Ahmed Ismael Hassan AlSamadi, a 22-year-old man from Salmabad was shot and killed late Friday night by an unknown assailant who fired at him from a Toyota Land Cruiser. Ahmed's tragic death --- and the quest to bring his killer and any individual or institutional accomplices to justice --- will rightly dominate much discussion in Bahrain. One hopes also that his loved ones will be allowed to mourn, free from police harassment or attack.
Here, however, we want to pay tribute to a vital part of the legacy of Ahmed's life. It has been suggested that Ahmed was targeted by the gunman because he was known to be a citizen journalist in Salmabad, documenting events and distributing his work through social media.
Ahmed's work in documenting the Pearl Revolution goes back over a year. It is valuable for anybody seeking insight into events on the ground, particularly the police activities in Salmabad.
One of the first videos Ahmed uploaded captures a women's march to Pearl Roundabout, the iconic centre of the protests, on 4 March 2011:
The video is a striking reminder of the pleasure in social gathering and political protest only a year ago in Bahrain. Soon, however, Ahmed's videos document the tragic turn of events.
On 14 March, the day the Gulf Co-operation Council states, led by Saudi Arabia, agreed to send troops into Bahrain, Ahmed uploaded footage of a patient speaking during his treatment at Salmaniya Medical Complex. The following day, when King Hamad announced a national state of emergency, Ahmed shot this footage in Salmabad, his home village:
The evidence here of a brutal crackdown by security forces, is the first of many videos shot covertly by Ahmed at great personal risk --- as a citizen journalist, he lacked any institutional protection. Reporting on Ahmed's death, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights noted the dangers:
Ahmed Ismael is the third killed journalist in Bahrain since the start of the protest in Feb 14, 2011. Last year, BCHR documented a widespread crackdown on photographers for their role in documenting and exposing the violations. While to government announced it has started prosecuting the responsible for the other two deaths, no officer has been convicted yet. Bahrain has been named recently by Reporters Without Borders as one of the 10 most dangerous places for journalists to work.
The regime has long been keen to stop the work of people like Ahmed through intimidation and threat. For example, last month in AlDair, police went house to house recording all the different possible filming positions, supposedly to help them identify from where footage had been shot.
This video, shot in September, speaks to that risk. Ahmed films security forces entering Salmabad. They then shine a light towards him. Distracted by a noise, the police turn around and fire several tear gas rounds in the opposite direction:
Alongside his bravery, Ahmed often showed a rich sense of humour in his work. This video, for example, captures a group of police preparing to move around the side of a building. Their actions seem perhaps a little mannered. So, in a simple act of undermining police authority, Ahmed titled the video: "Mercenaries Imitate Movies":
Beyond covert police filming, Ahmed also documented the weapons used by the regime. Here he shows different tear gas canisters collected in Salmabad village after incidents like this attack:
Much of Ahmed's work in Samabad was done at night, the typical time of police incursions and violations. As such, he was in a constant battle with light and focus to get results. On 24 September, however, he caught security forces in a daylight raid, which he appropriately titled: "Repression on a Saturday Afternoon". The five-minute video is fascinating in many ways, not least for the pointlessness of the police action. Whilst villagers toot horns and bang metal to the beat of "TnTnTtn" ("Down down Hamad"), two policemen act tough only to find the protest noise get louder. They fire tear gas at the noise, but it re-starts. Eventually, five officers amass and, whilst some look like they would rather be elsewhere, they charge. The video ends with clouds of tear gas and the sounds of screams.
Ahmed's careful, constant documenting of opposition and security force actions over the past year not only communicated essential information both locally and globally, it also spoke of a talented young man keen to ensure a record of the revolution was kept, whatever the cost. It is a great tragedy that the cost was his life, particularly if Ahmed's commitment to truth was the motive behind his murder.
After he was shot, Ahmed's camera was recovered bearing his blood.