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Secretary of State Clinton Calls for Restraint as Bahrain Violently Surpresses Protests

February 17, 2011

According to all reports, the situation in Bahrain is getting worse by the minute:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Bahrain to show restraint in dealing with anti-government protests after riot police drove demonstrators from a central square in the capital Manama in a bloody crackdown.


Clinton telephoned her Bahraini counterpart on Thursday, the State Department said.

“She expressed deep concern about recent events and urged restraint moving forward. They discussed political and economic reform efforts to respond to the citizens of Bahrain,” a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

A Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Dave Lapan, described Bahrain — home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet — as a “long-time ally” and an “important partner,” adding that it was “closely watching developments.”


Police firing teargas and buckshot moved in at around 3 a.m. local time Thursday (7 p.m. Wednesday ET), dispersing some 2,000 people, including women and children. “They are killing us!” one man said after the operation began.


The Interior Ministry declared the protest camp “illegal” and warned Bahrainis to stay off the streets.

“The security forces have stressed that they will take every strict measure and deterrent necessary to preserve security and general order,” an Interior Ministry spokesman said on Bahraini television Thursday afternoon local time.

CNBC television news, citing U.S. military sources, said there was a significant amount of blood on King Faisal Highway, in a different part of the city than Pearl Square.

It reported that authorities were confiscating camera phones from individuals suspected photographing affected areas. Activists circulated Twitter messages telling people to delete images to avoid protesters being identified.

CNBC also reported 100 demonstrators had also gathered near Salmaniya Hospital, the main state-run hospital in Manama, where many of the wounded were taken.

Outside the medical complex, dozens of protesters chanted: “The regime must go” and burned pictures of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

“We are even angrier now. They think they can clamp down on us, but they have made us angrier,” Makki Abu Taki, whose son was killed in the assault, shouted in the hospital morgue.

“We will take to the streets in larger numbers and honor our martyrs. The time for Al Khalifa has ended,” he said.

Kristof said in a series of Twitter messages that the Bahrain government had ordered ambulances to stop going out. He said 10 ambulance paramedics had been attacked by Bahrain police. “I interviewed them, saw their injuries,” he wrote.

“Nurse told me she saw handcuffed prisoner beaten by police, then executed with gun,” Kristoff added.

An ambulance driver claimed a Saudi Arabian army officer had “held gun to his head” and threatened to kill him if he helped the injured, Kristof said in a Twitter message. BBC News reported that a source close to Bahrain’s rulers had denied claims that Saudia Arabian troops were involved, but added they were ready to help if needed.

Kristoff said the hospital had seen more than 600 people injured in the protests by early Thursday morning.

‘This place is boiling’
Martin Chulov, a correspondent for the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper who is in Bahrain, said in a Twitter message that there were “amazing scenes” at the hospital with doctors “on shoulders with bull horns calling for an uprising!”

“The Drs say they are not being allowed to treat the wounded. This place is boiling,” he added in another message.


NPR’s Peter Kenyon reported Thursday that he had “just seen one of the more gruesome sights in 10 years of covering the Middle East” — the body of a man who had the “top of his head … literally blown off.” It was not clear if he was describing the man in the photograph.

Kenyon added that the “grief is turning to anger very rapidly.”

Here is Nick Kristoff’s reporting from Bahrain today.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    February 17, 2011 2:37 pm

    I gather this is the bloody work of the police, not the army, so we’ll have to hope that once again, the Army sides with the people.

    • February 17, 2011 2:48 pm

      I don’t know, but they brought in tanks in the morning. But it was the security police apparently doing the shooting. I really have no idea if there is the same pro-military stance in Bahrain. They are deeply divided among Sunni and Shiites and I’m not sure about the make-up of the military.

      Saudi Arabia has helpfully (not) offered their armed services to beat back the protesters- I guess tin-pot dictators all think alike and Saudi Arabia is one of the worst. But they have oil, so that’s ok!

