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The Unfolding of Events from 11th March – 31st March, 2011
Introductory Notes: • This brief report is only meant to draw out the events in Bahrain from Friday, 11 March, 2011 until Thursday, 31 March 2011, believing that the 11th was a turning point in the revolution with events deteriorating from then on. • All the events and details in this report can be backed up primarily by pictures and/or video, in addition to some eyewitness accounts that have been carefully picked and verified by more than one reliable source. Many more details available throughout the Internet cloud. The document is not meant to be exhaustive but serves as a brief reference to the understanding of the events. For the purpose of size of the document, supporting pictures – updated daily – can be viewed via Bahrain in Pictures.
The “Pearl Revolution”, as it has come to be known, started on the 14th of February, 2011, demanding mainly for political reform. The movement has seen many ups and downs for both the protesters & the regime during the period from the 14th February leading on to the 11th March. Following are the main highlights of the movement and the ensuing events just before the 11th March and that influenced where things have come to be: • Up to the 11th of March, the protesters had lost 7 martyrs due to government brutality & the government’s use of disproportionate force: o 1 martyr on 14th of Feb. gunshot wounds o 1 martyr on 15th of Feb. gunshot wounds o 4 martyrs on 17th of Feb. during dawn raid on Pearl Square o 1 martyr on18th of Feb. shot down by the army • The army were pulled out of the streets on the 19th by the Crown Prince & people gathered back at “Pearl Square” since then. The Crown Prince then asked for National dialogue to commence. More than 200 political prisoners were pardoned by the King and released shortly after, including the group of 25 accused of a “terror plot” and encarcerated since mid-2010. Towards the end of February, 3 coalitions appeared on the political scene: o The National Unity Group; a pro-government group led by Sh. Abdullatif Al Mahmood. o The “Coalition for a Constitutional Monarchy”; opposition group encompassing all the 7 “legalized” political societies in Bahrain and led by Al Wefaq (Sh. Ali Salman). o The “Coalition for a Republic”; opposition group encompassing the “illegally operating” groups of Haq (Hassan Mushaime’), Al Wafa (Abdelwahab Husain) and Bahrain Freedom Movement (Dr. Saeed Al Shehabi; in London). During the 1st week of March, the 7 political societies gave the Crown Prince a set of “principles for dialogue” which were a precondition to the commencement of the National Dialogue initiative. A “reply” from the Crown Prince was not received before the 13th of March. Sectarian tensions were immensely fueled by pro-government personalities (Sh. Abdullatif Al Mahmood, Jassim Al Saeedi & Sh. Mohammed Khalid) and organizations (primarily Bahrain TV) during this period with a few unrelated incidents also occurring during this period (e.g. Hamad Town, Busaiteen, and the car accident near BFH). Attempts to fuel this were dodged successfully by the opposition until the 11th March (this topic will be covered in a separate report)
Friday, 11th March, 2011 The March to the Royal Court in Riffa
As the opposition was now split in two between those asking for a Republic and others asking for a Constitutional Monarchy, it was normal to see two separate calls for protests on the same day and in different places. The 7 political societies (Coalition for a Constitutional Monarchy) had called for a rally in the Seef area as they do on all Fridays near Pearl Square. However, the (Coalition for a Republic) group had called for another rally from the town of A’ali to the Royal Court in Riffa. Both eventually went out in significant numbers. However, the pro-government camp, represented by Jassim Al Saeedi & Mohammed Khalid had answered calls from extremists in Riffa to gather in the “Clock Roundabout” after Friday prayers in order to apparently “prevent the opposition rally from reaching the Royal Court” (or more specifically not enter Riffa). After Friday prayers, the pro-government camp was gathered in the roundabout, and armed with clubs, swords, knives, …etc. (see MP Al Saeedi leads armed thugs). This was under the watch of both the army & police. Before the protesters even gathered in A’ali and started marching towards the Royal Court, pro-government thugs had already attacked both opposition people (see Thugs beating up protester) and foreign correspondents (see Correspondent attacked by thugs). As for the opposition rally, they gathered in A’ali and made their way to the “Clock roundabout”. They were confronted by unarmed police at first on the main road, and it remained peaceful (see Peacefulness of Protesters). As for the sand area on both sides of the road, it was blocked by barbed wire, so protesters only stood there chanting for a while. As this was a hopeless case, protesters were asked to head back to “Pearl Square”. Most in the back did, but as they were seen to be retreating (see How it all started.. Thugs throwing stones), pro-government thugs started throwing stones from behind the police (see Thugs throwing stones at protesters and protected by police), and then headed to a few parked cars belonging to the opposition group & started vandalizing them (see Thugs vandalizing cars). This is when some of the opposition protesters started retaliating. When that happened, Bahrain TV’s cameras started rolling to show protesters’ violence, and then the police started to use teargas to disperse the opposition protesters, while having a very soft-handed approach to the progovernment thugs. (see Eyewitness Accounts) Many were injured from the opposition side, mostly with suffocation (see Injured in hospital). The significance of these events on the day is that it reinforced the position of armed civilian resistance and encouraged it. This is evidenced by the visit of high-ranking officials to the “Clock Roundabout” later that night, including the Prime Minister himself. It was on that day that government thugs were actually let loose in the country.
