[Photo: Thousands of Bahrainis, mainly from the Shi'a majority, demonstrated near Manama Friday against what they described as "sectarian discrimination"]
Thousands of Bahrainis demonstrated near Manama Friday against sectarian discrimination targeting the majority Shia sect in the US-backed kingdom.
“No to discrimination,” chanted protesters brandishing Bahrain’s red-and-white flag as they marched along Budaiya main road, which links dozens of villages with the capital, witnesses said.
Ali Salman, chief cleric of the Wefaq Shia political party was among leaders of the opposition who participated, according to images the group posted online.
They carried posters of prominent opponents jailed over their roles in the anti-regime uprising of February 2011, including the Sunni head of the secular Waed party, Ibrahim Sharif, who is serving a five-year sentence.
“Sectarian discrimination is eating into the body of Bahrain in a systematic way applied by authorities,” opposition groups said in a statement at the end of the demonstration, referring to the al-Khalifa dynasty which has ruled the country since 1783.
Bahrain’s autocratic rulers have been accused by human rights activists of sowing sectarian tension in the country.
Dozens of Shia mosques have been demolished by authorities, while the regime bars Shias from holding important posts in government.
The protest was held on the occasion of the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.