Bahrain’s Pearl roundabout, hub of 2011 protests for a constitutional monarchy and an elected government, reopened under a new name on Wednesday six years after being demolished and sealed off.
Witnesses in Manama told AFP that the roundabout, which was one of the capital’s landmarks before the protests were crushed, has been replaced with a simple crossroads named Farouk Junction.
The old roundabout, which boasted an imposing central monument of a white pearl supported by six white columns representing the six Gulf Arab states, was razed after troops and anti-riot police stormed a month-old protest camp there in March 2011.
Inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings which swept the region that year, demonstrators had taken to the streets of the Shiite-majority kingdom to demand sweeping reforms from its Sunni ruling family, who hold all top government posts.
Supported by their Gulf neighbours, authorities responded with an iron fist, bloodily suppressing the protests and detaining hundreds of activists in an intensifying crackdown that continues to this day.
Late last year, the main Shiite opposition party Al-Wefaq — the largest in parliament before the 2011 protests — was banned. Last month, the leading secular opposition group Waad was dissolved too.
Tiny but strategic Bahrain lies just across the Gulf from Iran and is home base for the US Fifth Fleet.
Access to the foreign media is severely restricted. The authorities refuse to allow AFP journalists to be based in Manama.
This month, the government banned the independent Al-Wasat newspaper on accusations that it “sowed division” in Bahrain.