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Small protests mark 10th anniversary of Bahrain uprising | Arab Spring: 10 years on News



Small and sporadic demonstrations took place in Bahrain on Sunday amid a hefty police presence, marking 10 years since the Gulf nation’s Arab Spring-inspired uprising.

On February 14, 2011, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demand an elected government and other reforms, briefly threatening the monarchy’s grip on power, before a deadly crackdown.

The protests were attended mostly by the country’s majority-Shia residents who have long accused the Al Khalifa monarchy of political persecution.

However, the movement was crushed weeks later after the ruling family brought troops from neighbouring Gulf states. The iconic Pearl Roundabout monument – the epicentre of the protests – was demolished.

Commemorating those events, activists on Sunday posted pictures of small-scale demonstrations on their social media accounts from the outskirts of the capital Manama.

Some waved Bahraini flags, while others held aloft banners against the Al Khalifa family.

Marches had been organised from Saturday evening in Shia-majority neighbourhoods near Manama as well as in the north and west of the country.

But the number of demonstrators was limited compared with previous years due to tight security as well as strict measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Social media users circulated the hashtag in Arabic “Perseverance until victory” and shared photos of protests from villages including al-Shakhoura and al-Diyya. The images posted online showed a tight police presence in the capital and at other Shia villages.

Translation: Bahrainis march in rallies marking the 10th anniversary since the start of the February 14 revolution in Abu Saiba and Shakhoura villages.

Maryam Alkhawaja, a Bahraini activist, told Al Jazeera that the tiny Gulf kingdom holds a lot of significance to regional and international countries.

“Because of Bahrain’s geopolitical importance being [located] between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and hosting the [US Navy] Fifth Fleet and now also [hosting] a base for the United Kingdom, there are a lot of interests that are based in Bahrain,” she said.

“When we took to the streets in 2011 we knew that we weren’t just up against the Bahraini government, but rather the six GCC countries plus their allies – the United Kingdom and the United States.”

The 2011 uprising, inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, ended in a bloody crackdown with the help of Saudi and Emirati forces.

Dozens are believed to have been killed in the unrest, although the exact toll remains unclear.

The government denounced the protest movement as a plot by regional Shia power Iran.

It banned opposition parties, put civilians in front of military courts and jailed dozens of peaceful political opponents, triggering substantial international criticism.

“Ten years after Bahrain’s popular uprising, systemic injustice has intensified and political repression … has effectively shut any space for … freedom of expression,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

Ibrahim Fraihat, a professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, said there are three reasons why Bahrain’s uprising was cracked down upon.

“One is that the revolution was crushed in its early days by Operation Peninsula Shield [the GCC’s military arm] sent by Saudi Arabia,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Second is that Bahrain is linked to a regional conflict with Iran and Saudi Arabia. So for that reason, Bahrain protesters did not receive any support from outside. And the third reason seems to be that royal political systems seem to be more resilient and stronger in facing protests compared to republican political systems.”

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Top New York state lawmaker says Cuomo ‘must resign’ | Politics News



Pressure is mounting on Governor Andrew Cuomo to step down amid allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing increased pressure to step down, after he was accused by several women of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour.

In a statement shared by local media on Sunday, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said accounts of alleged wrongdoing against Cuomo are “drawing away from the business of government”.

“New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign,” she said.

Several women have come forward in recent weeks to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment and misconduct, including inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, as well as unwanted sexual advances.

Cuomo, who drew national attention for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, has also been criticised after US media outlets reported that his top aides obscured the true number of people killed by the coronavirus in the state’s nursing homes.

“We have allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the COVID-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project,” Stewart-Cousins said in her statement.

Cuomo has also faced criticism after US media reported his aides obscured the true number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes in New York state [File: Yuki Iwamura/AP Photo]

State Assembly Speaker Carl E Heastie also spoke out on Sunday about the allegations, which he described as “deeply disturbing” and having “no place whatsoever in government, the workplace or anywhere else”.

“I too share the sentiment of Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins regarding the Governor’s ability to continue to lead this state. We have many challenges to address, and I think it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York,” Heastie said in a statement, as reported by local media.

While Cuomo at first denied any wrongdoing, he said on February 28 that he “never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm”.

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” he said in a statement at that time.

New York is still in the midst of this pandemic… We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York State Senate Majority Leader

Last week, he apologised and said he would cooperate with an investigation into his conduct, but would not resign.

He reiterated that position on Sunday, telling reporters during a conference call that it would be “anti-democratic” for him to step down.

“They don’t override the people’s will, they don’t get to override elections,” said Cuomo, when asked about members of his own party calling for his resignation. “I was elected by the people of New York state. I wasn’t elected by politicians.”

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