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Bahrain (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Report of the Commission of Inquiry

Security forces use tear gas in Bahrain on protesters and residents after a man died in his car, allegedly following an incident with a police jeep

See also Bahrain Special: The Commission of Inquiry's Report...& 14 Key Points About It
Egypt Analysis: So What Happens Now?
Egypt LiveBlog: Déjà Vu All Over Again
Tuesday's Egypt (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Turmoil and Confusion

2150 GMT: The week of Thanksgiving 2011 will be remembered for what happened in the Middle East. Once again, Egypt was so eventful that it merited its own liveblog. Two other major developments will make the history books. In Yemen, President Saleh signed the Gulf Cooperation Council deal, effectively agreeing to trade his rule for immunity. In Bahrain, the independent report on human rights, and the regime's reaction to it, will likely set the stage for the next phase of unrest there.

With these two stories, and Egypt's news, Syria was doomed to the bottom of the priority list today. And yet, we saw some massively important developments, an unseen amount of protest in Damascus and Aleppo, and signs that Europe may be contemplating an intervention in the crisis.

There are many parallels between Yemen and Egypt, as both may have removed a dictator but neither has seen lasting change. In Bahrain, the opposition continues to struggle to be heard. But the developments in Syria may be the most important in the long run. With the news of protests reaching the reaching the two largest cities, the opposition appears stronger than it has ever been, and the Assad regime appears weaker. As Yemen and Egypt struggle to chart their next chapter, and the Bahraini opposition struggles to establish itself against a powerful regime, it appears that Syria could be the next domino to fall, perhaps the largest and most important domino yet.

2141 GMT: The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria are reporting that 17 people have been killed by Syrian security forces today, "5 were in Homs; 3 in Idlib; 3 in Daraa; 3 in Hama; 2 in the Damascus Suburbs; and 1 in Tartous."

2130 GMT: Just as I made that last update, we've received two more extremely impressive videos from Syria. The first shows a large protest outside of the al-Ghawas mosque in the extremely important Midan district of Damascus, down the street from the protest that started at the Hijaz metro and marched to the Ministry of Justice (MAP):

The second video is from Al Hamme, which we believe is northwest of the center of the city (MAP)

2123 GMT: While we focused on the Syrian protests in Damascus and Aleppo, because they are major developments, we've received hundreds of videos from across Syria. This video shows a jubilant protest in Kafer Batna, near Damascus (MAP):

Also, sources suggested than as many as a hundred protested in Harasta, Damascus (MAP):

2113 GMT: Journalist Tom Finn reports that there have been huge celebrations in Yemen, despite a mixed reaction from activists on the news that President Saleh will accept a GCC brokered power-tranfer deal. Earlier he described the situation:

There are mobs of pro-government supporters cruising the streets with batons and posters of Saleh, some firing machine-guns in the air in anger.

Just a few miles away people are celebrating in Change Square, letting off fireworks, waving tribal daggers and dancing in circles. The sound of fireworks in Change Square is still deafening, but there also lots of bystanders watching the celebrations saying they're not celebrating and that they do not see Saleh's signing as a victory.

A young man named Nazir just came up to me and said in perfect English: "We don't trust Saleh to honour the deal, this deal is not for us it's for the political parties, tomorrow we will burn our election cards and march in support of the Egytian youth."

Others are saying that they won't leave Change Square until the rest of Saleh's family (most notably his son Ahmed, who still heads the republican guard) has left power.

A few minutes ago he gave The Guardian an update:

Tom Finn in Sana"a on Yemeni reaction to President Saleh signing deal to transfer power (mp3)

2103 GMT: Another large and important video, a reported protest at Aleppo University this evening:

2046 GMT: Another significant protest in Syria. This video was reportedly taken this evening in the New Aleppo district of Aleppo (MAP), the second largest city in Syria and another city that has been unable to host significant protests:

Earlier, protests were reported in the main university in Aleppo.

1959 GMT: The Bahraini state run media is not all self-congratulation and flattery, however. This article extensively quotes British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is extremely critical of the Bahraini government. In fact, this article is so honest that, when compared to the other articles we've posted, an EA correspondent asks whether it is the act of a rogue employee.

