Bahrain opposition says will hold pro-democracy protest Friday
MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain's main opposition will hold a day of pro-democracy protests on Friday despite a crackdown last week in which police used teargas and birdshot to disperse anti-government demonstrations.
A statement issued by Bahrain's largest opposition group, the Islamist al Wefaq Society, said that protests would continue to be held until the Bahraini people's demands were met.
"The demonstrations are to insist on a right that is clear and legitimate for the Bahraini people to move towards democratic transformation," the statement said on Thursday.
A tiny island state that hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet as a bulwark for U.S.-aligned Gulf monarchies against Iran, Bahrain has suffered bouts of unrest since February 2011 when a Shi'ite-led uprising demanded the al-Khalifa dynasty give up power.
The authorities crushed the revolt, one of a series of "Arab Spring" upheavals, but protests and clashes have persisted, despite talks between government and opposition.
The unrest plants Bahrain on the front line of a tussle for regional influence between Shi'ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.
All five of the country's main opposition groups, which include Islamists, liberals and nationalists, will take part in Friday's protests, according to the statement.
The last time Bahrainis took to the streets in large numbers was on August 14 after an online call by a new group called Tamarrod (Rebellion), named after the movement that helped muster massive protests against Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi before the military removed him on July 3.
The Bahrain government in July passed a law banning all protests in the capital Manama.
The opposition complains that majority Shi'ites are discriminated against when it comes to employment and public services, and wants to see a constitutional monarchy with a government chosen from a democratically-elected parliament.
The government denies any discrimination.
(Reporting by Farishta Saeed; Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
Protesters respond to calls to defend their demonstration from possible police intervention. Slideshow