Bahrain police close art display on pro-democracy uprising

Reuters , Thursday 31 Oct 2013

The show displayed photos of the 2011 uprising when demonstrators camped out at the Pearl traffic circle for weeks before authorities smashed their camp and tore down the Pearl monument itself

A Bahraini man gestures at a mimic scene reminiscent of the early days of pro-democracy rallies at the since-demolished and blockaded Pearl monument, while visiting an interactive museum-style exhibition opened by an opposition group in Manama, Bahrain, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Bahraini authorities have shut and dismantled an exhibition on anti-government protests staged by the main Shi'ite opposition group al-Wefaq, saying it violates the law and incites hatred.

Unrest has gripped Bahrain, a Western ally which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, since the 2011 uprising led by majority Shi'ites demanding reforms and more share in running the kingdom ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa dynasty.

The "Museum of the Revolution" exhibition was closed on Wednesday two days after al-Wefaq opened it at one of its offices, displaying samples of used riot-control munitions, paintings and artifacts depicting the pro-democracy protests.

"The General Directorate of the Capital Governorate Police has found materials inside a building that the (al-Wefaq) society had transformed into a location intended to reinforce hatred," state news agency BNA said on Thursday.

"Organisers were summoned and legal action was taken against them."

The show displayed photos of the 2011 uprising, inspired by Arab revolts elsewhere, when demonstrators camped out at the Pearl traffic circle for weeks before authorities smashed their camp and tore down the Pearl monument itself.

A life-size statue of an armed police officer, personal belongings of protesters killed by security forces and tear gas canisters used at the time were also on display.

"The building houses a number of departments and units in addition to a museum that documents human rights violations perpetrated by the regime and as documented in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry," al-Wefaq said in a statement.


The commission, set up by the Bahraini government and led by U.N. human rights lawyer Cherif Bassiouni, published a report in 2011 that said the security forces had used widespread and excessive force, including confessions under torture.

Authorities in Bahrain quelled the February 2011 revolt with help from Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf states.

But protests and clashes have persisted and talks between government and opposition failed to end the political crisis.

The government says it has sought to curb the brutality of security forces by dismissing those responsible and introducing cameras at police stations to monitor abuses.

But the opposition complains that little progress has been made in addressing grievances that led to the protests.

Bahraini Shi'ites complain of discrimination in areas such as jobs and public services - something the government denies.

The opposition wants a constitutional monarchy, but calls by some hardliners for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed the Sunni minority, which fears the unrest serves Iran.

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