Several thousand protesters may not sound like a lot in the context of the “million man marches” in massive Egypt, but for a tiny nation like Bahrain, whose entirely population is only about 500,000, the protesters make up a significant, and growing, chunk of the population.
Thousands of Bahrainis have rallied at the Pearl Square roundabout, despite harsh police crackdowns that have left the square covered in a near constant cloud of tear gas. The protests largely began around the nation’s Shi’ite majority claiming discrimination by the ruling Sunni royal family, but has since solidified as a broad opposition movement.
Early demands include the release of all political prisoners and a new constitution allowing a more representative system of government, largely the same demands that we’ve seen in other nations.
Of course as with most of the targets of the revolutions, Bahrain’s government is a US ally, and the Obama Administration has been mum on the harsh crackdowns, instead preferring to rail against nearby Iran.
Bahrain’s government sought to tamp down the early protests over the weekend by announcing that the king was going to give $3,000 as a “gift” to every single family in the nation. The protests, however, appear to have begun as scheduled, and even though $3,000 is a significant sum for the Bahrani poor, it doesn’t seem to have bought off the opposition.