2011–2012 Bahraini uprising

Main article: 2011–2012 Bahraini uprising
Protesters raising their hands towards Pearl Roundabout
One of the huge marches that swept across Bahrain in February 2011
Panoramic image of the march on 9 March 2012

The protests in Bahrain were initially aimed at achieving greater political freedom and respect for human rights, and were not intended to threaten the monarchy; nor were they as large as those in other countries.[73] Lingering frustration among the Shiite majority with being ruled by the Sunni government was a major root cause, but the protests in Tunisia and Egypt are cited as the inspiration for the demonstrations.[74] The protests began in Bahrain on 14 February[73] and were largely peaceful, until a raid by police on the night of 17 February against protesters sleeping at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, in which police killed four protesters.[75][76] Following the deadly raid, some of the protesters began to expand their aims to a call for the end of the monarchy, which has ruled Bahrain since the late 18th century.[77] On 18 February, government forces opened fire on protesters, mourners, and news journalists,[78] prompting protesters to begin calling for the overthrow of the Bahraini monarchy and government.[79] On 19 February, protesters occupied Pearl Roundabout after the government ordered troops and police to withdraw.[80][81][82] On 22 February, an estimated one hundred thousand people, one fifth of all Bahrainis, marched. On 14 March, at the request of the Crown Prince, GCC Saudi Arabian troops entered the country,[83] and opened fire on the protesters, several of whom were killed.[84][85] Later thousands of Shia protesters arose in Iraq and Qatif in opposition to the Saudi-led intervention in Bahrain.[86][87][88]

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa declared a three-month state of emergency on 15 March and asked the military to reassert its control as clashes spread across the country.[89] It was later lifted on 1 June 2011.[90] On 16 March 2011, the protesters' camp in the Pearl Roundabout was evacuated, bulldozed, and set on fire by the Bahraini Defense Force and riot police.[91] Later on 18 March, the Pearl Roundabout monument was torn down as part of the crackdown on protesters.[92] Human rights organizations reported that, in the 8 months following the outbreak of protests on 14 February, more than 1,600 peaceful political protesters, medical professionals, journalists, human rights defenders and innocent bystanders had been arrested, and more than 100 people convicted by a special military court established by the government.[93]

Since the lifting of emergency law on 1 June, several large rallies have been staged by the Shi'ite community demanding the release of detained protesters, greater political representation, and an end to sectarian discrimination. In July 2011, medical personnel were tried by special military courts for treating injured protesters and sentenced to multi-year prison sentences.[94] Several human rights groups and news organizations have alleged they have been deliberately targeted by the Bahraini government.[95]

On 23 November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released its report on human rights violations during the February and March 2011 protests, finding that the government "systematically" tortured prisoners, summarily fired Shi'ite employees and university students, and committed other gross human rights violations.[96] One of the report's recommendations was to allow human rights groups into the country to monitor the situation. Between 23 November and the end of January, however, the Bahraini government refused entry to several international human rights groups including Freedom House,[97][98] Human Rights First [99] and Physicians for Human Rights.[100]

On 9 March 2012, hundreds of thousands protested in one of the biggest anti-govemrent rallies to date. According to CNN, the march "filled a four-lane highway between Duraz and Muksha".[101] The government said 100,000 had participated in the march, whilst opposition activists estimated the number to be more than 200,000. The march was called for by Sheikh Isa Qassim, Bahrain's top Shia cleric. Protesters called for downfall of King and the release of imprisoned political leaders. The protest ended peacefully, however hundreds of youth tried to march back to the site of the now demolished symbolic Pearl roundabout, and were dispersed by security forces with tear gas.[102] Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR called the march "the biggest in our history".[103]

A possible loose union with Saudi Arabia, and eventually other members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, was raised in light of the Arab Spring protests.[104][105][106]