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Friday
Mar302012

Bahrain Feature: In Deaths, The Kingdom Handily Beats Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia

Fadhel AlObaidi, killed March 2012Last week over a pleasant cup of coffee, a colleague asked me a strange question: "I don't get it. Only 80 or so Bahrainis have died in the uprising. Why are they so furious?"  

Citing the number of people killed in the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen --- not to mention civil wars in Libya and Syria --- she said that by the numbers, Bahrain was at the bottom of the list. The anger and frustration expressed by Bahraini protesters was lost on her since "King Hamad really hasn't been as bad as Saleh, Ben Ali, and Mubarak."

I was a bit puzzled by this assertion. So I looked up the figures. 

Here's a table, ranking the protests by the estimated number of those killed.  

Rank   

Country                        

Number Killed                                 

Fate of Regime

1  

Yemen 

2,000 

Ousted

2

Egypt

850

Ousted

3

Tunisia

220 

Ousted

4

Bahrain 

80

In Power

I guess, if we go by this, King Hamad has been far more humane than his colleagues in the other three countries.

This opinion is not exclusive to my colleague. A large part of the reason that Bahrain's uprising gets less coverage is because the number of fatalities is far lower than those in other revolutions.

But these numbers don't necessarily tell the whole truth, conveying the meaning of what one death means for each country. 

If we're going to talk about deaths, then we must also account for the overall population. 

The population of Bahraini nationals was about 570,000, according to the 2010 government census. Suddenly the "only 80" who have been slain becomes almost 1 in every 7000 citizens.

If King Hamad were the ruler of Yemen, Egypt or Tunisia, here is what that per capita figure would mean for the absolute number of deaths:

No.

Country (Population)

Number Killed  

Number Killed If Hamad Ruled

1

Yemen (24.8 million)

2,000

3,480

2

Egypt (83.7 million)

850

11,747

3

Tunisia (10.7 million)

220 

1501

On this scale, Bahrain's uprising has been almost twice as bloody as Yemen's, 7 times as bloody as Tunisia's, and 14 times as bloody as Egypt's revolution.

And if you factor into this, the number of people arrested, tortured, beaten, and tear-gassed, the picture is even starker.

As an illustration, try another figure: 35.  

That's the number of Bahrainis, including women and children, who have died due to tear gas inhalation. In Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia combined, the equivalent number is less than 10. That should go a long way towards explaining how the oppression of Bahrainis ranks up among the severest outside of Libya and Syria. 

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights just released a new report documenting some of the cases of abuse over the past few months. The document sets out the oppressive tactics of King Hamad's regime, including the arrest of hundreds of protesters under the age of 18. And it shows that, out of the four countries on this list, Bahrain is the only one where almost nothing has changed since 2011.

Maybe this will clear up, for my colleague and others, why Bahrainis are so furious. 

--

Follow Josh Shahryar on Twitter.

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