An Activist Stands Her Ground in Bahrain


During a protest in Bahrain on Saturday, an American journalist named Matthew Cassel reported on Twitter that he had just witnessed something remarkable: a lone female protester who refused to move as police officers in riot gear charged past her, firing tear gas shells just a few feet from her head.
A short time later, after a photograph and a brief video clip of the woman standing her ground in front of a line of police vehicles was uploaded to Twitter, readers of Mr. Cassel’s feed identified her as Zainab Alkhawaja, an activist whose own Angry Arabiya Twitter feed is devoted to documenting the protest movement in Bahrain.
In an interview with The Lede on Thursday, Ms. Alkhawaja, who comes from a family of well-known rights activists, explained that the officers apparently recognized her too, because she heard an order being issued barring them from using force to remove her from the road. Emboldened by that, she remained in front of the vehicles, flashing the victory sign, until the officers finally turned around and left the area.
Here, from Thursday’s Timescast, is Ms. Alkhawaja’s explanation of the standoff outside the village of Aali. Readers who want to know more about Ms. Alkhawaja’s activism, and the role her popular Twitter feed has apparently played in keeping her safe, can watch this longer version of her interview with The Lede.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry announced on its own Twitter feed on Thursday that it is in the “final stages of signing a contract with John Timoney,” an American adviser who was once a senior officer in New York, and later served as the police chief of Philadelphia and then Miami. The ministry added, “The expert was short-listed from a number of ‘supercops’ with long and proven expertise.”
Given that Bahrain’s police force is regularly deployed to break up protests, American observers were quick to point out that Mr. Timoney was criticized for the forceful way his officers infiltrated protest groups at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000 and used force to break up demonstrations at the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit meeting in Miami in 2003.
Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who covered the Miami protests, wrote later that what became known as Mr. Timoney’s “Miami Model” of crowd control involved the heavy use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges to disperse protesters.
An alternative weekly, The Miami New Times, reported that Mr. Timoney was observed cursing at protesters himself as his officers cracked down on demonstrators. Later, the newspaper noted, he traveled the world, advising police forces on how to emulate his force’s tactics.
After his appointment as an adviser to Bahrain’s police force was announced on Thursday, the Miami paper reminded readers that after the events of 2003, a Florida circuit court judge said he had seen “no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers” and called the force’s actions “a disgrace for the community.”