1954 GMT: Now, the crown prince of Bahrain is praising King Hamad for setting up the commission that has reported that the Bahraini government was guilty of rights abuses:

He hailed the historic royal decision on June 29, 2011 to set up the independent fact-finding commission under the chairmanship of prof. Mahmoud Sherif Bassiouni commending HM the King's keenness to preserve the kingdom's status as the land of consensus, diversity, unity, democracy and prosperity.

He also described the decision to set up the committee, which he said is a historic precedent in the Arab World, as a reflection of HM the King's keenness on probity and justice.

1912 GMT: France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has suggested today that a "security zone" should be established in Syria.

"If it is possible to have a humanitarian dimension for a securitized zone to protect civilians, that then is a question which has to be studied by the European Union on the one side and the Arab League on the other side," Juppe said.

This is the first time that a European leader has made such a statement. Turkey has also called for "buffer zones," no-fly zones that would protect some of the hardest hit regions of Syria. It was not immediately clear what Juppe was specifically suggesting, or how a "security zone" is being defined, but this could be the first step towards European involvement in Syria. It should be noted, however, that NATO, the UN, and the EU have all been very hesitant to engage in a Libya-like action in Syria.

1853 GMT: The Bahraini government, via state run news agencies, has spent much of the day qualifying the report of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry that so strongly condemned the actions of the Bahraini governemt. The latest press releases have praised the actions of King Hamad and disputed the BICI's findings on Iran:

Concerning the outside factors, BICI's report indicated that "The fact that there is no clear evidence of Iran's direct involvement does not mean that it does not exist," adding that the National Security Agency said that it is difficult to provide evidence for national security reasons. The report also asserted that official Iranian media and Iranian officials' statements played an inciting role in the recent events.

1845 GMT: A clarification of the two reports we have posted below. Activists have reported that a large protest, perhaps as large as a hundred or two hundred protesters, marched from the Hijaz metro station (the ornate building featured at the start of the building) and marched towards the nearby Ministry of Justice building, the Justice Palace.

By all accounts, this is the first such protest. It shows, at the very least, that the protesters are losing their fear of the Syrian regime. At the most, it shows that no place is safe from a protest movement that seems to be growing more intense, and more dedicated, in the face of the violent crackdown.

1832 GMT: The LCCS is confirming protests in the center of Damascus. They have also posted the previous video, claiming that it is footage outside the "Justice Palace" in Damascus.

The LCCS is also reporting that 15 people have been killed today:

15 martyrs have been killed by security forces thus far today: 4 in Homs; 3 in Daraa; 3 in Hama; 2 in Idlib; 2 in the Damascus suburbs; and 1 in Tartous.

1821 GMT: James Miller returns from lunch to find what could be the most significant protest video to come out of Syria in months. Activists claim that the building in the background is the Al Hijaz metro station (MAP) in the center of Damascus:

1725 GMT: We turn again to Syria, where there have been some significant developments. The LCCS reports more violence in the city of Hawle, Homs:

Homs: Hawla: Heavy shooting fire at the houses and hearing the sound of five consecutive explosions in Taldo city while Shilka anti-aircrafts are shelling at the east neighborhood with targetting the water tank in the city

Perhaps more significantly, the LCCS also report "massive" protests near Aleppo:

Aleppo: Hayan: A massive demonstration set out in Hourrieh square chanting for Homs and to topple the regime

Aleppo: Marea: Massive demonstration; participants are chanting for the martyrs and for the victory of the cities occupied by the regime's army

1637 GMT: Scott Lucas has posted an MUST READ 14 point response to the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report on the violence in February and March at the start of the Arab Spring uprisings. The report is extremely critical of many claims made by the Bahraini government, including claims that the violence was the actions of individual police (the report says the violence was a systemic approach to end protests), and the claims that the Iranian government was behind the uprising, as the government was claiming.

Read the entire response, with links to the report:

Bahrain Special: The Commission of Inquiry's Report...& 14 Key Points About It

1626 GMT: Mixed reactions from Yemen's opposition. Some are relieved to have Saleh step down, which will trigger elections, but others believe that this deal lets President Saleh off the hook, as he will now be immune from prosecution.

A representative from the Youth Movement called into Al Jazeera and vowed that the revolution will continue.

1620 GMT: After lamenting the violence in Yemen and calling the transfer of power a "coup," Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh then thanked the Saudi royals who have organized the GCC deal and then called it a "celebration" as he closed his statements.

