Bahraini Shi’ites say they have endured a reign of terror during 11 weeks of martial law imposed to break up a pro-democracy movement that for the first time threatened the control of a Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab dynasty. Martial law was lifted on Wednesday. The authorities hope this will show investors and tourists that the island state is back to normal.
Shi’ite dissidents fear repression will go on. Thousands have been detained or dismissed from jobs in a crackdown that has targeted those who took part in six weeks of protests centered on the capital’s Pearl Roundabout. Dozens of Shi’ite places of worship have been pulled down or vandalized.
Twenty-one people, seven of whom are abroad, are on military trial for trying to overthrow the government. They include figures from Shi’ite opposition parties who had advocated making Bahrain a republic, as well as the Sunni leader of secular group Waad and independent Shi’ite rights activists. Four people have died in custody and two Shi’ites have been sentenced to death for the killing of a policeman.
The crackdown has for now stifled an unprecedented pro-democracy movement inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that toppled long-time U.S. allies. The government says the protests were manipulated by Shi’ite power Iran.