Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air will resume flights to Iraq and Iran on September 20 after a hiatus of 17 months, the tiny Gulf kingdom’s official BNA news agency said on Wednesday.
The flights to Iraq and Iran — two countries where Shiite leaders criticised Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority Bahrain’s bloody crackdown last year on Shiite-led protests calling for democratic reforms — were stopped in March 2011.
“Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air will resume its services to Iran and Iraq from 20 September 2012 following the Bahrain government’s approval,” the official BNA news agency said.
“Flights to Baghdad, Arbil, Najaf and Basra in Iraq and Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz and Isfahan in Iran will begin progressively between 20 September and 28 October 2012 subject to final approvals by the civil aviation authorities of the respective countries,” it said.
A Saudi-led Gulf force entered Bahrain in mid-March 2011, freeing up Bahraini security forces to carry out a bloody crackdown on protesters. Arrests of dissidents continued after the crackdown, activists and rights groups said.
Iran condemned the crackdown on protesters, and reportedly sent a letter calling for intervention from the United Nations Security Council “to stop the killing of the people of Bahrain.”
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warned in 2011 that the “intervention” in Bahrain by its Sunni neighbours risked a sectarian war in the region, while powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr reportedly urged Bahrainis to continue to demonstrate earlier this year.