Thousands of Bahrainis have demonstrated near the capital, Manama, urging democratic reforms, part of a series of protests planned by the political opposition ahead of next week’s Formula One Grand Prix.
Under the banner “Democracy is our right,” the crowds marched in the Shia area of Aali south of the capital, waving Bahraini flags and chanting anti-monarchy slogans on Friday.
Police stayed away from Friday’s demonstration as protesters denounced king Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa and Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, his uncle.
“You have no legitimacy,” they chanted.
Bahrain’s mainly-Shia opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq, organised the protest as part of demonstrations due to take place from April 12-22 to coincide with the April 19-22 Grand Prix.
Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Al-Wefaq who was at the protest, said the action was intended to support “demands for democratic transition”.
“We do not want to hold up the race, but we are trying to benefit from the increased media presence,” he said.
Salman called on his supporters to attend a demonstration planned for April 19, as the event kicks off on the Sakhir circuit south of the capital.
A second opposition group, the February 14 Movement, organised another protest on Thursday night in the village of Khamis that was broken up by police.
Thursday night’s demonstration came as a report by Human Rights Watch said that police have been rounding up pro-democracy activists in bid to head off protests.