Bahrain Bans Protest. Well Really! Quelle Surprise?

Citing recent episodes of violence, the government of Bahrain on Tuesday banned all public rallies and demonstrations, a move that drew swift condemnation from human rights groups and opposition activists who said it was intended solely to stifle criticism of the ruling monarchy in the tiny Persian Gulf nation.

In a statement, Bahrain’s interior minister said protests were banned after “repeated violations” by rally organizers, including riots, attacks on property and calls for the overthrow of “leading national figures.” Legal action would be taken against anyone attempting to organize a rally, the statement said.

A government spokesman, Fahad al-Binali, said in an interview that the ban would be temporary and was intended to “calm things down” after the recent deaths of protesters and police officers.

Instead, though, the move seemed likely to inflame the already dangerous standoff involving a protest movement that has been unable to wrest freedoms from a government that opposition activists say is methodically blocking all avenues for dissent. In recent weeks, activists have been prosecuted for postings on social media, and doctors, charged with illegal gathering and other crimes after treating protesters, have been sent to jail.

“They don’t want people to express their opinions, their anger,” said Sayed Hadi al-Mosawi, a member of Al-Wefaq, the largest opposition group. “This will not take the country to stability.”

Since the beginning of the Arab uprisings almost two years ago, Bahrain’s government has struggled to contain the protests, which are focused on the ruling Sunni monarchy’s chokehold on political power and fed by persistent complaints by the island nation’s majority Shiite population of systematic, apartheid-like discrimination.

Backed by powerful allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United States, Bahrain’s government, its critics charge, has faced little pressure to change. The Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy is anchored in Bahrain.

As the crisis has stalled, the standoff has deteriorated into ever more violent, sometimes deadly confrontations. In the last two months, two teenagers have been killed by the security services, and a 19-year-old police officer was killed in what the authorities said was an attack on one of their patrols. Last week, another police officer died of injuries he sustained in April in what the government called a “domestic terrorist attack,” a term frequently used for protests.

In the statement, the interior minister, Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, said that rallies would be stopped until the authorities could ensure that “security is maintained.” It was unclear how the ban would change the response by the authorities, since many of the protests are considered illegal by the government and are already met with force.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International said in a statement that the ban violated the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and “must be lifted immediately.”

“Even in the event of sporadic or isolated violence once an assembly is under way, the authorities cannot simply declare a blanket prohibition on all protests,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the group’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director.

A version of this article appeared in print on October 31, 2012, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Citing Violence, Bahrain Bans All Protests in New Crackdown.