Following weeks of anti-government protests in Bahrain, the king has declared a state of emergency that will last for three months on the island, state TV reported.
On Tuesday, a statement read out on television said that an order by the king “authorised the commander of Bahrain’s defence forces to take all necessary measures to protect the safety of the country and its citizens.”
The protesters are demanding widespread political reforms in the kingdom and Bahrain’s Shia Muslim majority has long complained of discrimination and dominance by the Sunni minority, to which the ruling royal family belongs.
The day before this announcement a forces from Gulf countries arrived in order to help prop up the government. (photo, from aljazeera.net)
In Manama, the capital, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates deployed following a request to members of the Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC) from Bahrain.
Amid escalating protests against the government, those troops are believed to be intended to protect key facilities, including oil and gas installations, financial institutions and government facilities.
Television broadcast images of about 1,000 troops in armoured cars entering the Gulf state via the 26km causeway which connects the kingdom to Saudi Arabia.
Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Emirati foreign minister, said the United Arab Emirates sent about 500 police to Bahrain.
Although Qatar did not send troops, the country did not rule out the possibility of joining the force. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, the Qatari prime minister and foreign minister, told Al Jazeera: “There are common responsibilities and obligations within the GCC countries.
“The arrival of Saudi and UAE troops in Bahrain is in line with a GCC defence agreement that calls for all members to oblige when needed and to fully co-operate.
“We are committed to adhering to the GCC agreement. At the moment we have peacekeeping troops. We don’t have a full force there, but this is up for discussion.”
‘Restraint and respect’
“We urge our GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) partners to show restraint and respect the rights of the people of Bahrain, and to act in a way that supports dialogue instead of undermining it,” Tommy Vietor, the White House spokesman, said on Monday.
Both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are US allies and the island is home to US warships which patrol the Gulf.
Even though they did not say whether they support the move to deploy troops, the US are advising their citizens to avoid travelling to the island.
As for Iran, the main Shia power in the Gulf, it has called the use of troops from neighbouring states “unacceptable’ and warned against “foreign interferences”.
“The peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain are among the domestic issues of this country, and creating an atmosphere of fear and using other countries’ military forces to oppress these demands is not the solution,” Hossein Amir Abdollahian, an official from the Iranian foreign ministry, was reported by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency as saying.
“It is not a lack of security forces in Bahrain, it is a showing of solidarity among the GCC,” Abdel al-Mowada, the deputy chairman of Bahrain’s parliament, told Al Jazeera.
He added that it was not clear the Saudi force would be deployed but denied that they would become a provocation to protesters.
“I don’t know if they are going to be in the streets or save certain areas … [but protesters] blocking the roads are no good for anyone, we should talk.
“The government is willing to get together and make the changes needed, but when the situation is like this, you cannot talk.”
The use of foreign troops has been denounced by opposition groups. In a statement Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest Shia movement said : “We consider the entry of any soldier or military machinery into the Kingdom of Bahrain’s air, sea or land territories a blatant occupation.”