Some opposition parties supported the protests' plans, while others did not explicitly call for demonstration. However, they demanded deep reforms and changes similar to those by the youth. Before the start of protests, the cabinet of Bahrain
had introduced a number of economic and political concessions. The protests started with a sit-in
in solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 in the vicinity of the Egyptian embassy in the capital Manama
ten days before the Day of Rage. On the eve of 14 February, security forces dispersed hundreds of protesters south of Manama.
On 14 February, thousands of Bahrainis participated in 55 marches in 25 locations throughout Bahrain. Protests were peaceful and protesters demanded deep reforms. The earliest demonstration started at 5:30 a.m. in Nuwaidrat
, and the last took place just minutes before midnight in the vicinity of Salmaniya Medical Complex
heading to the Pearl Roundabout
. The largest was on the island of Sitra
. Security forces responded to protests by firing tear gas
, rubber bullets
, stun grenades
. More than 30 protesters were injured and one was killed
by birdshot. The Bahraini Ministry of Interior
said a number of security forces were injured after groups of protesters attacked them.
Modern political history
Bahrainis have protested sporadically throughout the last decades demanding social, economic and political reforms.:162
In the 1950s, following sectarian clashes, the National Union Committee
was formed by reformists; it demanded an elected popular assembly and carried out protests and general strikes. In 1965 a month-long uprising
broke out after hundreds of workers at Bahrain Petroleum Company were laid off. Bahrain became independent from Britain in 1971 and the country had its first parliamentary election in 1973
. Two years later, the government proposed a law called the "State Security Law
" giving police wide arresting powers and allowing individuals to be held in prison without trial for up to three years. The assembly rejected the law, prompting the late Amir
to dissolve it and suspend the constitution. It was not until 2002 that Bahrain held any parliamentary elections, after protests and violence between 1994 and 2001.
Despite its oil-rich Gulf neighbors, Bahrain's oil, discovered in 1932,
has "virtually dried up" making it poorer than other countries in its region.
In recent decades, Bahrain has moved towards banking and tourism
making it one of the most important financial hubs in the region; it has since held some of the top international rankings
in economic freedom
and business-friendly countries,
making it the freest economy
in the Middle East.
However, Bahrainis suffer from relative poverty
Semi-official studies found that the poverty threshold
(the minimum level of income
deemed adequate in a given country.
) in the country in 1995 was .د.ب
308. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
said that by 2007 it had increased to .د.ب
400 at least,
putting half of Bahrainis under the poverty line.
In 2008, the government rejected the UN's conclusion that 2% of Bahrainis lived in "slum-like conditions".
Poor families receive monthly financial support.
In 2007, CNN
produced a documentary titled "Poverty in Bahrain"
which was criticized by pro-government newspaper, Gulf Daily News
. Al Jazeera
produced a similar documentary in 2010.
The unemployment rate in Bahrain is among the highest in GCC countries.
Sources close to the government estimated it between 3.7%
while other sources said it was as high as 15%.
Unemployed was especially widespread among youth
and the Shia community.:35
Bahrain also suffers from a "housing problem"
with the number of housing applications reaching about 53,000 in 2010.
These conditions prompted the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
to consider housing one of the most important problems in Bahrain.
The Shia majority ruled
by the Sunni Al khalifa family
since the eighteenth century have long complained of what they call systemic discrimination.
They are blocked from serving in important political and military posts
and the government has reportedly naturalized Sunnis originally from Pakistan
in what Shia say is an attempt to increase the percentage of Sunnis in the population.
According to Khalil al-Marzooq
of Al Wefaq
, the number of those granted Bahraini nationality between 2001 and 2008 is 68 thousand.
According to al-Marzooq, this number was calculated using official estimates by subtracting the population in 2001 (405,000) and natural increase (65,000) from the population in 2008 (537,000).
In a rally against "political naturalization", Sunni opposition activist Ibrahim Sharif
estimated that 100,000 were naturalized by 2010 and thus comprised 20% of Bahraini citizens.
The government rejected accusations of undertaking any "sectarian naturalization policy".
Shia grievances were exacerbated when in 2006 Salah Al Bandar
, then an adviser to the Cabinet Affairs Ministry, revealed an alleged political conspiracy
aiming to disenfranchise and marginalize Shias, who comprise about 60% of the population.
In August 2010, authorities launched a two-month-long crackdown, referred to as the Manama incident
, arresting hundreds of opposition activists, most of whom were members of the Shia organizations Haq Movement
and Al Wafa' Islamic party
, in addition to human rights activists.
The arrestees were accused of forming a "terrorist network" aiming to overthrow the government.
However, a month later Al Wefaq
opposition party, which was not targeted by the crackdown, won a plurality in the parliamentary election
Calls for a revolution
A Facebook page calling for a popular revolution on 14 February.
Inspired by the successful uprisings in Egypt
opposition activists began in January to post on a large scale to the social media websites Facebook
and online forums
, and to send e-mails and text messages with calls to stage major pro-democracy protests.:65
The Bahraini government blocked a Facebook page which had 14,000 "likes" calling for a revolution and a "day of rage" on 14 February;
however the "likes" had risen to 22,000 few days later.
Another online group called "The Youth of the February 14th Revolution
" described itself as "unaffiliated with any political movement or organisation" and rejected any "religious, sectarian or ideological bases" for their demands. They issued a statement listing a number of demands and steps it said were unavoidable in order to achieve "change and radical reforms".:65
Bahraini youths described their plans as an appeal for Bahrainis "to take to the streets on Monday 14 February in a peaceful and orderly manner in order to rewrite the constitution and to establish a body with a full popular mandate to investigate and hold to account economic, political and social violations, including stolen public wealth, political naturalisation, arrests, torture and other oppressive security measures, [and]
institutional and economic corruption."
One of the main demands was resignation of the king's uncle, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa
from his post as prime minister.
He had been the unelected prime minister of Bahrain since 1971, making him the world's longest serving prime minister.
The day had a symbolic value;
it was the tenth anniversary of a referendum in favor of the National Action Charter
which had promised to introduce democratic reforms following the 1990s uprising. It was also the ninth anniversary of the Constitution of 2002
, which had made opposition feel "betrayed" by the king.
The Constitution had brought some promised reforms, such as an elected parliament; however opposition activists said it went back on reform plans, giving the king the power to appoint half the parliamentary seats and withholding power from parliament to elect the prime minister.:67
Unregistered opposition parties such as Haq Movement and Bahrain Freedom Movement
supported the plans. The National Democratic Action Society
only announced a day before the protests that it supported "the principle of the right of the youth to demonstrate peacefully". Other opposition groups including Al Wefaq
, Bahrain's main opposition party, did not explicitly call for or support protests; however Al Wefaq leader Ali Salman
did demand political reforms.:66
Events leading to the protests
A few weeks before the protests, the Cabinet of Bahrain
made a number of concessions, including increasing social spending and offering to free some of the minors arrested in the Manama incident in August.
On 4 February, several hundred Bahrainis gathered in front of the Egyptian embassy in Manama
to express support for anti-government protesters there.
According to The Wall Street Journal
, this was "one of the first such gatherings to be held in the oil-rich Persian Gulf states."
At the gathering, Ibrahim Sharif
, the secretary-general of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ad), called for "local reform."
On 11 February, hundreds of Bahrainis and Egyptians took to the streets near the Egyptian embassy in Manama to celebrate the fall of Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak
following the successful Egyptian Revolution of 2011
. Security forces reacted swiftly to contain the crowd by setting a number of roadblocks.
In the Khutbah
preceding Friday prayer
, Shiekh Isa Qassim
, a leading Shia cleric, said "the winds of change in the Arab world [are] unstoppable". He demanded an end to torture and discrimination, the release of political activists and a rewriting of the constitution.:67
The next day, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights sent an open letter to the king urging him to avoid a "worst-case scenario" by introducing a wide range of reforms, including "releasing more than 450 detainees including [Bahraini] human rights defenders, religious figures and more than 110 children, dissolv[ing] the security apparatus and prosecut[ing] its official[s] responsible [for] violations".
At night, residents of Jidhafs
held a public dinner banquet to celebrate the fall of Egypt's president.
On 13 February, authorities set up a number of checkpoints and increased the presence of security forces in key locations such as shopping malls. Al Jazeera
interpreted the move as "a clear warning against holding Monday's [14 February] rally".
At night, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on a small group of youth who organized a protest in Karzakan
after a wedding ceremony. According to a photographer working for the Associated Press
, several people were injured and others suffered from the effects of tear gas.
Bahrain's Ministry of Interior
said that about 100 individuals who gathered in an unauthorized rally in the village attacked security forces injuring three policemen and in response police fired two rubber bullets, one of which rebounded from the ground, injuring a protester.
Small protests and clashes occurred in other locations as well, such as Sabah Al Salem, Sitra
, Bani Jamra
and Tashan, leading to minor injuries among both protesters and security forces.:68
Over 6,000 people participated in 55:68–70
demonstrations and political rallies in 25 different locations throughout Bahrain.
