Bahrain will lift a state of emergency next week that was imposed when the government suppressed a democracy protest movement in March with the help of Saudi and other Gulf Arab forces.
After two months of negative publicity around the world over its crackdown and a collapse of business and leisure tourism, Bahrain hopes for a return to normalcy on June 1, following the end of night curfew in Manama this week.
Martial law was imposed in mid-March when the authorities broke up a sit-in of thousands at a traffic roundabout in Manama. Ending the emergency situation two weeks early, the government hopes, will send the right signals to the outside world. But democracy activists say that while the ruling Al-Khalifa family and the Sunni Muslim elite are keen for business to return, they have no intention of easing up on behind-the-scenes repression of the majority Shia population.
US President Barack Obama criticised Bahrain — an ally that hosts the US Fifth Fleet and seen as a bulwark against Iran — during a speech last week but pressure has been slight. US and British warnings against travel to the country remain. Reuters