Bahrain Protesters Demand Political Changes
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Peter, where are you?
PETER KENYON: It's quite a festive atmosphere, as you can imagine. In the early days of this sort of breakthrough moment when they were able to take and occupy this square and get their demands heard in a part of Manama, in a part of Bahrain that really in some ways didn't know they existed or didn't want to know. So it's a big deal here to them.
INSKEEP: Well, it's interesting to hear of the relaxed mood, because, of course, this latest uprising was triggered when there were some demonstrations. Two demonstrators were killed and now people are out in the streets. Are police present where you are?
KENYON: At that point, the government seemed to have made a clear decision to change their tactics. They realized that the more clashes there were the more risk of people being killed, the more galvanized the protestors are becoming and the more determined. So they have been redeployed and they are not stood down completely. They are still deployed around the city, but they have not moved in and there's been no further clashes since yesterday more.
INSKEEP: NPR's Peter Kenyon is in the capital city of Bahrain. And, Peter, do the protestors want reforms only or do they want a regime change here?
KENYON: Ultimately what these people would like is to turn Bahrain into a constitutional monarchy. In other words, devolve a lot of power away from the king and make it something along the lines of say Britain's constitutional monarchy.
INSKEEP: Sounds like it's getting a little noisier there, Peter. What's happening now?
KENYON: It's always in flux here. You never know what's going to happen. There's helicopters going overhead. That is the only security presence here. They're monitoring the activity, trying to keep track of how many people are where.
INSKEEP: Of course, the United States is also monitoring the situation. Although I notice, Peter Kenyon, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, although she spoke out against the crackdown on demonstrators in Iran in recent days has not said as much about Bahrain.
KENYON: But here in Bahrain you have a slightly different security situation. There's U.S. interests. The king of Bahrain is a reliable ally in counterterrorist activities, they host the 5th Fleet for the Navy here. And he's also a bulwark for Saudi Arabia, which is just a 15 minute drive away over a causeway here. They are very concerned about Shiite uprisings possibly fomented by Iran. And so they're very happy to see this small island run by a Sunni royal family.
INSKEEP: Peter, thanks very much.
KENYON: You're welcome, Steve.
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