Helicopters hovered over areas where marches were due to take place
and the presence of security forces was heavy in a number of key locations such as the Central Business District
, shopping malls and Bab Al Bahrain
. The traffic directorate closed a number of roads such as those leading to Pearl Roundabout
, Dana mall, Al Daih
and parts of Budaiya highway
in order to anticipate any non-permitted protests. Throughout the day and especially in the evening, Internet speed was much slower than usual.
According to Bikya Masr blog, "many people" linked this to government attempts to contain the protests.
The demonstrators demanded the release of detained protesters, socio-economic and political reforms and constitutional monarchy. Protesters sought no permits, although it is required by Bahraini law.:68–69
The Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat
reported that protests were peaceful and that demonstrators did not throw stones at security forces or burn tires in streets as they used to in the previous protests.
Police dispersed demonstrations such as this one in Diraz.
The earliest demonstration was recorded at 05:30 in the mainly Shia village of Nuwaidrat
, where 300 people are said to have participated.:68–9
The rally was led by Shia political activist Abdulwahhab Hussain
Police dispersed this rally, resulting in some injuries, and the hospitalization of one demonstrator. Police continued to disperse rallies throughout the day with tear gas, rubber bullets, and shotguns, causing additional injuries, and hospitalizing three more demonstrators.:68
One major demonstration took place in the Shi'a island of Sitra, where several thousand men, women, and children took to the streets. According to witnesses interviewed by Physicians for Human Rights
, hundreds of fully armed riot police arrived on the scene and immediately began firing tear gas and sound grenades
into the crowds. They then fired rubber bullets into the unarmed crowd, aiming at people in the front line who had sat down in the street in protest.
In Sanabis, security forces fled the location after protesters approached them, leaving one of their vehicles behind. Protesters attached the flag of Bahrain
to the vehicle instead of damaging or burning it. In Sehla
, hundreds held maghrib prayer
in the streets after staging a march. In Bilad Al Qadeem
, protesters held a sit-in at afternoon and started marching at evening, after which security forces intervened to disperse them. In Karzakan
, protesters staged a march that was joined by another march starting in Dumistan
and ended peacefully.
security forces fired tear gas on 100 protesters, breaking up their rally.
On its Twitter account, the Ministry of Interior said that six masked individuals participating in a march in Jidhafs attacked security forces. They wrote that police responded, injuring the legs and back of one of the attackers.
Police fired birdshot
at Ali Mushaima's back from close range.
In the evening of 14 February, Ali Mushaima died
from police shotgun wounds to his back at close range. The government says that Ali was part of a group of 800 protesters that attacked eight policemen with rocks and metal rods. The government asserts that the police exhausted their supply of tear gas and rubber bullets in a failed attempt to disperse the crowd, and resorted to the use of shotguns. Witnesses say that there were no demonstrations at the time Ali was shot. They say Ali was seen walking with a group of officers who were pointing their guns at him. As Ali walked away, he was shot in the back by one of the officers.:69, 229
The Ministry of Interior expressed its regret at the incident and announced that the death would be investigated.
Later, several hundred demonstrators congregated in the car park of the hospital where Ali was taken. They staged a protest outside the hospital heading to the Pearl Roundabout; meanwhile another march was heading to the same location from King Faisal Highway. Security forces intervened, injuring some protesters and arresting 24.:69
By the end of the day, more than 30 protesters had been injured, mostly by birdshot and rubber bullets.
Protesters occupying Pearl Roundabout following the funeral procession for Ali Mushaima.
The following day another man, [Fadhel Al-Matrook, was killed by police during the funeral of Mushaima.
Protesters then marched and occupied the Pearl Roundabout
without police interference.:71
Thousands continued camping at the site for another day.
On 17 February, in what became known as Bloody Thursday
authorities launched a pre-dawn raid and cleared the site, killing four protesters and injuring hundreds.:230–2
Protesters took refuge in Salmaniya Medical Complex where many of them demanded the fall of the regime.
Defying the government ban on gatherings
on the evening of 18 February, hundreds of protesters marched toward the Pearl Roundabout, now under the control of the army.
When protesters neared the site, the army opened fire, killing Abdulredha Buhmaid
and injuring dozens of others.
Troops withdrew from the Pearl Roundabout on 19 February, and protesters reestablished their camps there.
