1/26/2012

1 in 3 Civilians Killed in Bahrain Since Feb 14th 2011 Reported to Have Died as a Result of Tear Gas Inhalation

On Saturday 14th January 81-year-old Salma Mohsin was reported to have died as a result of inhaling tear gas that was fired into her home in Barbar. On 30th December 2011, 15- year-old Sayed Hashim Sayed Saeed from Sitra was killed after he was was reportedly struck in the head by a tear gas cannister.  On 17th December 2011 73-year-old Abdulali Ali Ahmed from Meqsha died following heavy clashes in which tear gas was used. The government argues that he died of natural causes, while other sources say it was due to tear gas inhalation. Also, in another disputed incident, 55-year-old Fakhria  Jassim al-Sakran from Muharraq died on 3rd January 2012 after reportedly inhaling tear gas.
This means that since I last wrote about tear gas deaths in Bahrain on 12th December, four more people have died as a result of it. This puts the figure of civilians reported to have been killed by tear gas since February 14th 2011 at 15. In others words, approximately 1 in 3 civilians who have been killed as part of government’s efforts to contain protests since February 14th have reportedly died as a result of tear gas inhalation. On December 12 the figure was 1 in 4, and in June it was 1 in 6.
In addition to those mentioned above, the others who have reported to have died so far as a result of tear gas inhalation are Zainab Hassan al-Juma (47) , Sayad Adnan Sayed Hassan (44), Zainab al-Tajer (Zainab ali-Ahmed), Mohammed Farhan (6), Isa Mohammed Ali Abdulla (71), Khadija Mirza Al-Abdulhai(50),  Isa Ahmed al-Taweel ( 50), Ali Jawad al-Shaikh (14), Sayed Jawad Ahmed Hashim Marhoon (36), Jaafar Lutf Allah (74) and Sajeda (5/6 days old),
Of the 15 who haved died, 2 were paraplegic (Jaafar Lutf Allah and Zainab Hassan al-Juma- BICI 1058) and 4 were minors (Mohammed Farhan, Ali Jawad al-Shaikh, Sajida Faisal Jawad and Sayed Hashim Sayed Saeed) . Others such as Zainab Ali Ahmed and Sayed Jawad Ahmed had existing respiratory problems (asthma and pneumonia respectively). In addition to minors, 3 of the victims could be described as elderly (65 years or older). They were Jaafar Lutf Allah (74), Salma Mohsin (81) and Abdulali Ali Ahmed (73). In short, around 11 of the victims of increased vulnerability.  Having said this, it should be noted that 2 of the victims (Ali Jawad al-Shaikh and Sayed Hashim) were killed when tear gas cannisters hit them directly in the head.As with many things in Bahrain, many of these deaths are contested. Interestingly, in the case of Sayed Hashem (who was reportedly struck by a tear gas cannister), a photo of him with a strange circular bruise/burn was distributed. The circular mark was not dissimilar to the one found on Hasan al-Eskafi, who was injured when a tear gas cannister hit him in the head back in July.
There has also been talk of a new tear gas being used in Bahrain. It emits yellow smoke and apparently comes from unmarked cannisters, presumably because someone wishes their origin to remain secret. Some are suggesting that the new tear gas is CR gas, a more powerful form of tear gas usually used by elite forces . Whether this true not has not been determined. CR is a yellow solid at room temperature, though whether it remains yellow as it disperses is unclear. It is also usually dispersed in liquid form, though apparently an Indian company ‘Tear Smoke Unit’ have packaged it as a riot control weapon. They don’t,  however, list CR as an active ingredient in any of their weapons though. Nor do their tear gas projectiles seem similar to those seen in Bahrain. On another interesting note, apparently the UK is the only place to have known stocks of CR gas. So far though, the exact nature of this new gas remains unknown.
Furthermore, joining the ranks of companies like Defense Technologies and SAE Alsetex, who have all provided tear gas to Bahrain, are Condor Technologies. This Brazilian company have been accused of selling tear gas to Bahrain, yet the Brazilian Foreign Ministry seem to be saying that Condor has not sold tear gas to Bahrain. This would make for an interesting case, since the re-export of arms without seller country consent is illegal. So was it another Gulf country that provided Bahrain with this Brazilian made tear gas? Very possibly.
Anyway, it seems that the policy of containment (i.e. not allowing protests to move beyond villages) is creating a corollary increase in deaths by tear gas. While it is hard to determine whether the new tear gas is more dangerous than the old, or whether new tactics in tear gas use have been adopted, it is unlikely that its utility for the government will abate. The increased violence we have seen amongst many of Bahrain’s youth will inevitably lead to a more to forceful crackdown, and maybe the use of more tear gas, and will certainly not help placate the emotions of many of the security services, who have already shown both an ineptitude and/or vindictiveness whilst on the job. Indeed, this video is yet another example of a riot officer contravening the instructions of tear gas vendors by throwing it into an enclosed space. You’d think if they could train these guys to that impressive kung-fu shit, you’d be able to train an officer to follow the instruction manual of a tear gas grenade. Having said that though, his furtiveness suggests he was doing out of spite, rather than a lack of training.
So, despite those who believe that none of these deaths were related to tear gas, or those that believe even talking about death equates to exploiting death for political gain, surely there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation. If the the figure 1 in 3 civilian deaths doesn’t move you to tears, then you know what you need, a spot of the ol’ o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile. That might just help.

For more information on tear gas in Bahrain go here and here.