See also Yemen Feature: The Unresolved Economic Crisis br>
Bahrain Opinion: Why Abdulhadi Alkhawaja May Die On Hunger Strike br>
Bahrain Document: Maryam Alkhawaja "My Father is Dying" br>
Turkey Live Coverage (5 April): The "Proof" of Terrorism br>
Thursday's Bahrain, Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Hunger Strike of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja
1923 GMT: A Syrian activist has this report:
That's not the only report that we've heard that the situation in Hama is intensifying. 45 minutes ago the LCCS had this report:
Sounds of intense gunfire from heavy machine guns are heard in the vicinity of the prison and near Thalatheen Street in Qusour neighborhood.
1915 GMT: The protesters trying to reach the Ministry of Interior building were stopped by police, who fired teargas:
1907 GMT: Protests in Bahrain have not ended with nightfall. There are reports that many have taken to the streets in many villages, and we're still hearing reports that some protesters are gathering outside the Ministry of Interior building in Manama.
And protests in Bahrain seem to follow a simple pattern - if protests, then tear gas:
1838 GMT: Another video of the protests in Bahrain earlier today. It's important to remember that with a permanent Bahraini population of a about 560,000, if 5000 Bahraini's show up at a protest that is 1% of the population, the approximate equivalent of more than 30,000,000 Americans attending the same protest. And this was just a single rally in Bahrain: there were many nationwide:
1825 GMT: Another follow up on Ahmed Ismail (see previous update) - Bahrain Mirror has translated a story about Ahmed's work, which includes a link to the EA article Bahrain Video Special: A Tribute to Ahmed Ismail Hassan, Citizen Journalist of Salmabad.
1811 GMT: A UN commission in charge of defending the freedom of the press will investigate the killing of 22 year old Bahraini cameraman Ahmed Ismael Hassan AlSamadi who was killed last Saturday, March 31st:
“The basic human right of freedom of expression and the freedom of journalists and citizen journalists to cover events are essential for any society that wants to uphold the principles of democracy and rule of law,” said the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova.
“I welcome reports that the authorities' intend to launch an inquiry into this serious event and trust that the culprits will be brought to justice.”
Activists say that Ahmed was killed by plain-clothed thugs who were operating with the tacit approval of police, possibly even using a police jeep in order to perform the drive-by shooting.
23 martyrs in Homs, 7 martyrs in Aleppo Suburbs, three martyrs in Hama, 2 martyrs in Idlib, 2 martyrs in Douma- Damascus Suburbs, 2 martyrs in Daraa, 2 martyrs in Deir Ezzor, and 1 martyr in Misyaf.
The trend reflects what we've been hearing all day, reports of an intensified attack in and around Homs, and a new focus on the towns north of Aleppo.
1750 GMT: Turning back to Syria, refugees, not the horrors of Homs, could eventually drive international intervention. Turkish officials are now reporting that a shocking 2,800 refugees have crossed the border in 36 hours, raising the total amount of refugees in Turkey from the Syrian crisis to 23,835.
Following the massive influx, Davutoglu urgently called UN chief Ban Ki-moon in the early hours of Friday, inviting him to send officials to observe the situation on the ground.
"I have told him that the arrivals have doubled in rate after [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad said he would implement Kofi Annan's plan," he said.
"Those who are giving him time should also know that the number of fleeing Syrians is increasing and this is turning into an international problem."
Turkey has previously signaled that if the refugee problem swelled it could pull Turkey into the conflict, as the refugees crossing the border are a humanitarian, an economic, and a security threat.
1740 GMT: Despite the police brutality, most protesters in Bahrain have peacefully, and defiantly, stood up to the police:
Said Yousif Almuhafda shares this picture, protesters dressed in F1 racing suits and carrying fake guns, signifying that the F1 is aiding the regime in the attack against the people of Bahrain:
1735 GMT: Most of the protests in Bahrain today started peacefully, but many of them have been disrupted by police. Some of those protesters reportedly fought back. These claims have not yet been verified, and were originally shared on Right Now I/O:
1608 GMT: A little more than an hour ago, several prominent Syrian activists reported that the Damascus suburb of Darayya was stormed by security forces. Now, the CFDPC, an activist network with a focus on Damascus, has shared a video showing gunfire in the area earlier today:
1558 GMT: The Guardian has discovered an excellent photo gallery that has collected pictures of today's events in Bahrain, as well as events over the last several days. The gallery has shared this photo, another rally in Bahrain demanding the freedom of Abdulhadi AlKhawaja:
Also, EA's Scott Lucas finds this video that reportedly shows police trying to block protesters from reaching the former location of the Pearl Monument:
As Andy Carvin points out, the video is awful - but it's also, sadly, typical. For whatever reason, though, Rastan has received almost no attention from the international press.