The crown prince assured protesters that they would be allowed to camp at the roundabout and that he would lead a national dialogue.:83
Protests involving up to one-fifth of the population continued over the next month
until the government called in Gulf Cooperation Council troops
and police and declared a three-month state of emergency
Despite the police crackdown that followed,
smaller-scale protests and clashes continued, mostly outside Manama's business districts.
By April 2012, more than 80 people had died during the uprising.
As of December 2012, protests are ongoing.
Death of Fadhel Al-Matrook
Fadhel Salman Ali Salman Al-Matrook (Arabic
: فاضل سلمان علي سلمان المتروك
) (8 November 1979 – 15 February 2011) was a 31-year-old Bahraini
who died in hospital on 15 February 2011 after reportedly being hit in the back and chest by bird pellet gunshots
(a type of shotgun shell) fired from short distance by Bahraini security forces during the Bahraini uprising of 2011
. Bahrain king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
announced in a rare televised speech that the deaths of Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima
and Fadhel Al-Matrook would be investigated.
However, results of the investigation have not been revealed as of November 2011.
As part of a string of protests
that occurred across the Arab World following the self-immolation and eventual death of Mohammed Bouazizi
, the mostly Shia
population of Bahrain took to the streets demanding greater freedoms. Al Jazeera
reported that a protest was planned for 14 February,
just a few months after the controversial 2010 election
On 14 February (referred to by protesters as Day of Rage), clashes were reported from parts of Bahrain. Helicopters circled over Manama
, where protesters were expected to gather in the afternoon; there was also a greater police presence in Shia villages. At least fourteen people were injured in clashes overnight and with police having fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in the village of Nuwaidrat
, south west of Bahrain. The marchers were calling for the release detainees who were arrested during earlier protests.
Al-Matrook's father died when he was 8. He was married with two children, a 5-year-old son, Hussain and a 2-year-old daughter, Ruqayya. He was unemployed and had been arrested once before, his brother reported. Al-Matrook lived in his father's house; his housing request goes back seven years before his death.
Police fired birdshot from close range at Al-Matrook's back.
On 15 February, funeral procession
of Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima
, who died the previous day took place. The march was authorized.
It was organized that the body be taken from the Salmaniya medical complex and then carried to the cemetery in Al Daih
According to eyewitnesses, more than 2,000 were starting to gather by the hospital gates in order to take part in the procession,
when riot police used tear gas and shotguns to disperse the crowd. One man, Fadhel Al-Matrook, died in hospital after getting shot by shotgun pellets
Al-Matrook's brother, who was near him, told the local newspaper Al Wasat
that his brother was shot from a very short distance, 2 to 5 meters away, which caused internal bleeding and punctured his lungs.
According to witnesses, at least 25 were injured as a result of police rubber bullets, tear gas and shotgun.
An eyewitness who was injured called Shaker Mohammed Abdulhussain told Al Wasat
that police cars were parked near Salmaniya Medical Complex
gates where the funeral was supposed to move out from. To prevent clashes between mourners and riot police, mourners formed a human chain in which Shaker was standing next to Al-Matrook. There were two people speaking to riot police telling them that the youth will ensure that nothing would go wrong. Then a man wearing full black came from outside the funeral and threw a stone at riot police, who then started firing rubber bullets and bird pellet gunshot
indiscriminately. While Shaker and Al-Matrook were trying to help a man who was injured by rubber bullets to his leg, they were shot with bird pellet gunshot
. Shaker was injured in his chest and other parts in the body, while Al-Matrook was injured in his back and died in the hospital.
The Ministry of the Interior said in a statement that during the funeral of Ali Mushaima some mourners clashed with four police patrols which were parked in the funeral's course. They explained that clashes were because one patrol was not working and three patrols went to evacuate it. During the clash one man named Fadhel Al-Martook was injured and died later in a hospital.
On February 16, thousands of Bahrainis took part in the funeral procession
of Al-Matrook while others were camping in Pearl Roundabout
for the second day in a row. The funeral began in Salmaniya
medical complex and ended in Mahooz
graveyard. Al-Matrook's coffin was covered with Bahrain's flag
. The funeral began at 8:30 am, and mourners that took part carried pictures for Al-Matrook, Bahrain flags
, and black flags which represent grief. They chanted "No god but Allah
, the martyr is loved by Allah" and "No Sunni
, No Shia
, all of us are one united Bahrain".
The final funeral procession for Al-Matrook was on February 18, which took part in Mahooz
and ended in Mahooz graveyard. Mourners carried Bahrain flags
as well as black flags. They chanted "we scarify our blood and soul for you martyr" and "we scarify our blood and soul for you Bahrain". One of the mourners carried flowers. Sheikh Mohammed Al-Mansi gave a speech at the end of the funeral procession.
