Thousands of Bahrainis have begun a week-long rally in a Shiite village, an activist said Sunday, 10 days ahead of the first anniversary of the start of pro-democracy protest which was brutally crushed.
"The large number of people who participated yesterday (Saturday) wanted to deliver a message to the government that people are determined to keep up the demands that they made on February 14" last year, leading Shiite opposition activist Matar Matar told AFP.
"They will use any venue available," he added, just as the mostly-Shiite protesters did last year when they occupied Manama's Pearl Square for around a month until they were driven out in a heavy-handed mid-March crackdown.
The "steadfast" rally began in the afternoon in al-Muqsha village, about seven kilometers (just over four miles) west of Manama, and continued until 11:00 pm (2000 GMT).
It would reconvene Sunday at the same time, according to Matar, a former MP.
Shiite cleric sheikh Ali Salman, leader of al-Wefaq main Shiite opposition grouping, urged demonstrators to rename the rally spot in the village as "Freedom Square," insisting that people have decided that "there will be no return to pre-February 14."
"It is impossible that Bahrain remains without equality between its people," he said, according to the al-Wefaq Facebook page.
But although al-Wefaq said that the protest would last a week, the interior ministry announced on Friday that the demonstration had been authorized for two days only.
Matar said that al-Wefaq informed the interior ministry that it intends to hold a seven-day rally, after it did not get authorization to organize an open-ended demonstration.
During the month-long protest last year, the Shiite-led opposition demanded drastic constitutional changes that would reduce the power of the Sunni al-Khalifa ruling dynasty, through having an elected prime minister.
Tensions have remained high in Bahrain since the initial deadly crackdown last spring, and sporadic violence has risen in recent weeks as the first anniversary approaches of the launch of the protests.
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