News / Middle East

Bahrainis Complain of Government Tear Gas Attacks on Neighborhoods

Riot police fire tear gas toward anti-government demonstrators in Musalla, Bahrain, on the edge of the capital of Manama, February 16, 2012.
Riot police fire tear gas toward anti-government demonstrators in Musalla, Bahrain, on the edge of the capital of Manama, February 16, 2012.

A controversial former U.S. police chief hired as an adviser to reform Bahrain's security forces has defended the use of tear gas in residential neighborhoods to control mounting unrest surrounding the first anniversary of the country's pro-democracy uprising.

Raids on Shi'ite villages have intensified in recent days, with residents complaining of tear gas attacks on a nightly basis.   Tear gas has been blamed for several recent deaths.

Shi'ite Muslims make up the majority of Bahrain's opposition and say they receive ill treatment from the nation's Sunni rulers. They have been calling on the government to stop tear gas strikes in their neighborhoods.

But John Timoney, a former police chief of Philadelphia and Miami now advising Bahraini authorities on security tactics, says a sharp rise in violent attacks by activists is forcing officers to respond.

"Police have been using tear gas to create distance between them and gangs of rioters that have been on a very steady basis, day after day, assaulting police officers with Molotov cocktails and also with bricks, nails and other things," he noted.

According to the government, activists injured more than 40 officers in the run-up to the February 14 pro-democracy anniversary. Several were hospitalized. Timoney says police are trying to respond with non-lethal means.

"While tear gas unfortunately does impact on people who are not involved, at the end of the day, it's a more desirable weapon than, for example, using live rounds to defend yourself," he added.

Timoney, who gained a reputation for cracking down on protests in the U.S., also dismissed claims by activists that authorities in the Persian Gulf Kingdom had begun using toxic gases on citizens.

"We have thousands of police officers out there on a daily basis. They are smelling and touching that gas themselves. We've had nobody come in with poison or respiratory problems," Timoney noted.

Bahrain's mainly Shi'ite protesters took to the streets a year ago to demand more rights and a more representative government

However, their calls were silenced a month later after troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to the country and a three-month state of emergency was imposed.

Timoney, along with former assistant commissioner of Britain's Metropolitan Police John Yates, were hired to help implement some recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, released last November, that pertain to the nation's security forces. The report said Bahraini authorities had used excessive force and torture during the initial months of the pro-democracy unrest last year.

Jamal Fakhro, a senior member of Bahrain's parliament, says the two international police advisers are helping with security reform.

"They are changing a lot in the culture of the Ministry of Interior [and] with the police," said Fakhro.  "They are bringing in the best practices and they are laying down responsibilities."

But others, like Radhi Mohsen al-Mosawi, deputy secretary general for political affairs at the opposition party Wa'ad, say the appointment of Western officials is a public relations stunt.

Al-Mosawi says recent YouTube video showing officers beating civilians and throwing burning objects onto houses prove that officers continue to carry out illegal practices.

He says that according to rights groups, more than 30 people have been killed since the BICI inquiry report was issued.

"These experts should understand that Bahraini people are not crazy to believe what they say," said al-Mosawi.

Al-Mosawi says Bahrain's leaders should put more focus on other recommendations of the independent inquiry, such as creating the right conditions for a national dialogue.

"Our problem is politics and should be between Bahrainis. And I don't think these experts will solve the problem," added al-Mosawi.  

Opposition groups in Bahrain pulled out of official talks with the government last year after saying they received "unfair representation" in them.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs