Bahrain’s security forces broke up protests at the Pearl roundabout in central Manama early on Thursday 17 February.

Reports from the kingdom say that at least two protestors were killed in the operation that began at 3am local time. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used to disperse the crowds. It is estimated that 10,000 people had gathered in the area to demand change.

Demonstrations began on a small scale on the night of 13 February in several villages before a ‘Day of Rage’ was held in Manama on 14 February, when one protester was killed. Another person was killed at the protester’s funeral on 15 February as clashes with the police continued.

The protesters say the Shia majority are discriminated against by the Sunni rulers in the distribution of housing and jobs, and are demanding more democratic reform of the country.

The demonstrations in Bahrain are the first large scale demonstrations in the GCC since protesters in Egypt and Tunisia forced their leaders to stand down. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president on 11 February, handing power to the country’s military high command. Tunisia’s former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country on 14 January.

The protests across the Middle East were triggered by an unemployed graduate who set himself alight in Sidi Bouzid, central Tunisia, after police confiscate his vegetable cart. Mohamed Bouazizi died from his burns on 4 January.