      I bet Secy Gates is sweating bullets right about now. If Bahrain were to fall, we’d have to find a new place to park our ships!

    • February 17, 2011 2:51 pm

      Their king is barbaric. Unfortunately, his oppression includes giving the choice jobs to Sunnis, including in armed forces, and he imports many of those Sunnis from other nearby countries. So I am not optimistic the armed forces will feel any allegiance to the Bahraini people (70% Shia). Not only are the majority of the armed forces Sunni while the people they are brutalizing are Shia, but many of these policemen and army men are not even Bahraini. They’re immigrants or temporary residents working for a paycheck.

  2. February 17, 2011 2:54 pm

    From Juan Cole:

    The differences between Bahrain on the one hand and Tunisia & Egypt on the other are legion. But the strong ethnic and sectarian divide between the minority Sunni king and the majority Shiite population is key here. The military that crushed the mostly Shiite protesters on Thursday morning is Sunni. The secret police are Sunni (and sometimes even expatriate Pakistanis & etc.) If the Shiites got what they wanted, i.e. more democracy and a weaker monarchy, then the interests of the Sunni ruling class would be profoundly endangered.

    In Bahrain’s case, the interest of the Saudi state in backing the Sunni monarchy, and fear that the Shiites would favor Iran, complicates the story regionally. Saudi Arabia is very wealthy and very nearby (a causeway connects the main island of Bahrain to the Saudi mainland, across which Saudi expatriates come in, and act as a support for the king against his own Shiite population).

    Tunisia and Egypt are much more unified populations, mostly Sunni and Arab. The military in neither place was afraid that if the strong man was overthrown, some alien ethno-sectarian group might take over that would imperil the prerogatives of the existing Establishment. Nor were there big regional geopolitical divides, though of course the far rightwing Likud government of Israel preferred that Mubarak remain as strong man. It was not powerful in Egypt, however, while Saudi Arabia is powerful in Bahrain…

  3. February 17, 2011 3:50 pm

    OT: While Congress and state and local governments are forced to cut needed public services due to budget shortfalls, due in large part to the greed and fraud of the Wall Street banksters, the Afghan War will cost up to 350 million dollars a day in 2012. Perhaps if the US weren’t in a permanent state of war and perhaps if we could significantly cut unnecessary defense spending (think of all the fraud and abuse with private contractors), middle America wouldn’t have to be screwed over:

    While more Americans drop below federal poverty level we are building an embassy larger than Vatican City in Iraq and “rebuilding” Afghanistan. Here in Boston they are closing schools in the inner city which of course will impact mostly poor people. But we are funneling billions of taxpayer dollars to the corrupt govt in Afghanistan- why? CIA Director Panetta admitted there were hardly any Al Qaeda there. Unbelievable.

    Oh, and Israel has experienced a huge growth in GDP but we are going to increase our “aid” to them?!? We shouldn’t cut it off completely but we should decrease it but for some reason in a country with a free press we can’t even discuss it. If middle America is going to be forced to suffer economically with drastic cuts, why doesn’t a foreign govt also have to during a time of US financial crisis? Somebody’s priorities are totally f*cked up.

    We seem to care more about making war and pandering to certain allies than ensuring our young people get the education they need to keep America competitive in the world. We also seem more interested in protecting the Wall Street elites who played a huge role in creating the economic crisis and yet not a single one of them has been punished (except Madoff, but that’s a different issue). That says a lot about what kind of nation we are.

    • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
      February 18, 2011 6:38 am

      If Hillary doesn’t run in 2016, my vote’s with stacy.

      • February 18, 2011 10:01 am

        Thanks for the vote of confidence! But you have to realize with my views and, uh, personal life, I’d have about as much chance of getting elected as, say, Scooter would. And then when people heard my views I’d be labeled a socialist or worse. 🙂

        • Thain permalink
          February 18, 2011 12:53 pm

          I’d vote for you.

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