Muslim protesters filled streets in Manama on Tuesday demanding the fall of the Sunni-run government in the biggest protest since unrest began last week, while the return of a key opposition figure was delayed.
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched to Pearl Square — the focal point of the week-long protests in central Manama — to press demands for political reform in a country dominated by the Sunni Muslim minority.
Led by opposition groups such as Wefaq and Waad, it was the first organized demonstration and followed spontaneous protests by a rising youth movement relying on social media.
“We want the fall of the government” was the most common chant. “Some want the family out but most (want) only the prime minister (to quit),” said protester Abbas al-Fardan. “We want a new government, the people need to rule the country.”
The protesters want a constitutional monarchy, in contrast to the current system where Bahrainis vote for a parliament that has little power and policy remains the preserve of an elite centered on the al-Khalifa family.
The al-Khalifa dynasty has ruled Bahrain for 200 years, and the family dominates a cabinet led by the king’s uncle, who has been prime minister since independence in 1971.