Dubai (AFP) – Dozens of Shiite protesters took to the streets of Bahrain on Wednesday to mark the seventh anniversary of an Arab Spring-inspired uprising, witnesses said, reporting clashes between demonstrators and police.
Protesters, including many women, chanted anti-regime slogans and paid tribute to the “victims of repression” languishing in the Gulf state’s jails, the witnesses added.
Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrations in numerous villages, while reinforcements were dispersed across the country to prevent the protesters from blocking highways.
Home to a majority Shiite Muslim population, Bahrain has been ruled for more than 200 years by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty.
The tiny kingdom, located between Saudi Arabia and its arch-rival Iran, has been shaken by unrest since security forces crushed the 2011 protest movement demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.
The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said in a statement Wednesday that seven Bahraini journalists had been stripped of their nationality since that movement began.
Under Bahrain’s citizenship law, amended after the protests broke out, people who engage in acts deemed “disloyal” to the state can be their nationality.
The kingdom has stripped hundreds of its citizens of their nationality, in some cases deporting them to Iraq, and has jailed dozens of high-profile activists and religious clerics over the past seven years.
Manama accuses Iran of backing the protests and attempting to overthrow the monarchy. Tehran denies involvement.
Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and a British military base that is still under construction.