1616 GMT: When President Saleh signed the GCC deal, we was granted immunity for stepping down within 30 days. He chuckled. Source say he is planning on traveling to NEw York City for medical treatment after he steps down.

Now, Saleh is giving a speech with a different tone. He has blamed Zionists, radicals, and foreign influence for the "sad" situation in Yemen, and he is blaming the civilian deaths on other powers.

The Saudi royals look nervous, as Saleh is clearly not reading from a prepared text.

1559 GMT: The Saudi King gave a quick speech, in which he called for unity, and then Yemeni President Saleh was given a folder, apparently containing the GCC agreement that he has signed.

1552 GMT: Saudi King Abdullah just made a speech in the presence of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, at a meeting where it appears that Saleh will sign the GCC agreement, effectively transferring power to a deputy. Stay tuned...

1537 GMT: 28 people have been killed in Syria today, according to the AP:

Two main activist groups, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordinating Committees, documented the deaths, which were reported in the central cities of Hama and Homs, the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and elsewhere.

1517 GMT: Bahraini state media has released the text of the statement made earlier by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. King Hamad seems to do an excellent job of summarizing his reaction in the first two paragraphs:

Your Report deals with controversial matters of importance. You have sought to establish the true facts of a period of painful unrest which has affected all of us. You have understood the unprecedented challenges faced by our authorities as they confronted relentless provocation, from hostile sources both inside and outside the country. You have recognised the need for our authorities to re-establish public order in the face of violence and intimidation against ordinary people as well as against the essential institutions of the nation. At the same time, you have also identified serious shortcomings on the part of some organs of our Government, particularly in failing to prevent instances of excessive force and of the mistreatment of persons placed under arrest.

Some may wonder why we asked a commission of foreign experts to examine the events of February and March 2011 and their subsequent ramifications. The answer is that any Government which has a sincere desire for reform and progress understands the benefit of objective and constructive criticism.

In that opening, Hamad speaks about the crisis and praises the government, then admits that there were mistakes and problems. The rest of the report, however, seems to stress the first part of that message. In one of our favorite passages, human rights abuses and attacks on security forces are mixed together with allegations of "sabotage" and foreign interference:

We do not want, ever again, to see our country paralysed by intimidation and sabotage. We do not want, ever again, to learn that our expatriate work-force, which makes such valuable contributions to the development of our nation, has been repeatedly terrorised by racist gangs. We do not want, ever again, to see civilians tried anywhere else but in the ordinary courts. We do not want, ever again, to experience the murder of policemen and the persecution of their families for the work they do in protecting us all; nor do we want, ever again, to discover that any of our law enforcement personnel have mistreated anyone.

The message is simple - February and March was terrible for all of Bahrain, the government and the people, and the government is doing its best to steer the country out of crisis.

1459 GMT: The LCCS says that 9 people have been killed so far in Syria. It is early, and with all the reports of military activity, it is sadly likely that this number will rise:

Number of martyrs today in Syria is 9 among them is a child, 3 martyrs from Hama 2 martyrs from Damascus Suburbs and a martyr each from, Homs, Aleppo,Tartos and Daraa.

Inside this statement, however, there is a less flashy piece of news that is no less important. 3 students have reportedly been arrested in Aleppo University after protests broke out in the central library. Aleppo is a stronghold for President Assad's supporters, and is the only city that has not seen an established protest movement, as security is so heavy any protests are almost immediately dispersed. With student protests on the rise, it will be extremely important to keep an eye on protests at universities, particularly in Aleppo and Damascus.

A large student protest in Kherbet Ghazale, Daraa:

And the LCCS is reporting that a large and important labor union is protesting in Idlib, and they have been joined by university students:

A student protest in Barze, Damascus (MAP):

A funeral for a martyr in Kafranbel, Idlib:

Students protest in Nahte, Daraa, scene of recent violence and recent martyrs:

1438 GMT: Egypt may be frustrated at the lack of change, Yemen may be facing a transfer of power, and Bahrain is grappling with the concessions and claimed reforms of their king, but Syria's violence is ongoing, and there has been no let up in recent days.

