Since the start of the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip on 7 October 2023, demonstrations have continued in various Arab and international cities denouncing what UN experts described as a “genocide and ethnic cleansing”, to which defenseless civilians are subjected through the criminal bombing and ongoing Israeli massacres on the besieged Strip, which has so far resulted in the killing of more than 10,000 civilians, most of them are women and children, including more than 4,000 children, while more than 1,300 other children are still under the rubble.
In Bahrain, various regions and towns witnessed demonstrations, protests, and massive popular gatherings in solidarity with the Palestinian people, demanding a halt to the Abraham Accords between Arab states and Israel. However, the Bahraini government preferred to confront the peaceful movements with excessive repression, which led to several injuries among the demonstrators, and launched arrest campaigns and summonses that targeted participants in these events in a clear violation of the freedom of assembly and expression of opinion. The number of detainees reached approximately thirty, and it is still rising as daily demonstrations continue.
Mass Demonstrations Condemning the Israeli Massacres in Gaza:
On 13 October, the first mass demonstrations took place in many Bahraini regions to protest the attack on Gaza. On the next day, security forces affiliated with the Ministry of Interior (MOI) summoned a number of citizens before forcibly detaining them pending investigation, in preparation for referring them to trial, on charges of participating in a demonstration in support of Palestine.
Also, on 13 October, the MOI mobilized its security forces and deployed its military vehicles on the outskirts of Badih Street, where the largest Shia Friday prayer is held weekly at the Imam al-Sadiq Mosque in Duraz, to confront the demonstration that took place after the prayer in solidarity with the Palestinians. Since that date, the security forces have been on alert with every Friday prayer, to restrict the participants.
On 18 October, the Bahraini authorities escalated their suppression of freedom of demonstration and expression, as they forcefully intercepted one of the massive and angry demonstrations that took place in several Bahraini regions to protest the massacre committed by Israel on the Baptist Hospital in Gaza, which killed more than 500 civilians, most of whom were women and children. The Bahraini authorities’ suppression of the demonstrations brought to mind the scenes of suppression of the pro-democracy movement that broke out in Bahrain in 2011. The scenes documented the Bahraini riot and security forces’ use of beating and force against peaceful protesters, directing weapons at unarmed demonstrators, and using stun grenades and tear gas bombs directly against them. As a result, a number of participants were injured. It also summoned some children for investigation due to their participation in these demonstrations.
On 26 October, Bahraini security forces carried out arrests after suppressing a peaceful demonstration that took place in Sitra, denouncing the massacres in Gaza. As a result, a new arrest campaign was carried out, targeting a number of participants.
On 2 November, the demonstrations in Sanabis and Karbabad were subjected to brutal suppression by the security forces, as a result of which they launched an arrest campaign that affected 14 citizens, including two minors, and summonses of more than 17, until 7 November.
With the continuation of the attack on Gaza and the escalation of the bombing and killing of civilians in Gaza, massive demonstrations continue in Bahrain on an almost daily basis with the participation of various groups and orientations. Demonstrators roam the streets raising Palestinian flags and banners denouncing the Israeli massacres, and chanting slogans calling on the authorities to cancel the Abraham Accord, close the Israeli embassy, and expel the Israeli ambassador from Manama. The demonstrations included several areas, including Duraz, Sitra, Al-Markh, Aali, Karzagan, Damistan, Sanabis, Karranah, Nuwaidrat, Al-Diyah, Al-Deir, AlBilad Al-Qadeem, Karbabad, Al-Maami, Al-Akr, Al-Sahla, Abu Quwah, Shahrakan, Bani Jamra, Salmabad, Al-Malikiyah, Al-Marfaa’ Al-Mali, AlBusaiteen, and other areas. The demonstrations that began in the capital, Manama, Duraz, Al-Aker, Al-Markh, Sitra, Al-Diyah, Karzakan, Al-Deir, and Al-Sahla Southern City, were subjected to clear suppression by the security forces. The two Karbabad demonstrations on 19 and 26 October were considered the largest popular gatherings that were repressed using excessive repression by Bahraini security forces.
