Before the discovery of oil in the 1930s, the main source of income for the gulf kingdom of Bahrain was pearl diving. As a testament to its past, an iconic statue was constructed at a major traffic intersection in Manama, the capital city, and named the Pearl Roundabout. The monument consisted of six sloping “sails,” representing the six Arab countries of the Arabian Gulf, rising high into the air. Perched on top where the sails converge was a giant white pearl. It was considered a major landmark in Bahrain, showing up in every tourist’s “must see” list when visiting the kingdom. The Pearl Monument is even featured on the highest value coin in Bahraini currency, the half-dinar.
Today, it was demolished.
In recent weeks, Pearl Roundabout had become a rallying point for anti-government protesters, inspired by similar uprisings all across the region. In the pre-dawn hours of March 17, Bahrain security forces drove out protesters who had been camping in the square since February. In the resulting clash, several people were killed, including both police and demonstrators. There has been a call by one of Bahrain’s largest opposition groups for a U.N. inquiry into what happened at the roundabout, and sympathy for the mostly Shiite protesters has been increasing across the region.
On Friday, in what appears to be an effort to stop the protests from continuing, the Bahrain government destroyed the monument and surrounding square. The monument was reduced to rubble and hauled away by waiting trucks. The area has been relabeled the Gulf Cooperation Council Roundabout, or GCC Roundabout. According to the state-run Bahrain News Agency, the demolition was completed in an effort to “optimize services and improve the infrastructure” and “boost flow of traffic in this vital area of the capital.”