Several Bahraini opposition groups are planning to stage protests across the country Aug. 14 in coordination with the nation’s Independence Day. In anticipation of these protests, and to combat general unrest in the kingdom, the government has set in place new anti-terror laws imposing a ban on protests in the capital — which opposition groups plan to defy. Despite the intention of radical elements within the opposition, tomorrow’s protests in the capital are not likely to spiral out of control due to the increased preparedness of security forces in anticipation of the planned demonstrations. Although Bahrain's opposition has been active for more than two years, they have yet to illicit any major concessions from the government and Bahrain remains a relatively stable country.
Several of the main anti-government opposition groups have dedicated Aug. 14 as Bahrain’s “Day of Rebellion,” inspired by Egypt’s Tamarod protest movement. The demonstrations are set to occur in many different locations across Bahrain, with the most prominent gathering to be staged in front of the U.S. Embassy in the nation’s capital. Though the majority of the opposition is calling for non-violent protests, there are subversive elements that will likely try to incite violence with security forces. As a result, the United States has closed its embassy Aug. 14 and has urged U.S. citizens in Bahrain to avoid all non-urgent travel in the country.
Bahrain’s “Day of Rebellion” was announced months in advance, giving Bahrain security forces ample time to prepare for the protests in order to secure the capital and minimize violence. One such measure has been the enactment of the new anti-terror laws, which ban protests in the capital and can sentence perceived terrorists with increased prison terms and the loss of Bahraini nationality. Additionally, the government has increased large-scale arrest campaigns leading up to tomorrow’s protests, placing behind bars many of those with suspected affiliations with radical groups.
In addition to these new measures, Bahrain has grown accustomed to large planned demonstrations and prepares for them by greatly bolstering its security presence along the major highways and entrances leading into the capital. Oftentimes, police forces will secure Manama in such a way that demonstrators are not even able to reach their final protest locations.
Therefore, it is unlikely that extremely violent clashes ensue in the capital city. Any violence and intense clashes with security forces will instead take place along the outskirts of the capital in the predominately Shiite villages, where much of the daily violence is concentrated. It is in these areas and the surrounding highways that the use of rudimentary improvised explosive devices and Molotov cocktails directed at security forces will likely occur.
It is important to remember that although anti-government protests persist and will likely continue in the future, the protests and violent acts have not destabilized Bahrain in any significant way. In fact, the demonstrations have failed to produce any meaningful concessions from the government, and because the protesters have failed to reach a critical mass in the country, it is unlikely that they will ever be able to so.