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Sunday
Jun262011

Bahrain Feature: Setting the Record Straight on the Start of the Uprising (Chanad)

Pearl Roundabout, 15 February 2011Activist Chanad posts a response to the Bahraini regime's portrayal of events at the start of the uprising in February:

As the Bahrain government desperately tries to improve its image in the international media, it has invented a new narrative about the sequence of events that took place after the start of pro-democracy protests on Febrary 14. This needs to be corrected.

In a nutshell, this is how the invented government narrative goes:

  • On February 14, protesters came on to the street calling for reform.
  • The protests were initially peaceful and their demands were legitimate so the government allowed them to continue and called for a dialogue.
  • At some point (after the return of Hasan Mushaima to Bahrain on Feb 26) the peaceful protests were hijacked by Iran/Hezbollah backed terrorists who were plotting a violent coup to replace the monarchy with an Iran-style theocracy.
  • Then, and only then, did the government have no choice but to use violence to end the protests and restore peace and stability in the country.

You can read this narrative recounted by different regime officials, including:

And there are many more of such statements by government spokespersons.

For The Record

Contrary to this narrative, here is what actually happened.

On February 14, protests did indeed take to the streets around the country to demand reform, but contrary to the regime's narrative, the government did not recognize their legitimacy or allow them to continue their peaceful protest. The government sent in security forces to violently repress the protests with tear gas, rubber bullets, and shotguns on the very first day.

Here is a video of what happened in Diraz that day:

Things to note: The protesters were standing on the side of the road, armed only with Bahraini flags. The protesters were chanting "Our demand is a contractual constitution".

This scene of peaceful protests being violently repressed was repeated in different parts of the country over, and over, and over, and over again on February 14.

This lead to the death of one protester, Ali Mushaima, in Daih village. The police attempted to repress Mushaima's funeral procession the next morning (Feb 15) and killed another man, Fadhel Ali Matrook. (Read Amnesty International's report on these two deaths).

The protesters then proceeded to Pearl Roundabout and occupied it that day, setting up tents there. On the same day (Feb 15), the King gave a speech offering his condolences to the families of the killed protesters and announced the formation of a committee to investigate the deaths.

Two days later (Feb 17), in the early hours of the morning, security forces attacked the protesters camped at Pearl Roundbout injuring dozens and killing four more people. Videos of the pre-dawn raid can be seen here and here. Military troops were deployed in the capital hours later.

The following day (Feb 18), a group of protesters set off to try and reach Pearl Roundabout. As they marched, the Crown Prince went on state televsion calling for calm and dialogue. But as his message was being televised, the military was firing live bullets on protesters who tried to approach the Pearl Roundabout with their arms raised and chanting "peaceful" (video -- graphic). Several more were wounded, one of whom would later succumb to a bullet wound in his head.

Only later in the day (Feb 18), after the military was done shooting, was it was formally announced that the King had given powers to the Crown Prince to conduct the dialogue.

So, let the record state that the government killed six protesters and fatally injured a seventh (and wounded dozens more) before there was any offer of dialogue from the regime.

Afterword

Remember that committee that the King had announced on Feb 15 to investigate the killings of the protesters? It's been over four months now and it has not produced any results yet. Actually, the committee will not be presenting any findings until the 10th of August. This despite the fact that the regime has detained hundreds of protesters, and within just a few weeks tried and convicted dozens in speedy military trials, sentencing two death.

Well, the government representatives argue that the investigations into cases of abuse by security forces are going on. Indeed, it was announced that an unknown number of police officers were arrested for the deaths of the first two protesters, five prison guards were to face a military court for the in-custody death of another protester, and a probe was ordered to look in to the in-custody torture of France24 correspondent Nazeeha Al Saeed.

But unlike the speedy action taken against the protesters, none of the supposedly charged security officers have been named (let alone shamed on state TV). There is no information about what the status is of their cases now. What were they charged with? Were the charges dropped, or were they convicted? What were they sentenced with? Where are they now?

So, let the record state, that the government has yet provided no verifiable evidence to prove that any security official has faced any sort of disciplinary or legal action for the abuses against citizens.

(And I assume there is no point even bothering to ask for justice if a police officer smashed up your car).

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