x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Police break up protests in Bahrain

One man reported dead after rubber bullets fired, as organisers say they plan more protests and insist they are looking for reforms.

Police and protesters stand around a man who collapsed following clashes in the Duraz village north of the Bahraini capital Manama.
Police and protesters stand around a man who collapsed following clashes in the Duraz village north of the Bahraini capital Manama.

MANAMA // Violent protests in several parts of Bahrain yesterday met an aggressive response from police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters.

Helicopters and police fanned out across the city, and roadblocks attempted to prevent protesters from reaching the demonstrations or gathering in the city centre.

The country's largest Shiite party, the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, said one man, identified as Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima, a 27-year-old Bahraini, had been killed. Three others were injured, the organisation said. The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights reported that at least 20 people were taken to hospital after protests in 16 villages.

There was no official confirmation of the figures by authorities.

Maryam al Khawaja, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Right's foreign relations office, said: "Many are injured but not going to hospital because they are afraid of getting arrested.

"All the protesters have been hit, people are going into houses until things calm down and then they're going back out into the streets again."

At one confrontation outside Sheikh Aziz mosque in Sehla, about 1,500 protesters, including hundreds of women, gathered after evening prayers. As the crowd waved Bahraini flags, they shouted for "our prisoners to be released" and pledged their "blood and souls" for Bahrain. Most of the protesters were Shiite.

As members of the crowd displayed stitched head wounds and bandaged backs that they said were caused by rubber bullets at protests the previous night, about 200 policemen began to amass near the mosque.

Suddenly, explosions rang out and the police charged, firing rubber bullets and tear gas.

At least one man was injured in the crush as the crowd crammed through an alley behind the mosque to avoid the baton-wielding policemen.

As the crowd dispersed and the police continued to charge, fireworks began exploding above the melee. One protester said the effort was an attempt to cover-up the violence.

The organisers of yesterday's protests said they were looking economic and political reforms such as a new constitution and fair elections.

Government supporters also held demonstrations, with a smaller police presence.

In an effort to reduce tension in the run up to the protest, the government announced it would give each Bahraini family 1,000 Bahraini dinars (Dh9,700) and opened talks with newspaper editors who are expected to reduce controls on the press.

But on Monday, protesters and protest organisers vowed to continue the effort.

"We're going to keep doing this every day of the week until the big day on Friday," said Hussein, a protester.

"Our protests are peaceful. We're not interested in fighting, but we're not going to stop."