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Tensions between the government and the Shiite community who form the majority of the population escalated. Protests were reported in villages against the detention of Shiite activists who have been held for over a month. Their families have complained they do not know of their whereabouts.

 

The government detained scores of men, and announced that 23 were facing charges related to membership of a terrorist network that was intent on overthrowing Bahrain’s Sunni royal family, according to government sources. The wife of Abdulhadi al Saffar, a detainee who chairs the committee against inflation and works with international human-rights organisations, said her husband has been held for 20 days and his lawyer met him only once – when he was transferred from the criminal investigation department to the public prosecution.

 

The banned Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said on its website that the recently detained men have been subjected to “severe torture that exceeded anything the BCHR had documented before”, including beatings, sleep deprivation and being hanged by the wrists from handcuffs. Mr al Saffar’s wife said her husband was a teacher at a public school, but he had been fired as punishment for alleged involvement in the terrorist group.

Abdulwahab Hussein, a leader of the Al Wafa Movement who hosted the prisoners’ family members in his house, said the government is retracting public services such as health care, education, housing and access to loans from the accused men.

 

Al Wafa, a Shiite Islamist group, refuses to compete in the upcoming parliamentary election and two of its leaders, Sheikh Saeed al Nouri and Sheikh Abdulhadi al Mukhodur, were among the 23 named men.

 

Shiite political groups are split on whether to fight this year’s election, which will be held on October 23. Despite similar doubts four years ago, Shiites won 17 of the elected chamber’s 40 seats. The 40 members to the parliament’s second house are appointed by the King.

 

September 14, 2010

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk

 

The situation in Bahrain is rapidly deteriorating and appears to be heading to a full crisis, similar to the ones that led to the suspension of parliamentary life until its restoration in 2002. There appears to be no compromise yet as the government now clearly accuses the detainees of terrorism, leading to significant unrest in the country.

 

Whilst it cannot be said with certainty, particularly given the media ban on coverage of the situation, Iran may be involved in stirring up the local Shiite community. Bahrain is home to US troops who may be involved in any attack against Iran. With the majority of the population Shiite, creating unrest in the country will make it difficult for the Bahraini government to appease its population. With the parliamentary elections scheduled next month still going ahead, despite many reservations from parts of the Shiite community,

 

The figure below shows the make-up of the Bahraini population.