Bahrain

14th May 2013
Photos below

When the Arab Spring spread into Bahrain in 2011 the population took to the streets in demand of greater political freedom and human rights.

While the demonstrations were peaceful, the response from the Bahraini Government was deadly. During the initial protests, 25 protestors were killed by the Government and on March 14th 2011 the Bahraini Government enlisted the Saudi-led GCC forces to quell the protestors by force. (These mercenaries are sourced from a variety of regional countries including a large number from Pakistan, although they are also sourced from Jordan, Syria and Libya).

Protests have continued to happen virtually on a daily basis, concentrated predominantly in Shiite villages and suburbs, typically away from the main centres. The army and police forces have used a combination of Birdshot and toxic teargas as weapons against the people.

The Birdshot, which is in effect like a shotgun, shoots small, metal ball-bearings which lodge themselves into the flesh of the victim. At close range they are powerful enough to shoot through a persons torso, and as with a shotgun, the ball-bearings spread further apart as their distance from the blast increases. Tremendous trauma to the body is experienced, with severe eye injuries and blindness being common.

Teargas is the other main weapon used by the government forces to combat protestors. This teargas is extremely toxic and is blamed for an increased amount of miscarriages. It is not uncommon to see children with swollen and red eyes due to the teargas. The teargas works its way into homes and air-conditioning vents where it plays havoc, especially with the old and young who’s respiratory systems are more sensitive to the gas. The long-term damage by inhaling this teargas is still not known.

Using teargas in a confined area can be constituted as a violation of human rights, however Government forces have repeatedly fired teargas into the homes of residents resulting in fatalities. The government forces have also been seen firing teargas canisters directly at protestors, essentially using the canister itself as a large missile. Protestors have died as a result of head injuries from teargas canisters.

The injuries sustained at the hands of the government forces often require serious medical treatment in a hospital environment. Critically, when a person is now admitted to hospital the government questions the person as to the cause of the persons injuries. If the government suspect that a persons injuries were sustained as a result of taking part in a protest, the injured person is often detained, interrogated and beaten. The person is then often sent to jail as punishment for taking part in a protest.

The injured are not the only ones who suffer. Doctors and medics who have treated the injured have been imprisoned and tortured by the Government forces for treating the injured. Due to the government’s handling of the situation, most injured people don’t want to get treated at the hospital, therefore make-shift, clandestine treatment of the injured happens in peoples homes. Everyday people have also been trained to treat injuries commonly inflicted by the Government such as minor birdshot wounds.

While the Bahraini Government’s public relations machine works overtime, the people of Bahrain are continuing to be oppressed, beaten and tortured. At what point, one has to ask, will the international community listen to the protests of the people of Bahrain instead of this dictatorial government.

Note: U.N. Special Rapporteur, Juan Mendez was declined entry for the second time in April 2013.

Image: 
Bahrain. A young boy runs from police firing teargas.
A young Bahraini boy wears a make-shift balaclava and a glove to throw back the toxic teargas fired at the people and into the homes of the villages by Police.
Tire burning at dusk on Baidaya Highway, Bahrain.
A mother treats her son in their home. The boy sustained an injury from what is called a 'sound bomb'. Detonating close to his foot the injury needs daily treatment.
A young man stands in a bedroom displaying a make-shift body suit to protect himself against the birdshot weapons. Utilising thick plastic from water tanks, these are handmade and offer some protection from the metal ball-bearings. This young mans brother was killed by goverment forces.
A mother treats her son who sustained an injury from what is called a 'sound bomb'. Detonating close to his foot the injury needs daily treatment.
A young man shows the scars of a birdshot gun fired from a few metres away. The hole caused by the birdshot has caused a deep amount of physical and emotional stress to this young mans life.
A blood stained t-shirt covers the identity of a young adolescent who was shot in the face with a teargas canister during a police raid. It is common for police to fire directly at people with the canisters causing severe and even fatal injuries.
A steel ball-bearing from a birdshot gun after being removed from near the eye of a demonstrator. Eye injuries and blindness caused by birdshot guns are common in Bahrain.
A man shows injuries sustained when fired upon by police using birdshot.
A man shows injuries sustained when fired upon by police using birdshot.
A young boy of around 16 was shot at by Police using birdshot. One of the ball-bearings is still lodged in his eye. He cannot go to hospital due to fear of being arrested, beaten and or tortured for taking part in a protest.
Fathers who have lost children, relatives and friends gather at a night demonstration and speak to the crowd who have gathered.
A night demonstration through a small village.
Teargas fire fired from Police drifts over an ancient cemetary. Grave of a martyred villager who was killed in the uprising in the foreground.
A makeshift first-aid kit lies on the floor of a living room.
Grafitti on the village walls communicate the sentiment of the Bahraini people.
Youths walk past a Grave site of a martyered villager killed by the goverment in Bahrain. Cemetary in the background.
Sanabis, Bahrain. Common area for local and police clashes. Helicopters above are heard constantly, directing police armed with birdshot and teargas. Firing teargas into random homes and onto the tops of homes is commonplace. Villagers respond with rocks, stones and molotovs.
An x-ray shows birdshot ball-bearings lodged in a torso.
A temporary roadblock set up by locals to stop Police entering the villages by vehicle.