GCC forces in Bahrain to help restore order

March 15, 2011

Bahrain on Monday evening confirmed the arrival of military units from the Peninsula Shield into the Kingdom “following regrettable events that undermined security and threatened citizens and residents.”

“The security and stability of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a common responsibility, and this was reconfirmed by the GCC foreign ministers at their latest meeting,” the statement carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said.

The presence of the forces in Bahrain is based on the defense agreements signed by the GCC countries, it said.

“The Bahrain Defense Force urges all citizens and residents to cooperate fully and to welcome their brothers from the Peninsula Shield,” the statement said.

The military force was seen on Monday afternoon entering Bahrain via King Fahad Causeway, Bahrain’s only terrestrial link.

The convoy will help Bahraini authorities deal with the unrest that has hit the country for one month.

The protests were launched on February 14 and have gradually moved from a platform for making political and constitutional demands to violent clashes with the security forces on Sunday and to placing Manama under siege on Monday.

The Bahraini authorities did not comment on the size of the GCC forces and on how long they will be stationed in the country. The GCC, established in 1981 in Abu Dhabi, is made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The arrival of the forces has been expecting since Sunday evening when BlackBerry messages mentioned they were on their way from the neighbouring Saudi kingdom and that they should arrive by 8 pm.

However, the first vehicles were spotted on Monday afternoon crossing the 25-kilometre causeway opened in November 1986.

Their arrival immediately deepened the division within the Bahraini society. Groups from the opposition rejected the arrival of the GCC forces and said that they would lobby internationally for their departure.

However, several people who have reportedly been frustrated by the developments in Bahrain said that they would help achieve peace and stability.

On Sunday evening, the Bloc of the Independents that holds 12 of the 40 seats in parliament, urged King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa to impose the martial law “to preserve peace and security.”

Their call was echoed by Al Asala, the exclusive expression of Salafism, who said in a statement that the “chaotic situation” had to be ended and that the martial law was a necessity.

However, the National Unity Rally, the largest Sunni grouping, rejected both calls and urged its followers to avoid calls that ate at the country’s social fabric.

The six opposition societies that have set pre-conditions for the national dialogue promoted by Crown Prince Salman four weeks ago on Monday afternoon said that they supported the talks, but insisted on a constitutional council.

The societies also asked for an official note from Prince Salman following his pledge on Sunday evening that the dialogue would include talks on “an elected parliament with full vested powers and prerogatives, a government reflecting the will of people, fairly-demarcated electoral constituencies, naturalization, combating financial and administrative corruption, state properties and addressing sectarian polarization and animosities, in addition to other principles and topics.”

The day started with an eerie feeling among locals and foreigners with most shops and offices closed and Manama increasingly under siege.

The front-sea King Faisal Highway, the scene of violent clashes on Sunday, remained closed to traffic, effectively blocking the commercial and banking centre of Manama. Protesters placed dead palm-trees, bricks and sand on the highway and kept a vigil to ensure that no-one intervened to remove them.

Bahrain TV, lately under sharp criticism from the protesters for its perceived biased coverage, showed live feeds of the deserted area from the air.

In a new development, protesters walked up to the ministries in the area, including the foreign and finance ministries, and kept them under siege.

Shaikh Khalid Al Khalifa, the foreign minister, who saw the latest moves by the protesters as an attempt to “escalate the situation and cause chaos since the roundabout became increasingly irrelevant,” posted on his Tweet account that the foreign ministry compound was “intact, but surrounded by peaceful people preventing access to it.”

Several offices and shops asked their employees to go home while private schools on Sunday evening warned parents not to send their children to schools, especially in the Manama area.

Exhibition Avenue, the most bustling area in Manama where Bahrainis and Gulf nationals regularly converge in the evening, was empty on Monday afternoon and most shops and banks have pulled down their shutters.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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