Methods to Stop and Suppress Demonstrations in Support of the Palestinian People:
Daily protest activities continue in 32 Bahraini regions and towns in support of the Palestinian people and their right to reject the Israeli occupation of their land. Demonstrations are faced with security alerts, leading to repression and arrests. According to what was documented by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), Bahraini security authorities used the following methods to suppress a number of demonstrations:
- Using tear gas shots
- Using sound bombs
- Beating demonstrators with batons
- Kicking the demonstrators
- Carrying out arrests during the demonstration
- Carrying out arrests by randomly summoning citizens
Campaign of Arrests and Summonses:
Security authorities in Bahrain are still summoning and arresting participants in solidarity marches with Palestine. According to preliminary statistics, between 13 October and 5 November, Bahraini security forces arrested about 28 citizens, including 6 minors. They later released 14 of them, while the rest are still in detention pending their referral to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO).
According to statistics documented by activists on social media, Bahraini authorities arrested 32 Bahraini citizens last October. Of the 28 peaceful marches, the authorities cracked down at least 9 marches without a convincing justification.
Since November, the campaign of arrests and summonses has continued. On 2 November, the regions of Sanabis and Karbabad witnessed violent repression, which resulted in injuries among the participants. An arrest campaign was also carried out that affected at least 17 citizens who were detained and presented to the PPO on Sunday 5 October. A number of them were released, after signing a pledge not to participate in unauthorized marches again.
Among the detainees was Nizar Al-Sheikh (20 years old), a resident of Sanabis. He was arrested near Al-Khoder Mosque in Sanabis following a Special Forces attack on the demonstration that took place in the Sanabis area, west of the capital, Manama, to advocate and support the Palestinian people. Abbas Al-Janabi was also arrested on 27 October from the village of Al-Diya, following a peaceful march in solidarity with Palestine. He was presented to the PPO on Sunday 29 October, and detained for 7 days pending investigation.
Also, among those detained was Hussain Ahmed al-Naham, who was arrested with at least 10 citizens after the peaceful demonstration ended in Sanabis. Five members of the riot forces arbitrarily arrested him, beat him with their hands and kicked him with their shoes, then threw him on the ground. One of them pressed his knee on his chest and another ran over his head with his foot, which resulted in him being injured in the chest area and suffering bruises throughout his body, as well as wounds to his hand and knee. After that, he was transferred with the 10 other prisoners to the Al-Ma’arid Police Station, and because he was injured in the hand and had bruises all over his body, they refused the offer of the policeman who beat him and arrested him despite his repeated requests to be held accountable, but they rejected his request to consider what happened as a normal matter. He was charged with participating in an unauthorized march and gathering west of the capital, Manama.
Simultaneously, 10 citizens from the Sanabis area, including minors, were also arrested on the same charge. Among them were Sayed Mohamed Mahmood Mahfooz from Al-Markh (16 years old), Sayed Mahdi from Al-Markh (16 years old), and Sayed Mohamed Hashem from Al-Markh (15 years old). While they were being investigated at the police station, 4 citizens were arrested from the Karbabad area before the demonstration began there because they were wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh. 14 citizens were later released, and two minors remain in detention.
Furthermore, among the detainees is the young man Mahdi Nasser Ahmed (17 years old), a minor and secondary school student. He was arrested at AlNabih Saleh police station and brought before the PPO, on charges of assembly and riots. He may drop out of school because of his continued detention after he was re-arrested for one week. Regarding the alleged charges against Mahdi, eyewitnesses confirmed that a policeman ordered Mahdi to retrieve a Molotov bottle that was near him on the ground, and then they photographed him and charged him based on that, even though he denied that he owned the bottle.
Therefore, besides arbitrary arrest and illegal detention, the Bahraini government forces detainees to sign pledges for not participating in demonstrations and showing up immediately upon summons, which is a clear violation of international laws and conventions guaranteeing the right to peaceful assembly. Demonstrators are also being beaten by security personnel without accountability or investigation, which raises fears of a continued policy of impunity, giving security forces a green light to suppress and attack protesters. In addition to what detainees are exposed to during their detention period, which may expose them to torture to extract confessions.
Numerous violations affecting the method of arrest and the investigation phase:
Demonstrators were subjected to numerous violations during their arrest and interrogation, and some of them were subjected to psychological and physical torture to forcefully extract confessions. In addition to documenting what some citizens were subjected to during their arrest on charges of participating in demonstrations, multiple methods were monitored, some of which may precede or follow the period of detention, including monitoring, photographing, and raiding the detainee’s home without an arrest or search warrant and without respect for the sanctity and privacy of homes. During their transfer to the detention center, detainees reported being beaten and insulted.
