Left: Hussam AlHaddad, killed by police Friday night. Right: Hussam's father says his final goodbye
Late Friday night, news began circulating on social media that 16-year-old Hussam AlHaddad was in critical condition after he was shot by security forces in Muharraq. Soon word came through that he had died in hospital from his injuries.
The circumstances of Hassam's killing remain murky, with allegations that he was beaten by citizens in civilian dress following the fatal shooting. Footage of Hussam's corpse shows that he was shot in the back and side, challenging the police narrative that the shooting was in self-defence. Marks on his back and shoulder also support the claim that he was hit as well as shot.
Late Saturday, the main opposition party AlWefaq announced a three-day state of mourning, with pleas to the people of Bahrain to abandon all joyful celebrations during Eid in respect to the martyr Hussam AlHaddad", adding that it will be lowering "flags to half-staff". The February 14 Youth Coalition called for further protest under the heading, "Our martyr Hussam ... Revenge will come".
The following account traces twenty-four hours in a country that US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner recently described as "in a number of ways more stable than it was a year ago".
Swiftly after Hussam's death, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) released a statement in Arabic setting out it version of events. The statement claimed that at 9:30 p.m. a police patrol in Muharraq had come under "terrorist attack" from individuals throwing Molotov cocktails. It continued:
The attack endangered the lives of the patrol, civilians, residents and those present, which led to the injury of the patrol, fear among citizens/residents, panic, and damage to public and private property. The police dealt with matters in accordance with established legal procedures appropriate to such cases and defended both themselves and citizens. This resulted in the injury of one of the persons taking part in this terrorist activity, who was immediately taken to hospital where he died.
To confirm, this was both a terrorist act and attempted murder, intended to take the lives of those policemen on patrol whilst also subjecting citizens and residents to danger.
This video of the incident, taken from what appears to be a CCTV camera and showing Molotovs being thrown and individuals running, was also uploaded:
Analyst Marc Owen Jones, who provided the above translation, offered this pointed reaction:
How to devalue human life, MOI style. Step 1: Don't mention you killed someone in a tweet. 2: Mention how officers were following correct legal procedure 3: Mention how officers were protecting themselves & other 'citizens'. 4: Use the word terrorist as frequently as possible. 5: Don't actually say you killed him, say he 'was injured' and that he died later in hospital.
The statement also failed to say that police would investigate the circumstances of the killing (a note added in a later statement issued by the Information Affairs Authority). Many Bahrainis pointed to, too, the sad parallels with the killing of Ali AlSheikh, a 14-year-old boy shot in the back of the head by police with a tear gas canister last Eid. To date, nobody has been held accountable for the death. A photo later circulated, reportedly showing Hussam's brother being comforted by the father of Ali Al-Sheikh:
Muharraq, where Hussam was killed, is also the place where 50 citizens filed a complaint against a tweet by Nabeel Rajab, who accused the Prime Minister of buying their support. Rajab has been serving a three- month sentence for that tweet since July. For these and other reasons, the MOI statement only served to inflame tensions further. Furthermore, it provided a rallying point for some loyalists - long angered by the increasing use of Molotov's by youths - who took to social media to praise the police action. There were also reports that some were even celebrating the death.
News then surfaced that suggested the regime was trying to cover up aspects of the killing. Said Yousif AlMuhafdha, of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was with Hussam's family at Salminaya hospital, but all were forced to leave and prevented from seeing the body. At the same time, witnesses were coming forward claiming that Hussam had been beaten after the shooting. BCHR subsequently reported the following:
According to eyewitnesses who contacted BCHR, Hussam was shot with shotgun pellets which made him fall to the ground. Then, one of his family members witnessed him getting kicked repeatedly by a man in civilian clothing while security forces stood idly watching. Finally when a family member was able to retrieve him, Hussam was soaked in blood. He opened his eyes for a second then fell unconscious.
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) also spoke to witnesses who claimed to have seen Hussam beaten. Mohammed AlMaskati, the President of the BYSHR, also tweeted the following witness account (translated into English by another activist):
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights received this testimony from a lady was present at the site of the accident:
The injured child Hussam AlHaddad was shot in the head and fell down, then someone came from a gold jeep gold (we have the No. of his car) and he start beating Hussam. Then other civilians (more than 8) came to help this man (car owner) and they beat Hossam, chanting "We will kill you". At these moments, an elderly woman came from a car and she thanked a security man was there and asked them to "kill him". Those who were beating Hussam they keep trying to stay around him to prevent filming and after calling the ambulance, an argument happened between some of the security men and civilians who were beating Hussam, where civilians refused to move the boy and they want to keep him.
By now, tensions were running high across Bahrain. Protests were being planned in villages throughout the country, with some angry rhetoric against police emerging from youths, creating fears that violent clashes could lead to yet more tragedy. With Nabeel Rajab behind bars, the strongest voice for nonviolence had been silenced. Leading opposition party AlWefaq released ,a href="http://alwefaq.net/index.php?show=news&action=article&id=6824" target="_blank">sternly-worded statement, perhaps intended in part to temper (and absorb) the rage, perhaps indicating that "dialogue" with the regime will not be happening any time soon:
Hussam is one of a long list of martyrs who have been killed on the path to freedom and rejecting of oppression. The injustice of the regime, who rule with an iron grip, has crossed all lines of what is tolerable.
It was not long before citizens took to the streets, demanding justice and accountability. The following video is from Abu Saiba, but protests were also reported (and in many cases documented) from around 2am local time until dawn, in Barbar, Duraz, Bilad AlQadeem, Sitra, Salmabad, Sanabis, Al Dair, Buri, Tubli, Markh, Karzakan, Hamala, Karranah, Ma'ameer, Sa'ar, Maqaba, Jidhafs, Bani Jamrah, and Sadad.
Despite fears, the protests --- which, from pictures and footage, seem to have involved a cross-section of society --- passed without significant incident. However, as anticipated, many of them were attacked by security forces. On Twitter, some civilians were also reporting that tear gas was being used so extensively by security forces that it was leaking into their house. This video taken in Sitra in the early hours of Saturday morning captures police's excessive use of gas:
On Saturday morning, Hussam's family were allowed to collect his body to prepare it for the funeral scheduled in the afternoon. A devastating picture captured his mother's grief:
Footage and video taken at the time shows that Hussam was shot in the back and side, as well as his left arm. There are also markings on his body which BCHR describe as "marks of severe beating on his back and shoulder", reinforcing the allegation that he was beaten after he was shot.
In early afternoon, Minister of State for Information Sameera Rajab held a press conference where she defended the three-year sentence given to Nabeel Rajab, holding him "accountable of instigating dangerous acts, which led to the use of Molotov cocktail and sharp tools --- thus jeopardizing people’s safety and causing theme losses in addition to injuring policemen", according to state media. Sameera Rajab then moved on to discuss Friday's violence, seemingly conflating it with the charges against Nabeel Rajab. She said that "the Government and Public Prosecution would seek to uncover the truth surrounding the terror act, vowing zero tolerance against terrorists and saboteurs"
As preparations for the funeral, due to start at 4 p.m. local time - took place, police set up checkpoints on roads, including one on the bridge to Muharraq, to limit access to mourners other than residents of the island. The Ministry of Interior even put out a short statement to appease drivers, saying "MOI urges cooperation from drivers heading to Muharraq as there are check pionts, kindly stick to traffic instructions". Nevertheless, the funeral was well-attended, as these photos and footage testify:
The funeral procession also took on political tones, with mourners chanting "Down With [King] Hamad". Throughout, a police helicopter hovered overhead, keeping watch, until Hussam's body was lain to rest.