Saturday, 12th March, 2011 Rally to the Safriya Palace (King’s Palace)
Due to the events of the previous day, and again called by the (Coalition for a Republic), a rally was organized to the Safriya Palace (King’s residency) in Sakheer. It was called the (Rally of Shrouds) representing the preparedness to die by protesters. However, the rally went on peacefully with no police encounter at all (see Peaceful Protest), and protesters were actually outside the palace chanting all the slogans with no interruption or confrontation (see In front of the Palace). This could be due to the fact that Robert Gates (US Defense Secretary) was in the country and meeting with the King on the day. Having said that, and with the built up frustration of not seeing any progress in their demands, the protesters decided to take matters in to their own hands through the people camped outside the Bahrain Financial Harbor for the past week. That night, they decided to block the highway from the Seef flyover all the way to the BFH traffic lights.
Sunday, 13th March, 2011 BFH Blockade & UoB Attack
Bahrain Financial Harbor Due to the blockade of the BFH, the Ministry of Interior sent unarmed police (no shields nor batons) to the site to negotiate and lift the barriers imposed on the highway by opposition protesters. That attempt obviously failed, and the police retreated. Video evidence shows no violence by either side, apart from some shoving and pushing. This contradicts with government reports that those police officers were attacked and injured (see Road block at BFH). The armed riot police then intervened (who were on standby at the site) using tear gas and rubber bullets. The protesters retreated back to Pearl Square, and by that time, many more protesters had gathered there. The police eventually managed to gain control over the highway and stationed themselves on the flyover overlooking Pearl Square (see Police at Pearl Roundabout). Confrontations occurred there, as protesters tried to push the police back and out. Police did get injured in a couple of incidents, but on the other hand were using disproportionate force against the protesters (see Police brutality). Evidence, and on more than one occasion, show protesters being fired at from pointblank range with rubber bullets or teargas cannisters (see Point Blank Shots against protester and Protester shot at close range and Protester shot at Point blank), and in at least two more instances fired upon with live ammunition from a handgun (see Police using handgun towards protesters and Police using live ammo (handgun)). The police finally retreated coming under a lot of pressure from the people which by that time had gathered over 30-40 thousands in the Square. Many protesters were also injured on the day.
University of Bahrain As soon as word came out to students at the University of Bahrain that there was an attack on Pearl Square, a rally started on campus (see UOB Protests and UOB Protests 2). By the time this has started, pro-government thugs in an apparently preplanned fashion had gathered at the University’s main gate (not used by students). Although carrying swords, clubs, knives, …. etc, they were allowed in by police and from the front gate, (see Thugs going into UOB under police protection) and got into bloody clashes with opposition students injuring many (see Injuries after UOB Attack and UOB injuries & eyewitness account). The opposition students then gathered in a courtyard on campus and stayed there, with men forming a human chain around the ladies (see UOB Human Chain). In the meantime, the pro-government thugs that invaded the university got into one of the buildings (S20 to be specific) and started trashing the whole building (see Thugs vandalizing UOB S20). This was under university security watch. This same building was later that night shown on state TV and
opposition students were blamed for its destruction, as well as for the invasion of the campus. Obviously, the footage proves the opposite. Moreover, nurses on the site were also attacked by thugs (see Thugs attack nurse in UOB). When the police retreated from Pearl Square, and word got out that students were under attack at the university, many protesters went to the university. The police had made it there before them and cleared the campus, so clashes erupted in Dar Kulaib village next to the university for about an hour.
Crown Prince replies After a very eventful day, the Crown Prince announces through a statement read on state TV, that most “principles for dialogue” have been accepted, except for a formation of a Constituent Assembly. The 7 political societies would only consider the acceptance of all principles, as for the “Coalition for a Republic” his acceptance did not affect them or their movement in any way. The interesting part in all this is that by this time the latter coalition (headed by Hassan Mushama’i) has gained more and more acceptance due to the violence and tactics that the regime was employing.
Monday, 14th March, 2011 Thugs Terrorize Villages & Saudi Army Enters Bahrain
Monday was a relatively quiet day, but as has started the night before, Monday night was full of shouts for help coming every 30 minutes or so from a different village that has come under attack by government thugs. People in Pearl Square would be yelling out a name of a village every now and then, and you would see people hurrying up to get into a car and head for that village. Before the night got old, all entries to villages were guarded by residents, with makeshift checkpoints at each entry. A few injuries were sustained from the street fights between the protesters & thugs, including shotgun wounds (meaning the thugs were armed with guns). Moreover, a number of those thugs were captured by protesters and their ID cards proved that they were all foreigners and working in the Ministry of Interior. By early evening, we also got the news that the Peninsula Shield force was coming into Bahrain, with 1,000 Saudi troops already crossed the causeway, which was subsequently shut for 5-6 days. People in the Square remained defiant expecting an attack, but it didn’t come that night.
