March 20, 2011
Bahrain’s two main hospitals remain surrounded by masked soldiers despite demands from America that the kingdom must ease its violent crackdown on demonstrators and the medical workers treating them. Soldiers also continue to patrol all main roads in the capital Manama and have cordoned off access to the former hub of the protest movement, Pearl Roundabout, which was destroyed under government orders on Friday, denying the restive demonstrators a focal point. The tiny Gulf state has the feel of a nation under siege as it approaches a second week of martial law imposed for three months by its besieged rulers. In addition to the troop presence, neighbourhoods remain largely empty; large, glitzy shopping malls have been virtually abandoned and helicopters regularly buzz over the debris-strewn scenes of recent street clashes. Hospitals, particularly the Salmaniya medical clinic near the centre of town, have received extra attention, largely because of the significance they have taken on since the protests began in January.