SPECIAL REPORT: Death on Martyrs Day
by James Lee, special to [X]press
January 17, 2008 12:07 PM
SANABIS, Bahrain (SFSU) – Ali Jassim Al-Barbari, a 31-year-old bus driver and human rights activist, witnesses the Martyrs Day demonstration turn deadly. On December 17, 2007, members of the Special Security Force (SSF) and Bahraini Police in riot gear prepare to control the peaceful crowd. Ali hears the launch of a CS smoke projectile. The 38-millimeter canister rockets over the crowded street and lands among frightened demonstrators.
Within seconds, additional CS smoke projectiles are fired. Loud voices and screaming can be heard along the outer perimeter of the demonstration. Bahraini Police begin firing 38-millimeter baton shells directly at demonstrators. Spent baton cartridges are dropped onto the ground by the advancing police. A prophetic warning printed on the discarded metal cartridges reads, “Ricochet baton shells approximately 3 meters in front of person. Do not fire directly at persons, serious injury or death may result.”
SSF and Bahraini Police pursue Ali and other demonstrators into nearby neighborhoods. Thick clouds of CS smoke can be seen rising above the narrow streets. Scores of people are detained and beaten to the ground by the authorities. Evidence suggests that Ali is shot by baton rounds, exposed to CS gas and possibly beaten by police.
Fighting for each breath, Ali manages to run from the Sanabis Village to his home in the Jid Hafss area. He collapses near the front door. “They destroyed us,” Ali whispers to his brother. “I feel like I am dying.” White foam drains from the corners of Ali’s mouth.
Ali is carried into a car and driven to a nearby private hospital. The Bahrain International Hospital refuses to admit Ali and directs him to another hospital. He dies en route to the Al-Sulaimania Governmental Hospital.
“Inside the hospital, I could see round bruises on my brother’s arms, legs and chest,” says Hassam Jassim Mohammed, Ali’s younger brother. “The police killed my brother.”
The death of Ali has signaled the beginning of a large-scale coordinated attack by the Bahraini Government against the Human Rights movement. Since Martyrs Day the government has arrested more than forty-five activists. Charges against the detainees include illegal gathering, rioting, damaging a police vehicle, theft of a weapon, theft of ammunition, possession of a weapon without permits, possession of ammunition without a permit, and attempted murder.