1/29/2012

Street violence fears growing

GULF DAILY NEWS

BAHRAINIS have made contingency plans to leave the country amidst an increase in street violence. Some have already purchased property abroad, transferred money out of the country and have their plane tickets and passports ready for a fast exit.
It follows the launch of the Bahrain Fist Operation by February 14 Revolution supporters, which calls for increased measures to "forcibly" remove riot police from villages.
The group plans to supply rioters with information, weapons and create bullet-proof vests.
It said the operation would lead to a full-blown occupation of the former GCC (Pearl) Roundabout on February 14, which marks the anniversary of the uprising.
One Bahraini, who did not want to be named, said he had plans to move to Dubai because he did not want to live in an environment filled with violence.
"I have even booked my tickets and have my passport with me, just in case I need to go quickly, because February 14 is coming up and we don't know what will happen," he told the GDN.
"I know people who bought houses in Saudi Arabia and Dubai and a lot of big families have transferred money."
He said citizens were being forced to leave their homes and jobs to move to other countries because the government had not taken strong actions.
"Some of my cousins work in the BDF (Bahrain Defence Force) and everyday they leave their houses and say goodbye to their mothers and children because they don't know if they will come back," said the Bahraini.
"The government is not taking strong action. They should stop people like (Al Wefaq National Islamic Society secretary-general) Ali Salman.
"The only solution to all these problems is for Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar to join together like the UAE and then as one force they can protect the whole Gulf from those behind these problems, which are Iran and Iraq."
Another Bahraini said her parents had contingency plans to move to Kuwait if the situation in the country deteriorates.
"The plan is not to emigrate but just to leave while problems are resolved," she said.
"My mother has all the documents ready in a folder which literally says 'Plan B' and includes selling some of our property to survive in another country.
"I don't think she will ever take the step because no matter what Bahrain is our home and we could never live elsewhere.
"But I think to her it's just a way of immediately saving her family if things become worse."
Bahrainis said the escalating violence in the country has had a profound effect on their lives as many chose to stay home during the evenings to avoid confrontations.
One woman said she now led a quiet social life because of the unrest, but it was difficult to dodge trouble completely as her family lived in Tashan, a village infamous for repeated clashes.
"I went to visit my grandmother last week and a few minutes after I entered the village there was a demonstration on the road," said the 26-year-old Bahraini.
"I then heard gunshots and saw tear gas being fired.
"I saw some children moving big metal drums and garbage bins to block the road and teenagers throwing water coolers in a fire on the road.
"I was so shocked and scared because the gunshot didn't stop, I only managed to get out when it was evening prayer time.
"Since then I haven't gone out after 6pm because it seems there are problems everywhere now."
A teenager said he planned to stay home during weekends after he was caught in the middle of clashes between protesters and police in Sanad.
"I went out to get dinner for my family and I got stuck between protesters and police," said the 19-year-old Bahraini.
"I saw a Molotov cocktail thrown right over my car and land next to a police jeep.
"I was frightened to death and have since told my family and friends not to go out when clashes are going on."
Another Bahraini called on authorities to fast-track reconciliation as the escalation in violence meant people's demands had not been fulfilled.
"Bahrain needs to look at how to prevent and stop it," he said.
"A lot of reforms were promised and published in the news, but the youth and the opposition are not satisfied and they don't meet their expectations."
He said the real danger to innocent people was the attacks on supermarkets and local businesses.
"Vandalising and attacking cold stores and supermarkets damages the image of Bahrain and threatens the country's security," he said.
He said another risk was tear gas fired by police to disperse protesters, which causes severe health problems.
"My wife's sister lives in Ma'ameer and she was so worried her newborn baby would be affected by the tear gas that she has come to stay with us in West Eker where things are a bit quieter," he said. rebecca@gdn.com.bh