Protesters marching to site of Pearl Square reportedly teargassed

Two pictures, taken within the last hour, reportedly show protesters attempting to march to the former site of Pearl Roundabout (map) and then subsequently being attacked by tear gas. This post will be updated as more details come in.

Pearl Roundabout (aka Pearl Square) was occupied by pro-democracy demonstrators in February and March 2011 until government forces violently removed the people and demolished the monument. Now referred to by the opposition as Martyrs’s Square, it is under tight military control. Yesterday, the February 14th Youth Coalition called for a march to the site, beginning at 3pm local time. Maryam AlKhawaja, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, tweeted earlier: “According to people on the ground, huge security presence in villages close to what was Pearl Square in an attempt to prevent march.”

PearlSquare_March_20-4-2013

PearlSquare_March_Teargas_20-4-2013(Pictures via @ahmedali_)

February 14th Coalition call for march to Pearl Square site on Saturday

Maryam AlKhawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, reports:

One protest video from Wadyan in Sitra tonight shows dozens of youths marching in “preparation and anticipation” for Saturdays march to what is now called Martyrs Square.

The February 14th Youth Coalition take their name from the date when the popular pro-democracy uprising began. Pearl Square (actually Pearl Roundabout, but renamed to echo Egypt’s Tahrir Square) was a central site for the protesters. In a recent article on the symbolic significance of Pearl Square, Amal Khalaf described the events:

On 14th February 2011 tens of thousands of people joined in a demonstration resulting in the Pearl Roundabout’s occupation. As traffic stood still, the international media came to witness the Gulf’s answer to the ‘Arab Spring’ and overnight, the government had lost control of it’s carefully constructed image of a ‘Business Friendly’ Bahrain, as news networks broadcast images of the Pearl Roundabout surrounded by protestors demanding reforms. A circle was named a square. The naming of the roundabout as Pearl Square or Midan al Lulu in the international media, though initially seen by many Bahrainis as a laughable and ignorant mistake, soon became appropriated by some protestors, who saw it as an underlining of the roundabout’s new figuration as a ‘civic square’ or midan.

The unprecedented occupation of the ‘square’ became front-page news internationally as Manama was brought to a halt. Within days, there were attempts by the state to quell the growing protests with tear gas and other threats of force culminating in a violent crackdown on the roundabout at 3am on 17th February 2011. Over four days, there were hundreds of injuries and seven civilian deaths. This harsh response surprised and radicalised many who had witnessed the events either first hand, in the international media, or through hundreds ofshaky, panicked mobile phone videos posted on YouTube. Yet despite this heavy-handed repression, many defiantly returned to the roundabout, now a site of trauma and renamed Martyr’s Square or Midan Al Shuhada by some.

After a month of protests, martial law was declared. The Bahrain-Saudi causeway rumbled with the sounds of hundreds of tanks of the Dr’a Al Jazeera or Peninsula Shield.  For the last time, the roundabout was cleared by force, main roads leading up to the roundabout were sealed off and villages were kettled by armoured vehicles. Days later, in a spectacularly reactionary move, Bahrain’s State TV replayed scenes that would within minutes circulate the digital mediasphere. As the country watched from their phones/homes/computer screens, the Pearl Monument exploded into a pile of bones over the ruins of an occupied ‘square’.

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