Bahrain: “Rebel” protests challenge regime’s crackdown

A protest movement inspired by Egypt’s “Rebel” campaign brought protesters onto the streets of Bahrain in  the largest demonstrations for months on 14 August. The Bahraini authorities have responded harshly – arresting and detaining critics and rushing through vague new laws against “terrorism” in order to justify a crackdown.

The report below is from the website Bahrainaugust14.com which was set up by activists working in solidarity with the protests in Bahrain.

Go here for more background on solidarity actions with Bahraini healthworkers through MENA Solidarity Network.

In brief:

  • At least 18 arrests
  • 60 protests across 40 areas, including Manama
  • Heavy police presence deployed
  • Several injuries from tear gas and bird shot
  • Internet tampered

Protests began Bahrain yesterday at around 6am in villages across the country. They continued in a series of waves until late evening.

The demonstrations took several forms, from marches, to human chains, to sit-ins, following guidelines for “cumulative action” released by theFebruary 14 Youth Coalition. A heavy security presence was reported in multiple villages. Although this failed to deter the protesters, it enabled the government to largely contain the demonstrations, buttresed by checkpoints and the barbed wire fences and security barriers police had erected on Tuesday.

By noon, opposition AlWefaq reported that it had counted 60 protests in 40 different areas. Around 3pm, citizens began staging sit-ins outside their homes. At the same time, the Tamarrod (Rebellion) movement called for a protest at Seef Junction. However, the area was under heavy police blockade and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights reported the arrest of 5 women there. Several demonstrations were also seen in the capital Manama, despite the ban on protests there which was issued by King Hamad last week.

The Bahrain government reported that it was “business as usual in Bahrain”, although opposition groups highlighted the closure of many stores. The US Embassy also closed for the day, following reports that demonstrators were intending to protest outside it.

The protests across the day remained peaceful by those participating, although at times they were met with tear gas and birdshot. Several injuries were reported and some violent arrests were captured on camera. However the police showed a measure more restraint than they have on prior occasions of widespread protest this year, such as the Formula One in April and the two-year anniversary of the February 14th uprising.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights posted a summary of the days violations. They report that they have documented “dozens of injuries due to use of tear gas and shotgun” by security forces who they say were present “in all the villages”. They add that “houses were raided and [there was] destruction of private property” by police. They documented 18 arrests. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights reported similarly and documented 19 arrests across the day, in Sitra, Mussala, Smaheej, Sar, Jabalat Habshi, Dimistan, Seef Junction, Nuwaidrat and AlDaih.

Activists and citizen journalists working to document the days events reported continual problems with internet access, particularly in uploading pictures and videos. Popular messaging service Whatsapp also stopped working for many people from around 2pm.

The Bahrain Ministry of Interior reported an attack by youths on a forklift used by police to remove inner village road blocks. This has reportedly resulted in the injury of a worker. he Ministry of Interior claims activists attacked the worker with molotov cocktails, although this was denied by activists.

The protests yesterday took place after several weeks of intensive crackdown. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights provided the following figures since the call for Tamarrod was made on July 4th:

  • 295 arrests
  • 816 house raids
  • 186 injuries
  • 33 cases where police damaged private property
  • 477 instances of collective punishment, such as excessive use of teargas, deliberately shooting inside houses and the besieging of villages
  • 938 protests were also reported over the same period

Protests are likely to continue in Bahrain across the coming days. The guidelines issued by the February 14 Youth Coalition notes that they plan a “disobedience program on August 15″ and a rally on August 16th, which they claim will be the “peak of the rebellion storm”.

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6 thoughts on “Bahrain: “Rebel” protests challenge regime’s crackdown

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