Bahrainis negotiate checkpoints, hoard food amid fears

Reuters , Thursday 17 Mar 2011

Curfew and checkpoints in Bahrain disrupt daily life, citizens stock-up amidst unrest

A soldier from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces prays in front of his Armour Personnel Carrier in Manama, (Reuters).

The few cars on the streets of Bahrain on Thursday picked their way nervously through the rubble and roadblocks, their occupants stopping to show identity cards to soldiers brandishing rifles and backed by tanks.

Overturned skips and shopping trolleys still block side roads but the main streets have been opened up since security forces drove demonstrators off the streets on Wednesday and cleared the Pearl roundabout, focal point of weeks of protests.

After days of closures, cars queued around the block at a petrol station in Sar, an area under a strict 12-hour curfew. Most shops were closed, their metal shutters drawn.

Banks were shut and people queued at cash machines.

At one of the few smaller supermarkets that dared to open, shoppers queued down the aisles, filling their trolleys with supplies to see them through unrest that has sucked in neighbouring armies and prompted martial law.

The bread section was empty by 11 a.m.

"There is a curfew here from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. and people need food. It is like the siege of Gaza here; we are cut off," said Mohammed Salman, who was queuing up for the till.

"Yesterday we had no food. We slept hungry. There was nothing in the fridge, so now people are being careful in case this escalates. People are taking precautions for several days. This is the first time this has happened in Bahrain."

The supermarket, like most shops and businesses in Bahrain, was closed on Wednesday, when troops cracked down on protests.

Milk and other fresh goods had begun to run out earlier in the week, but the shelves were being restocked on Thursday.

"We're just getting enough for the kids. We're not afraid. Whatever happens happens," said Nasser Bahri, who was pushing two trolleys containing food and fresh milk toward the till.


In different spots around Manama, concrete blocks and metal barriers slowed down traffic and funnelled it towards troops in charge of Bahrain since martial law was declared on Tuesday.

The Sunni-led ruling al-Khalifa family imposed martial law following a wave of protests by the country's Shi'ites demanding their government to give them equal rights in jobs and politics like their Sunni compatriots.

Helicopters buzzed constantly over streets strewn with stones, planks of wood and metal, remnants of makeshift checkpoints set up over the past week by vigilantes guarding their neighbourhoods as sectarian tensions flared.

The major shopping centres -- Bahrain Mall, Seef Mall, Dana Mall and City Centre Mall -- have been closed since protesters blocked off the main thoroughfare to the financial district on Sunday. Now troops stop and search passing cars instead.

Assault rifles slung around their necks and balaclavas covering their faces, troops in desert coloured fatigues stopped and searched cars on the thoroughfare leading to the main financial district of the Gulf Arab banking hub.

Near the Pearl roundabout, troops pulled three men out of their cars, forced them to squat at the side of the highway and handcuffed their hands behind their backs.

At another location, armed police pulled a driver out of his car after finding a red-and-white Bahraini flag, which had become a symbol of the uprising in recent weeks.

Police and troops now fly the flag instead, to show that they are Bahraini troops, not the Saudi forces that have been called in to help, and to reclaim the flag for the state.

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