During the investigation phase, the violations are numerous. They include confiscating the detainee’s private belongings and beating him, interrogating minors without informing their families or without the presence of a lawyer, intimidating the detainees, and exposing them to psychological and physical torture to force them to confess to already prepared charges such as illegal gathering, rioting, burning tires, and writing expressions of solidarity with Palestine on the walls. However, the real charges in the incident, according to those released, may relate to wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh.
In the last stage before their release, they must be forced to sign a pledge not to participate or repeat what they are accused of doing, and to confirm their presence immediately after being summoned to the center for investigation. According to the information we have, those who are beaten during demonstrations are not brought before the PPO so as not to demand accountability of the assailants. The violations do not stop there, as even those who are released remain under strict surveillance, and are subjected to constant persecution and harassment to force them to work as informants, either through offering them money or threatening to arrest them.
In light of massacres in Gaza: What are the Bahraini government’s justifications for restricting the freedom of expression of its citizens?!
The human suffering in the besieged strip is exacerbated due to the policy of collective punishment pursued by Israel by cutting off water, electricity, and communications from the strip, in addition to the deliberate targeting of hospitals, places of worship, and displacement camps, which prompted UN experts to warn that Palestinian people are at risk of genocide, and that forced displacement attempts are an ethnic cleansing that has not been witnessed in wars in recent decades. In addition, international organizations documented the presence of war crimes through repeated massacres using internationally prohibited war weapons, including white phosphorus.
The Bahraini government restricts the right to assembly and demonstration in rejection of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Gaza by requiring prior authorization, which is rarely granted. In this context, the Northern Governorate Police Directorate twice rejected a request submitted by the “National Democratic Unionist Rally” to organize a march on AlBadih highway in solidarity with the Palestinian people. The justification was “ for security reasons.”
Among the methods of restricting freedom of expression that the Bahraini government adopted was monitoring the content of social media platforms and taking measures against those who expressed their solidarity with the Palestinians, including threats to students from the University of Bahrain’s administration.
Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights affirms the right to peaceful assembly. Every individual has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and this right is an essential component of democracy. The right to peaceful assembly includes the right to hold meetings, sit-ins, strikes, gatherings, events, and protests, whether online or in real life. Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also states that the right to peaceful assembly is recognized.
Although these rights are guaranteed by international conventions and covenants that Bahrain has ratified, the government of Bahrain continues its violations by issuing random arbitrary summonses, conducting random arbitrary arrests, and preventing the legitimate right to denounce the Israeli bombing and attack on Gaza.
These activities come within broader movements at the international level, to demand an immediate cessation of the attack on Gaza. They are manifested by demonstrations, protests, solidarity stands, statements, and various statements denouncing the continued targeting of civilians and attempts of genocide and ethnic cleansing, which resulted in a broad international movement demanding an immediate ceasefire. Among these stances is the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution on 27 October 2023, on behalf of the Arab Group, which calls for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza. Positions have been issued by various mechanisms operating in the United Nations, condemning the direct targeting of civilians and infrastructure, which may amount to war crimes, including the position of the independent experts in the field of human rights (Human Rights Councils) of the United Nations, which confirmed that the Palestinian people are at risk of genocide. It also holds Israel’s allies responsible and demands immediate action. United Nations experts also warned that time is running out for Gaza, and denounced Israel’s refusal to stop its plans to destroy the Strip. There was also a statement for Mary Lawlor, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders, that Israel is carrying out ethnic cleansing operations, and that what is happening in Gaza is collective punishment against civilians, which represents a violation of international law and amounts to war crimes.
Since signing the Abraham Accord with Israel, the Bahraini people have frankly expressed their rejection of the agreement, which they confirmed does not reflect their orientations, and that their position is clear in support of Palestine and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Despite this, the Bahraini government refuses to represent the orientations of its citizens in its official positions and even takes arbitrary measures and commits violations against those who reject the accord.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) condemns the use of repression through force of arms against citizens by the Government of Bahrain, represented by the MOI, and denounces the arrest of a number of citizens on the grounds of exercising their right to freedom of expression. It raises serious fears and concerns that demonstrators will be subjected to summonses, arrest, enforced disappearance, and unfair trials, leading to the fabrication of charges against them. ADHRB also affirms the right to demonstration guaranteed by international law and calls on the Government of Bahrain to submit to the international charters and treaties it has signed regarding guaranteeing freedom of opinion, expression, and peaceful assembly, including the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” which guarantees the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly.
Note that this article was last updated on Nov.10,2023.