Bahraini police fired rubber bullets and tear gas on Wednesday at peaceful protesters attempting to hold a demonstration in Manama, which had been forbidden by the regime.
The protests came just a few days after King Hamad introduced constitutional reforms that empower the elected parliament, but fall far short of the opposition’s demands for the monarchy to have limited powers instead of the dictatorial status it now has.
Protests have kept apace despite expected attacks from security forces, and the Shi’ite opposition Al-Wefaq is calling for yet another demonstration in a suburb of the capital on Thursday.
U.S. support for Bahrain has remained assertive throughout its violent repression of Arab Spring protesters, allocating another $26 million in aid for 2012 while a $53 million arms deal is waiting in the wings, supposedly conditional on reform. Bahrain is the host of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which directs operations in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Arabian Sea and patrols the Straits of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil passes.
An independent commission in Bahrain recently found that torture has been systemic since protests broke out last year and 35 peaceful protesters were gunned down and killed by security forces. The commission urged reform, but the United Nations has recently said that Bahrain was failing to prosecute human rights abuses and was continuing its use of excessive force against civilians.