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Violence Flares Again as Bahraini King Seeks Talks
June 30, 2011

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Crowds of people gathered to protest against Bahrain's government found themselves on the other end of stun grenades and tear gas canisters, as police took definitive action to clear the streets around Pearl Square, in the country's capital, Manama.

The thousands of people had gathered in Pearl Square to voice their concerns about the latest proposal from longtime King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who has ruled the country for decades but finds himself in the position of having to defend his autocratic regime in the midst of successful remove-the-ruler movements in Tunisia and Egypt (as well as ongoing attempts to bring more representative government to Libya, Syria, and Yemen).

In an attempt to convince the opposition to attend talks on reform, the king recently agreed to create an independent commission to look into allegations of rights violations during demonstrations in February. The Bahrain conflict is largely defined by Islam's Shia-Sunni split, with the minority Sunni running the government and the majority Shia seeking governmental reform. Leaders of Al Wefaq, the largest of the opposition groups, have yet to agree to the talks while also reiterating their demands for what would be a breakup of the king's family's hold on power.

Early on in the conflict, Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain to help quell the demonstrations, after the king declared martial law. The Saudi troops have returned home.

The Bahrain protests, which began about the same time as those in Egypt, have resulted in comparatively few deaths. The death toll so far is 32.



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