Soon there will be no empty walls in the villages west of Manama, capital of the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain. Graffiti calling for the king’s overthrow are crossed out by the authorities every day, only to reappear somewhere else, until the walls are entirely covered by black splodges. Police vehicles sit at the entrance to every village. Even in the shiny, built-up areas of Manama many residents grumble. “There is no freedom, no justice and no democracy,” complains one man.
Bahrain, where a Sunni monarchy has long ruled over a Shia majority, saw a brief flickering of Arab spring protests in February 2011. The biggest were brutally put down with the help of troops from neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Yet smaller protests have continued. Violent clashes erupted on December 6th when the government hosted a jamboree of security and military officials from the region (Bahrain’s 40-person delegation included people close to the Shia opposition). Youths in several villages threw stones and Molotov cocktails; security forces lobbed back tear gas and sound bombs.