1522 GMT: This video reportedly shows a prayer service/funeral/protest in Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province, Syria. What's impressive about this video is that Khan Sheikhoun is the largest town in that vicinity, and it only has a population of about 50,000. The town has been subject to many raids and attacks by regime forces over the last year, and an intensifying campaign in the last several weeks, and yet thousands attended this rally.
There are many reports that the areas just north of Aleppo are under siege. Earlier, the Local Coordinating Committees reported that at least 6 had been killed in Anadan (see update at 1313). Now, the LCCS reports that Haritan, just east of Anadan, has been shelled, and troops are on the move:
"including 3 women and 3 soldiers from the FSA. 15 martyrs were reported in Homs, 6 in Andan in the Aleppo suburbs, 3 in Hama, 2 in Deir Ezzor, 2 in Hama, 2 in Douma in the Damascus Suburbs, and 1 in Daraa."
Intense shelling of town accompanied by intermittent firing from helicopters, and the regime's army's tanks head toward the town from Tal Saybeen.
The Khalidiyah district in Homs was also reportedly the center of a large volley of artillery shelling today.
1444 GMT: It appears that the water cannons are being used by police in Sanabis, as they are trying to stop crowds from reaching "Lulu Square," sometimes called "Martyrs Square," the former location of the Pearl Monument:
Other pictures from Sanabis have shown teargas and protesters crowding into alleyways to avoid police.
1436 GMT: Earlier, huge crowds gathered in parts of Bahrain, protesting against their lack of rights, and demanding the release of Abdulhadi ALKhawaja. This picture gives a good idea of the scope of just a single rally:
However, EA sources report that the country is filling up with teargas, and this picture was tweeted by a prominent activist, reportedly showing police using water cannons to disperse the crowd:
The next video was reportedly filmed in the Malaab Baladi area of Homs, a particularly dangerous place to voice protest against the Assad regime.
1421 GMT: Odd behavior shows just how bad things have gotten in Homs:
@blakehounshell The video title says that security forces are making people undress. Such a strange video.— Free Syrian (@ArabSpringFF) April 6, 2012
This protest in is the Hamidiya district of Hama:
We've already seen dozens of videos from across Idlib, but this one is from the smaller town of Binnish, a key area for its location on the road from Idlib to Aleppo, and for its overwhelming support for the opposition.
1352 GMT: Like all Fridays, today large crowds turned up across Syria to protest as well. Rami al Jarrah shares this video of a large protest in Zabadani, an opposition stronghold northwest of Damascus that has fallen to regime soldiers:
However, Rami also reminds us that as jubilant and peaceful as protests are, there is always danger in the background:
1343 GMT: Many Arab voices, many of whom are Sunni and supported the pro-democracy protests in the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, have started to make statements in support of the Bahraini opposition, and specifically for Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who is very ill while on hunger strike in prison.
This statement comes from The Angry Arab, a well-known Arab blogger, who shares the words of a contact he has spoken with a whom he trusts in Bahrain:
"Zainab Alkhawaja has been arrested after clinging onto the gate of the prison complex screaming for her father. She will be charged with assaulting an employee and will be detained until Saturday. She has started her hunger strike in solidarity with her father.
Meanwhile there are protests all over the villages. The security forces are responding with excessive force. One woman has already been killed - I think from excessive inhalation of tear gas but I'm not sure. You also have prisoners who were supposed to be released refusing to leave unless they release AlKhawaja. People I've talked to are hysterical or are just feeling extremely nervous and sad. Noone wants to see him die. He has become a symbol for the uprising to many. He spent his entire life fighting for the rights of Bahrainis. The pro-regime's salafis are forgetting that he fought for the release of guantanamo bay detainees not only in Bahrain but the rest of the Gulf. You get the feeling that whether they let him live or die this is a turning point. But a turning point to where and what? I have no idea. It is scary watching these events unfold. I am disgusted by the tweets of some members of the royal family and the regimes supporters. Where is their humanity? At the beginning I told myself surely they will release him but now after reading the foreign ministers tweets where he had the audacity to "inquire" whether hunger strikes are against islamic law (he wants to know by friday for some reason), I am not too sure.
As photographer Mazin Mahdi said, this may be the worst mistake the regime has ever made, even worse than demolishing the pearl roundabout (not quoting his exact words). The last time I felt this helpless was in March 2011 where they were going from house to house, from car to car, street to street, kidnapping and arresting people. I was scared to death just watching helplessly, waiting to see if someone I care about dearly was next.
Now we are waiting again - will he die or will he live? God help his family. Who knows - by the time you see this email he may have already died. But I am clinging to the little hope I have left."
1330 GMT: This video was reportedly taken earlier in Waidan village, Bahrain, showing protesters marching in Friday protests they are calling "Freedom or martyrdom," honoring AlKhawaja's potentially imminent death while on hunger strike:
This video reportedly shows a live-stream of protests in Bahrain today:
1320 GMT: Andrew Anderson, a rights activist writing for The Irish Independent, is reporting that Formula One officials are still moving forward with their plan to host the F1 race in Bahrain, stressing that the race could foster the "spirit of reconciliation." This view, says Anderson, is deeply flawed:
The reality is that the Formula 1 authorities do not seem to have spoken with all relevant parties in Bahrain and have instead relied on the assurances of the Bahraini Government. It is crucial that they also speak with independent civil society, community leaders and opposition political figures in Bahrain.
