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Tens of thousands of Bahraini protesters occupy four-lane highway

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Every day on World Now, we choose a striking photo from around the globe. Today we selected this shot from Bahrain, where tens of thousands of people filled a four-lane highway outside Manama to protest for reform. This shot from above shows the scope of the Friday demonstration.

The massive march was a rebuke to Bahraini leaders who have claimed the protests are sputtering out. Bahrain, an island monarchy near Saudi Arabia, has faced more than a year of demonstrations urging greater democracy and an end to discrimination against Shiites in the Sunni Muslim state.

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Human rights groups say the Bahraini government cracked down on dissenters last year with arrests, torture and disproportionate punishments in new military courts. Although the government created an independent commission to investigate the allegations, activists say it hasn’t followed through on its recommendations, continuing to hold unjust trials and cracking down on protesters.

Government loyalists have accused the protesters of exaggerating problems and inciting terrorist violence. King Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa told a German newspaper that the ‘Arab Spring’ was ‘the business of other countries’ because Bahrain was already reformed.

The Bahraini information ministry said “thugs” threw stones at police and cars on Friday. Later in the day, activists said protesters were tear-gassed when they tried to reach the Pearl Roundabout, a tightly guarded square that was at the heart of protests last year.

The turmoil has put the United States in a touchy spot: Bahrain has long been a U.S. ally against Iran. Police crackdowns and other alleged abuses there have spurred accusations that the U.S. has a double standard on human rights as it calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.

The Bahrain clashes have also put pressure on an upcoming Grand Prix race. Activists have called on Formula One organizers to cancel the event this year. Races last year were called off because of the unrest.

Spot an amazing photo from around the world? Please tweet it to us at @latimesworld.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles


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