Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Essam Fakhro, chairman of Bahrain’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called on authorities to take all “necessary legal measures” to prevent the spread of opposition protests to the capital, Manama.
Fakhro said the chamber “strongly denounces” calls for unlicensed rallies and sit-ins in vital commercial areas, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported late yesterday. He said such an escalation would have a “negative, destructive” impact on the economy and the country’s security.
Shiite Muslim demonstrators have stepped up their protests against the government in recent weeks, starting an anti-police campaign, dubbed Bahrain Fist, aimed at preventing security forces from entering their villages. They have also held unlicensed rallies in Manama that police have dispersed with teargas. The protests have led to road closures, disrupted traffic and trapped some staff in their offices in the capital and the adjacent Diplomatic Area, which houses the central bank, the Finance Ministry and other government institutions.
The tensions come a few weeks before the first anniversary of anti-government protests led by members of the Shiite majority demanding a more representative government and greater rights from the country’s Sunni Muslim rulers. The unrest led to a decline in tourism, real estate and the retail industry which contributed to an estimated $2 billion loss to the economy last year, Fakhro said in a Sept. 24 interview.
Fakhro said the chamber has received a lot of complaints from small businesses in Manama about the recent disruptions, which he said could lead to bankruptcies.
Twenty-five of 90 shops in Bahrain’s Gold Souq have closed since the outbreak of unrest last year, Gulf Daily News said on Jan. 30, citing Mohammed Sajid Shaikh, head of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s gold and pearl jewellery committee. Many jewellery traders in Manama had been unable to pay rent and utility bills due to the drop in revenue, the paper cited Shaikh as saying.
--Editors: Ben Holland, Karl Maier.
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