Having just returned from Bahrain where I witnessed the indiscriminate use of tear gas and met with the families and lawyers of those who continue to be detained and persecuted I can assure the Formula 1 authorities that the situation in the country has not returned to normal. Bahrain is definitely not a safe country for Bahrainis.
The security forces violently disperse protests on a nightly basis. There has been no resolution of the political crisis that brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets as recently as the 8th of March 2012. If they proceed to blindly accept the assurances of the Bahraini authorities without speaking to representatives of the majority of the population who seek change they risk to see a lot of tear gas and maybe worse on the weekend of 20-22nd April.
1313 GMT: At least 23 people have been killed today, including 13 in Homs and 6 in Anadan, a key suburb of Aleppo, according to the LCCS. The rest of the "martyrs" were killed in Idlib province, in the embattled Damascus suburb of Douma , and in Jeezeh in Daraa province.
Most of yesterday's deaths were in Homs, and Douma was also reportedly attacked yesterday as well. Anadan is significant because it is an opposition hotspot right outside Aleppo, considered by many to be the only major city where Assad has significant support. This is where the Syrian military has been focusing for weeks, even resorting to using helicopters to attack Free Syrian Army positions on the ground, a taboo of the Arab Uprisings since Colonel Qaddafi's attack on Benghazi in Libya becaming the rallying cry for international intervention.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage from Scott Lucas.
1230 GMT: Syrian State news agency SANA is highlighting the funerals of 11 "army and law enforcement martyrs" whom it claims were killed across the country on Thursday.
The site said processions were held for the men, "targeted by armed terrorist groups while on duty in Homs, Damascus, Aleppo, Idleb, and Damascus Countryside".
SANA concludes, "Families of the martyrs stressed adherence to national unity and determination to foil the conspiracy hatched against the homeland, expressing confidence in the Syrian people's ability to overcome the crisis through their steadfastness and the sacrifices of the Syrian army."
1105 GMT: The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights posts an urgent message:
Mazen Mahdi later updated:
1055 GMT: At least 2000 Syrians have reportedly fled to Turkey this week. Al Jazeera English reports on conditions in the camps for the more than 20,000 refugees:
Mahdi said police had likely "confiscated" his camera, jarred loose during the clashes.
1050 GMT: About 20 people, including children and the elderly, are evacuated from a building affected by tear gas in Bahrain:
0925 GMT: The wife of detained hunger striker Abdulhadi Alkhawaja has posted this update from Bahrain:
#Bahrain I have just been informed that Abdulhadi's health has deteriorated and moved to BDF hospital. God have mercy— Khadija Almousawi (@tublani2010) April 6, 2012
The fighting reportedly broke out after regime militias opened fire on a group of seven women, killing two and wounding four.
0915 GMT: Last night's protest in Sehla in Bahrain, calling for the release of detained hunger striker Abdulhadi Alkhawaja:
0850 GMT: In the United Arab Emirates, Police Major Salem Obaid Salmeen has said that social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are subject to round-the-clock monitoring: “These electronic patrols are detecting and tracking all topics and materials written and presented on these websites."
0846 GMT: Claimed photo of a mass grave in Taftanaz in northwest Syria after days of regime shelling:
One of the pipelines was damaged and set afire by an explosion on Thursday.
0605 GMT: The Local Co-ordination Committees of Syria reports that 77 people died across the country on Thursday. Almost all of the deaths were in Homs Province (32), where neighbourhoods in Homs city sustained shelling despite regime claims that it was withdrawing troops, Idlib Province (22), and Hama (17). Four people also died in the Damascus suburbs, amid reports of a military assault on Douma.
0545 GMT: As detained activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja nears death on Day 58 of his hunger strike, tensions are escalating in Bahrain. There were marches across the island last night calling for the freedom of Alkhawaja, the co-founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights who was sentenced to life in prison last June.
Alkhawaja's daughter Zainab, also a prominent activist, was arrested last night as she stood last night outside the prison, calling out to her father. Charged with assaulting a security officer, she has reportedly begun her own hunger strike.
The situation is now getting some attention outside Bahrain --- Britain's Channel 4 News speaks with Mary Lawlor of the Irish human rights group Front Line Defenders, which has been involved in Bahrain since mass protests began in February 2011. The Independent of London headlines, "Bahraini Hunger Striker Casts a Long Shadow over Claims of Reform". Egypt's Ahram Online interviews Alkhawaja's daughter Maryam, who has been speaking in Cairo, although curiously it does not mention the hunger strike until the final two paragaraphs