Bahrain Declares State Of Emergency
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
The king of Bahrain has declared a state of emergency, that's one day after inviting in forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Anti-government protesters say police spent the afternoon attacking at least two of their neighborhoods with guns and tear gas.
More now, from NPR's Frank Langfitt.
FRANK LANGFITT: King Hamad al Khalifa said the country could take all measures, quote, "necessary to preserve the safety of the nation and its people and any use of force available," an apparent reference to the troops from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf who drove in yesterday. The state of emergency is to last for three months. The move came after a weekend in which protesters blocked the main highway in the Bahraini capital of Manama and temporarily took over the financial district.
This afternoon, protesters say the government went after them where they live.
Dr. USA SHERIF(ph) (Salmaniya Medical Complex): The police and the army now they attack the homes, so that these people, they are protecting their homes.
LANGFITT: Usa Sherif is a surgeon at Salmaniya Medical Complex, the largest in Bahrain. He's standing in a crowded emergency room full of injured protesters. Demonstrators say they were guarding their communities today when the police attacked. Again, Dr. Sherif.
Dr. SHERIF: They are shot by the (unintelligible), and they are shot by the (unintelligible)...
Dr. SHERIF: Yeah, (unintelligible). And we have two dead now, almost and hundreds of patients.
LANGFITT: The protesters are mostly Shiite Muslims. They are the majority here in Bahrain, but complain bitterly about discrimination by the ruling Sunni minority, which includes the royal family. Protesters are demanding, at a minimum, a democratic system and a constitutional monarchy. The government has made offers to negotiate, but the opposition has dismissed them as too vague.
Savi Jaffar(ph) is a 17-year-old unemployed Shiite. He's in a hospital room, shirtless, with red marks all over his torso where he was hit with shotgun pellets. His right eye, where one pellet is lodged, is filled with blood.
Mr. SAVI JAFFAR: (Speaking foreign language).
LANGFITT: He says he was guarding his neighborhood while police came in with sticks and guns and started to shoot.
The violence here is taking an increasingly sectarian turn. Most of the injured, in recent days, are Shia, but foreign Sunni workers say they've been targeted by Shia themselves. Mohammed Sajid(ph) is a former president of the country's Pakistani Club.
Mr. MOHAMMED SAJID (Former President, Pakistani Club): Youth from this demonstration, they come and ultimately they attack on Pakistani laborers and workers. They get inside their houses and do off our brother Pakistanis. They have been killed by knives.
LANGFITT: Shia say the government gives citizenship to foreign Sunni workers to try to gain demographic and political ground. Adding to the resentment, many police officers are Pakistani. Shia complain they are largely forbidden to serve.
Today at the club, Sajid counseled bandaged Pakistani workers with fractured limbs and cuts and talked about two who had died.
Mr. SAJID: So the youth and because of there was no on time relief for those and there is no ambulance and nobody picked them and from bleeding - lot of bleeding. So ultimately you know how long they can survive.
LANGFITT: This afternoon, demonstrators marched on the Saudi Embassy to protest what they call a military occupation. By nightfall, they return to the Pearl Traffic Circle, the heart of an anti-government movement that is now in its fifth week. Angered by the attacks on their neighborhoods, they shook their fists in the air.
Unidentified Group: (Speaking foreign language).
LANGFITT: God is great, they chanted. Protesters have barricaded nearby streets for protection. And they say now that the government has declared a state of emergency; it's only a matter of time until the troops come to try to force them out.
Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Manama, Bahrain.
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