Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Saudi Troops Arrive in Bahrain as Protests Escalate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Saudi Troops Arrive in Bahrain as Protests Escalate

Article excerpt

Amid concerns of a Shiite uprising in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia sent troops to support the Sunni monarchy. Bahrain's opposition denounced the move as an 'occupation.'

Saudi forces have reportedly arrived in Bahrain to reinforce its police, who clashed with protesters yesterday in an escalation of the month-long Shiite-led protests calling for democratic reform.

The Saudi forces are there on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the regional organization of which Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are both members. Their intervention underlines Saudi Arabia's deep worry over the unrest on its border, but it's likely only to harden the stance of the protesters, who have been unsatisfied by the government's response to their demands.

The protest is led by Shiites, who make up about 70 percent of Bahrain's population, which has been ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa family since the late 1700s. The country's Shiites complain of discrimination and have called for government reforms.

Opposition groups said Monday that the Saudi intervention was a declaration of war. Protests that began with calls for democratic reform and an end to Shiite discrimination are now calling for regime change.

"The entry of the Saudis does not mean these people are going to go back to their villages quietly," says Toby Jones, a Gulf expert at Rutgers University. "It raises the stakes."

Meanwhile, a pro-government parliamentary bloc on Monday called on the king to impose martial law after 100 people were reportedly wounded Sunday. Police attacked the mostly Shiite protesters who were blocking a highway leading to the financial district in the capital Manama. They used tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators, but were unable to disperse them.

Clashes between protesters and Sunni government supporters also erupted on the campus of a university in Sakhir. …

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