Bahrainis took to the streets in a number of towns and villages Friday as part of a civil disobedience campaign, as the country braces for the fifth anniversary of the popular uprising against the Al Khalifah regime.
Local media reported that businesses were shut as store owners coordinated a strike two days ahead of the anniversary of the uprising of February 14, 2011.
The rallies turned violent as security forces fire tear gas to disperse the protesters.
The protests were held in several towns and villages across the country. Demonstrators called for the release of political prisoners including the head of Bahrain’s main opposition party, Sheikh Ali Salman.
Scores of people have been killed in the regime’s heavy-handed crackdown on demonstrations in five years of near-daily protests. Hundreds of activists, including senior opposition figures, have been put behind bars.
The regime in Manama has also enjoyed military assistance from Saudi Arabia for its crackdown.
Authorities on Friday condemned the move, with Tariq al-Hossein, the top security chief in Bahrain, stating that any call for disobedience would amount to “punishable crime.”
Hossein said the Bahraini judiciary will decisively act against any move which could stir unrest in the country. He said those behind the online call for civil disobedience will be detained and prosecuted.
In the village of Nuwaidrat, south of the capital, Manama, clashes erupted between protesters and regime forces.
Human rights groups inside and outside Bahrain have frequently condemned the kingdom’s harsh clampdown on dissent, urging the regime to heed calls for reforms in the political system.