Tuesday, 15th March, 2011 Attack on Sitra
In what now seems like a very carefully planned and executed plan, the first place to be attacked under the command of the Army/Peninsula Shield was the island of Sitra. It represents a major stronghold of the opposition and nullifying its people power one day before the attack on Pearl Square sounds now like a very effective move. Therefore, Sitra island was cordoned off, and the confrontation task was left to the police force and national security forces inside its villages. The police used extreme brutality in what already seemed like a much harsher and brutal way of dealing with protesters (see Plain-cloth police shooting at protesters and Police beating up unarmed protester and Police brutality against unarmed civilian). The only medical center on the island was inundated with injuries (see pics and Injured in Sitra), and sent an SOS to Salmaniya hospital. As ambulances left towards Sitra, many medics were stopped and abused, or even attacked (see injured medics and Medics attacked, harrassed & abbused). Before the end of this merciless attack, the worst scene has unfolded since the beginning of the revolution, where Ahmed Farhan was apparently hit in the head by what seemed like a sound bomb, and had opened his skull and spilled his brains out (see Martyr in hospital). The scene was so horrific it kept the population absolutely shellshocked until the next day, when the next attack was due. At the same time this was happening in Sitra, another protest left Pearl Square towards the Saudi embassy to protest the “Saudi invasion” of Bahrain. This passed peacefully with no incidents (see Peaceful protest to Saudi embassy).
Wednesday, 16th March, 2011 Attack on Pearl Square
Starting at 7am on Wednesday morning, a carefully planned operation started to – in government words – “cleanse the Roundabout & Salmaniya Hospital”. Phone communication was severely disrupted before the attack began. It started by blocking off all routes leading to the Pearl Roundabout from villages. This was handled by the army. As for Pearl Square & Salmaniya Hospital they were both attacked at the same time, at around 7.30am by the riot police forces. Hundreds of riot police backed up by the army and the royal guard troops behind them and at least 4 army helicopters flying above (see Apache Helicopters), started making their way into Pearl Square from under the flyover north of “Pearl Square” (see Riot Police grouping before attack on protesters). Police showered the protesters with teargas forcing them to retreat (see Fire in the camp and tear gas on retreating protesters). The square was taken over in an hour. As for Salmaniya hospital and according to doctors present at the time, they had only received 3-4 injuries that morning, which were the protesters outside the hospital when the police attacked. However, as soon as the police took over, they had imprisoned the whole medical staff inside the building and refused to let anyone in or out. Ambulances that attempted to leave had their crew pulled out and beaten up (see Attack on medics 1 and Attack on medics 2). Staff present at the time said that at least 11-12 male nurses were beaten by the police and left in the parking lot. They were then moved out by army ambulances. In the meantime, other private hospitals were accepting injuries (see Injuries in Budaiya medical center and Injuries in hospital), but due to the numbers, a lot of injuries were treated inside matams, mosques & houses in makeshift clinics (see Matam turned into clinic). After the health minister got involved, he got the approval to allow 4 ambulances out. However, after equipping them and getting ready to leave, they were denied again at the exit, and this led to the resignation of the Minister. As for clashes in other areas, it was all against the army, as they were stationed on rooftops (see Army personnel on rooftops) and in armored vehicles blocking all the roads which might lead to Pearl Square. There are many evidence of shooting live ammunition at protesters. (see Army Shooting at Protesters and Machine gun fired by army – Budaiya Highway and Unarmed protester shot in the leg by army and Army Shooting - Budaiya Highway and Budaiya Highway Army Shooting)
The police kept terrorizing villages (see Police attacks inside villages) and vandalizing private property (see Police vandalizing parked cars) for the rest of the day. The same day at night, a clampdown on activists & political leaders started with the arrest of over 6 prominent leaders on the first night.
Thursday, 17th March – Thursday, 31st March, 2011 An On-Going Crackdown
During this period, the following has been a norm in the daily life of Bahraini: • Checkpoints at certain areas. • • • • • • • Police raiding houses and arresting people from 1am-4am. Attacks on villages throughout the day terrorizing residents. Tanks & Riot Police regularly touring the streets of Bahrain in a show of force. No form of gathering allowed, and most planned rallies attacked prematurely. 21 deaths confirmed so far in the protesters’ ranks, with death certificates not mentioning the true reason for the deaths. Over 400 people missing/arrested including 10 women. For an updated list of names refer to List of detainees and missing Over 300 employees lost their jobs during period of strikes.