Activists post this video, showing a vehicle on fire in Bayada, Homs. The reports are that the military began to shell the neighborhood again, and this vehicle, an ambulance responding to civilian casualties, was hit, its driver and a paramedic killed:

1426 GMT: Bahrain's King Hamad, in a speech earlier, said that the BICI report would ba a "catalyst for change," though he said it may take time to study the report and implement those changes. To be fair, this is understandable.

But there are also signs, as there have always been, that the King is also trying to excuse some of the abuses, praising reforms more than addressing problems. And, in tactics used in other revolutions, from Egypt to Libya to Iran, he spoke of the security forces efforts to save the country from "sectarian violence," which is a term not defined by Hamad:

He said the report would need time to digest and promised to set up a working group on dealing with its recommendations.

"Your report provides a historical oportunity to deal with matters that are urgent," he said. He promised to replace officials responsible for the abuse and to "heal fractures in our society".

The King said the today's report "turned a new page in history".

But in a defiant note he pointed out the European countries are also accused of human rights abuses. He also called for the creation of an Arab court of human rights.

King Hamad praised the security forces and public for overcoming "sectarian violence".

1418 GMT: James Miller takes the liveblog after Scott Lucas has done a fantastic job of covering the crisis brewing in two countries, Bahrain and Yemen.

Turning first to Bahrain, as King Hamad continued his speech about how the government will ensure human rights, protests appear rekindled in several parts of the country. @angryarabiya tweets:

As king speaks of reforms and human rights, Aleker village is being attacked by riot police

#onsameday that king called for rights, a bahraini was killed by riot police

1340 GMT: Bahrain's King Hamad calls for the creation of an Arab court of human rights. Despite the criticism in the Commission's report, he thanks Bahrain's security forces and the military units of the Gulf Co-operation Council countries for their role in public order.

Hamad's speech ends moments later.

1325 GMT: Bahrain's King Hamad assures, "We do not want to see any security force violate anyone's rights again. We do not want intimidation or sabotage again; we do not want civilians tried in military courts again."

Referring to a new definition of torture announced on Monday, Hamad says laws must be reformed to be consistent with international standards. He said will continue to review circumstances of job dismissals and expulsions from educational institutions, adding that he has established a compensation fund.

1320 GMT: Bahrain's King Hamad, replying to the Independent Commission's reports, says the decision to invite foreign experts came from a sincere desire for reform and progress through constructive criticism. There is, however, no response so far to any specifics in Commission head Bassiouni's summary.

1315 GMT: While the Commission report has been quite damning of activities by regime personnel, Andrew Hammond adds a notable caveat, "Bassiouni was careful to describe torture as 'from individual to another' --- implying no policy that someone senior should pay for."

1307 GMT: Bahrain Commission head Bassiouni calls for a new independent organisation to pursue the findings of the Commission's report. leading to new legislation and a holding to account of those responsible for abuses.

1303 GMT: Bahrain Commission head Bassiouni criticises State TV for using insulting language, pushing the false line that Iran was to blame for unrest, and says journalists were subjected to harassment on social networks.

1258 GMT: Bahrain Commission head Bassiouni cites the opposition's refusal of an offer of dialogue offer by the Crown Prince in March as significant, with the regime's arbitrary arrests following the rejection.

He says night raids created a "culture of fear", in which more than 2000 people were arrested, then released with no charge.

Bassiouni said there were 35 death in the conflict --- 30 civilians and five police --- with no evidence that the Saudi-led military intervention in March caused any deaths. More than 2000 people have been dismissed from their jobs.

1255 GMT: The head of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry is delivering his summary of a 500-page report in a ceremony in front of King Hamad and other members of the regime.

Cherif Bassiouni has already said that there "lots of arrests" without warrants, that the Government used too much and unnecessary force, and that "lots of people" were tortured. He cites beatings, use of electricity, sleep deprivation, verbal abuse, and the threat of rape.

Bassiouni cites "a culture of impunity" in which officers of the security forces did not expect they would be punished.

1240 GMT: Another video from Bahrain today shows the graphic nature of today's attack against protesters. In the aftermath of one attack, a woman protester is shown laying on the ground, unconscious while others are screaming and trying to help each other. 

1205 GMT: Here's a new video from Aali today: 

1200 GMT: Bahrain's Ministry of Interior on incident that took the live of a driver: "The driver was driving with high speed on a sub-road and he lost control of the vehicle because of a curve in the road. The driver crashed into another car with Saudi number plate parked in the side of the road and then moved to crashed into the wall..."

1140 GMT: AFP reports that protests were not just held in Aali, but also in the island of Sitra. According to the agency, in Aali, people chanted, "Hamad must go!" 

1128 GMT: Al Jazeera just interviewed Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, about the BICI report. He calls the oppression against protesters 'systematic' and ordered by people high up in the government echelons. Here's the video: 


1125 GMT: Mazen Mahdi who was arrested just a little over an hour ago was just released. He tweets

Being released from Isa Town police station. They didn't know to charge me with what. They refused contacting the #German embassy #Bahrain

Police also refusing to return me to the area where I was picked-up they just asked me to leave station after writing a statement 

Police say I am free to work so I am heading back to #Aali #Bahrain

1120 GMT: Al Jazeera is reporting that several protesters have been injured in the clashes during protests in Aali. Images from Aali shows men, women and children running away from baton-weilding riot policemen. 

1045 GMT: Bahraini journalist Mazen Mahdi has reportedly been detained by the police in Aali. His wherabouts are unknown at this point. He had been arrested before during the last round of protests and had been brutally tortured before being released. 

He tweeted the news of his own arrest 34 minutes ago. 

1010 GMT: More about this morning's clashes after the death of Abdulnadi Qadhem, allegedly killed in a crash after an incident with a police jeep....

Witness Matthew Cassel reports, "After tear gas entered homes, youth smashed windows to carry out dozens of injured women who were gathered to mourn Qadhem."

Video of the incident is at the top of the entry. A photograph:

0910 GMT: Journalist Tom Finn reports that a mass protest has begun in the Yemeni capital Sana'a in response to the news that President Saleh may sign a deal for transition of power (see 0720 GMT): "No to immunity, no to Saudi, no to [Saleh's son] Ahmed Ali!"

Video from Al Jazeera English of the reactions:

0855 GMT: In a lengthy critique ahead of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report, economist and activist Alaa Shehabi evaluates:

The Bahraini regime is...hopeful that BICI might let some steam out of the protest movement by thwarting the opposition’s activism for the time being at least. The commission, after all, has become a buffer and intermediary between the aggrieved and the regime as the whole country awaits the outcome of the investigation. By preoccupying people with the process of investigation and filing of complaints, and by deluding them with a sense of justice, the regime hopes people will get distracted from the cause and from protesting and that their anger may subside. That has not happened.

On the other hand, the element of time and distraction could widen the fissure between the different camps of the opposition (the “revolutionary” February 14 youth and the “resolutionary” traditional political societies) that in the past have been divided over the best course of agitation against the state.

0845 GMT: Ahead of the release of the Commission of Inquiry's report in Bahrain, an example of how an event can escalate:

A man was killed when his car was struck in Ala'ali. Activists claim that a police jeep either hit the automobile or forced it off the road. Regime supporters claim that the man's car ran directly into a wall.

Police have tear-gassed protesters who came out after the incident, and video has been posted of the aftermath of the crash.

0725 GMT: Very graphic footage has been posted, claiming to be of a group of men killed on Tuesday on the road to Idlib in northwest Syria.

0720 GMT: Yemen's State TV is reporting that President Saleh, the president of Yemen, is in Saudi Arabia to sign a deal for transition of power.

The initiative was launched this spring by the six countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council, but Saleh has balked at the last minute on three occassions from signing the agreement, which would put Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi in charge while arrangements for elections were established. Saleh and his family would also receive immunity from prosecution.

State TV declared, "The president of the republic arrives safely to the airport of Riyadh to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, following an invitation from the Saudi leadership, to attend the signing of the Gulf initiative."

United Nations envoy Jamal Benomar told reporters in Yemen's capital Sana'a, "All the parties have agreed to implement the Gulf Co-operation Council initiative."

0705 GMT: The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, appointed in June by King Hamad, is due to release its report today on the events in the Kingdom since protests began on 14 February.

The process is being carefully managed, more than three weeks after the Commission was initially scheduled to offer its findings. The head of the BICI, Cherif Bassiouni, will hand the report --- the only copy, according to a spokeswoman --- to King Hamad during a ceremony at 3 p.m. (1200 GMT). The text will appear on the BICI website, in Arabic and English, two hours later, but will not be in printed form until December.


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