Portrait in memorial of Fadhel al-Matrook
- In a rare national TV address on Tuesday, February 15, King Hamad expressed his regret about the victims of recent events and announced an investigation. He expressed regret about the deaths of Ali Mushaima and Fadhel Al-Matrook "There have sadly been two deaths. I express my deep condolences to their families," he said. "Everyone should know that I have assigned Deputy Prime Minister Jawad al-Urayyid to form a special committee to find out the reasons that led to such regrettable events," he added.
- Prime minister, Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa praised the king's speech. "We regret the events which led to the death of two of my sons and express condolences to their families".
- Minister of Interior, Rashed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said in a televised speech on February 15, that they are reserving on those responsible for the death of Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima and Fadhel Al-Matrook and that initial investigations began. As well as full cooperation with the committee formed by Bahrain's king.
- Al Wefaq, the country's biggest opposition party suspended their participation in the Parliament and threatened to resign, in protest at the brutal practices of the security forces, according to Matar Matar, Al Wefaq's MP (now former MP).
- The Independent block, the second largest in the parliament praised the king's speech and supported his decision to form an investigation committee. They also expressed condolences to families of victims.
- Nationalist Democratic Rally Society called for an open dialogue between the regime and civil society foundations. They emphasized their refusal and condemnation to the "brutal and repressive" methods that protests are dealt with by riot police which led to the death of 2 martyrs. They also expressed condolences to the families of the martyrs and victims.
- Progressive Democratic Tribune denounced the use of excessive force by security forces and called to respect the rights of people to protest. They expressed condolences to families of martyrs Ali Mushaima and Fadhel Al-Matrook who joined the martyrs convoy of our people in their journey to democracy. They Called for the formation of a national body which unites Shia and Sunna like the National Union Committee in the 1950s.
- Islamic Association party, a relatively small Shia society expressed condolences to citizens of Bahrain and the families of the victims. They said "At the same time that we emphasize our refusal to the excessive use of force against protesters, we stress the importance of keeping the peacefulness of the protests". and "we appeal to the committee formed by Bahrain's king to make a neutral and honest investigation and to accelerate publishing the results as well as punishing those responsible".
- P.J. Crowley, the United States State Department spokesman said: "The United States is very concerned by recent violence surrounding protests in Bahrain,". He added that US welcomed the investigation into the killings and urged the government of Bahrain to "quickly follow up on its pledge."
- Amnesty International called the authorities "to immediately stop using excessive force against the protesters", "to set up an immediate, thorough and independent investigation into the deaths of ‘Ali ‘Abdulhadi Mushaima’ and Fadhel ‘Ali Matrook, and ensure that any police found to have used excessive force are brought to justice." and " to respect and protect the right of freedom expression, movement and assembly in Bahrain".
Local and international reactions
In a rare national TV
address on Tuesday, February 15, King Hamad
expressed regret, offered his "deep condolences" to the families of those killed and announced a ministerial probe into the events.
He also promised reforms including a reduction in government restrictions of the Internet and other media.
In reference to the Egyptian Revolution of 2011
, Hussain al-Rumeihy, a member of Parliament, said on 15 February it was wrong for protesters to copy the events of other Arab countries, because the situation in Bahrain is different.
The following day, Prime minister Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa
praised the king's speech and shared his regret and condolences.
On the other hand, Al Wefaq
, the country's largest opposition party suspended their participation in the Parliament
on 15 February and threatened to resign, in protest of what it called "the brutal practices of security forces".
The same day, other opposition parties
protested what they called the government's "excessive" reaction to protests, and the Progressive Democratic Tribune
called for formation of a national body to unite Shia
like the National Union Committee
had done in the 1950s.
The Bahrain Human Rights Society
criticized the government response to protests of 14th and 15th, accusing it of censorship and non-compliance with international covenants that it had signed.
Internationally, Navi Pillay
, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
on 15 February, called the government of Bahrain to stop what she called "the excessive use of force" against protesters and to release protest-related prisoners. United States
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley
said that the US was "very concerned by recent violence surrounding protests" of the 14th and 15th.
In a 15 February appeal, Amnesty International
called the Bahraini authorities to stop using what it called "excessive force" against protesters, to put all security forces' members who had used excessive force on trial and "to respect and protect the right of freedom expression, movement and assembly in Bahrain".
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Last edited on 20 February 2021, at 00:04
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