-calledArab Spring, opposition demonstrators took to the streets of the Bahraini capital, Manama.

The protests quickly gathered momentum, with demonstrators demanding greater democracy and an end to discrimination against the majority Shia Muslim community by the Sunni regime.
But in March, the protests were quelled. The king declared a state of emergency and brought in the Peninsula Shield Force, the military wing of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The government called the unarmed protesters and activists "terrorists". Civilian demonstrators were tear gassed, beaten and shot.
Now, allegations have surfaced suggesting that the Bahraini government made attempts to coerce members of al-Qaeda in Bahrain to target key figures in the Shia Muslim community during the unrest.
In secret video recordings, former members of al-Qaeda say that the Bahraini government and intelligence officials tried to get them to assassinate key Shia opposition figures, on orders from the king.
In one recording, former al-Qaeda member Mohammad Saleh says: "A state security officer and another officer ... paid me a visit. They said they'd come on behalf of His Majesty the King of Bahrain at a time when the country was having a difficult time. He said that we, as fighters and members of al-Qaeda could help quell the Shia."
In a different recording made at the same time, Hisham Hilal al-Balushi - who was later a known leader of a Sunni armed group in Iran, before being killed in 2015 - talks about being detained by Bahraini security services and then recruited to infiltrate another group in Iran.
The Bahraini government has strenuously denied the allegations made in this film. The foreign minister called them "lies and fallacies against the state of Bahrain".
The minister of information said there were "attempts made by Al Jazeera channel to contact him and other officials, through unidentified telephone numbers, to record their conversations without their knowledge or official consent and to provoke them by using despicable methods".
Al Jazeera also wrote to the office of the royal family, the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask them to respond to the allegations but has not yet received any replies.
After an Arabic version of the film aired on Al Jazeera Arabic, Mohammad Saleh and Jamal al-Balushi (the brother of now-deceased Hilal) appeared on Bahraini television, saying that although they did make the recordings in 2011, what they said was false.
Mohammad Saleh said "they all agreed to make the recordings and to include several false allegations in order to give them weight that would help international human rights groups build pressure on Bahrain's government and security agencies", the state Bahrain News Agency reported.
According to John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer Bahrain, "thought they could divide their own opponents by having their opponents attack each other".
"The Bahraini government believed it could pit Sunni fundamentalists against the Shia population and keep both sides divided that way, and that is not what happened," he tells Al Jazeera. "What happened was it further angered the Shia population and at the same time encouraged fundamentalism among the Sunni."
In this film, Al Jazeera Arabic reporter Tamer Almisshal examines the video testimonies and speaks to former intelligence officers, diplomats, human rights activists and security experts about the allegations.


Renewed unrest grips Bahrain after authorities execute activists


by Aziz El Yaakoubi
Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by William Maclean and Peter Graff

DUBAI (Reuters) - Protests broke out in Bahrain after the execution of two Shi’ite Muslim activists on terrorism-related charges revived tension over the weekend in the Sunni-led kingdom, a Western ally that has cracked down on dissent since a failed 2011 uprising.
Police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators in Bilad al-Qadeem suburb where one protester died from gas inhalation on Saturday, four activists said. A government spokesperson said in a statement sent to Reuters that the man died from natural causes.
People also took to the streets in several Shi’ite villages and neighborhoods on the outskirts of the capital Manama on Sunday night in response to Saturday’s execution of Ali al-Arab and Ahmed al-Malali, who were sentenced to death last year on terrorism crimes in a mass trial.
Videos and pictures posted on verified social media accounts of activists showed demonstrators clashing with security forces, burning ties and building roadblocks.
The protests are the most significant unrest in more than two years in the island state, headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, since authorities in 2017 executed three Shi’ite men convicted of killing three policemen in a bomb attack.
Bahrain has a Shi’ite Muslim majority and is ruled by a Sunni royal family. It is the only one of the Gulf monarchies to have faced serious unrest during the Arab Spring protests that swept the Middle East and North Africa in 2011.
Asked about the demonstrations, the government spokesperson told Reuters that Bahrain upholds constitutional rights for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, but “any acts of disorder that disrupt public safety require legal actions to be taken” in accordance with internationally recognized standards.
The ruling Al Khalifa family has kept a lid on dissent since the mostly Shi’ite opposition staged a failed uprising in 2011. Saudi Arabia sent in troops to help crush that unrest in a mark of concern that any major unrest or power-sharing concession by Bahrain could inspire its own Shi’ite minority.
Activists abroad have called for further protests over the executions, which were criticized by international rights groups who say the men’s confessions were obtained through torture, which Manama denies.
“There are calls and there will be more protests in the coming days, but the repression is very violent and authorities are retaliating with collective punishments,” said Ali Alaswad, a senior member of the dissolved opposition group al-Wefaq, who has lived in exile in London since 2011.
Bahrain has closed the main opposition groups and prosecuted scores of people, stripping hundreds of their nationalities, in mass trials. A number of activists have fled abroad.
Many Shi’ites say they are deprived of jobs and treated as second class citizens in the country of 1.5 million. Authorities deny this and accuse Iran of fostering unrest that has seen demonstrators clash with security forces, who have been targeted by several bomb attacks. Tehran denies involvement.


Analysts say they do not expect a repeat of past widespread violence given measures to stifle dissent in Bahrain, which has been emboldened by a crackdown on dissent in Saudi Arabia.
“Bahrainis know an escalation, as happened in 2011, will not only be met with brutality, but also with the occupation by Saudi Forces in the form of the Gulf Peninsula Shield,” said Marc Owen Jones of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, referring to a common Gulf Arab force.
On Sunday, hundreds of people attended the funeral of Mohammad Ibrahim al-Mokdad, 22, who died after taking part in Saturday night’s protest. The government spokesperson said a medical report “confirms illness as cause of death”.
“With our souls, with our blood, we will redeem you, martyr,” mourners could be heard chanting in several videos of the funeral posted on activists’ social media accounts.
Many were holding pictures of the executed activists, who were among three men executed on Saturday. Authorities said, without identifying any of the men, that they were convicted in two separate cases, one involving the killing of a police officer and the other the killing of a mosque imam.
London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy says that 17 people are currently on death row on political grounds, including eight at imminent risk of execution.
“The regime uses executions as a vengeance tool,” said al-Wefaq’s Alaswad.
The authorities have denied targeting the opposition and say they are protecting national security.