Dubai - Apr 15, 2012 - 23:58
Hundreds of Bahrainis demonstrated after a Shia opposition call for a week of pro-democracy protests to coincide with the F1 Grand Prix to be hosted by the Gulf state.
Waving red and white Bahraini flags and holding pictures of jailed Shiite activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is on hunger strike, the protesters called for the ouster of the kingdom's prime minister.
"Leave Khalifa, leave," they chanted as they marched in the Shiite village of Bilad al-Qadim, referring to Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, in office since 1971.
Sunday's protest was the first in a week of daily demonstrations and sit-ins called by Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's largest Shia bloc, planned to last through the end of the controversial Grand Prix race scheduled for April 22.
Al-Wefaq said the pro-democracy protests under the banner of "steadfastness and challenge" would take place in Shiite villages on the outskirts of Manama, including one on Tuesday near Bahrain's international airport.
Bahrain, where the majority of the population is Shiite Muslim, is ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty.Al-Wefaq said there are no plans for protests near the Sakhir circuit where the race will be held.
However, the "Revolution of February 14" youth group, whose members have repeatedly clashed with security forces, has called for "three days of rage" from April 20 to 22 in protest at the decision by motorsport chiefs to go ahead with the race.