18th Feb, 2013 –
Opposition militants called for civil disobedience on the 14 February anniversary of the 2011 Bahrain unrest. They blocked roads with burning tyres and garbage to prevent people from leaving their homes. In many areas they put nails in the road causing additional problems for drivers. This led to clashes with the police.
The Minister of Interior reported that the violence resulted in the death of two people and injuring 75 police officers, with considerable damage to property.
Death of a protester
A 16-year-old protester Hussain Al-Jazeeri died, reportedly as a result of birdshot gun used by police forces. This youth who should have been in school was one of hundreds of minors incited into street violence by the opposition.
Throughout the 14 February weekend the opposition-exploited news of this boy’s “martyrdom” to further inflame the situation and his funeral became a major flashpoint for further rioting.
Death of a policeman
Twenty-three old Policeman Mohammed Asif Khan died after being attacked by protesters carrying Molotov cocktails and steel rods. Mr. Khan was one of five policemen who were attacked while securing roads and trying to maintain order. Three people were later arrested and are being investigated for killing the policeman and attacking others.
The Minister of Interior announced the discovery of a “terror cell” trained by Iran in the use of explosive devices and other weapons. He stated, ” The dramatic change in the range of weapons used includes metal spears, Molotov cocktail bombs, and live ammunition against police”.
King Fahad Causeway bomb
A 2-kg bomb was defused by the authorities at the King Fahad Causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Al Wefaq’s Position
Al- Wefaq has not taken responsibility for the civil disobedience. However, they have officially condoned the rioting, which they contextualize as the right to freedom of expression. Former Al-Wefaq MP Ali Al-Aswad said on BBC Arabic that people would “not leave the streets unless their democratic demands are met.
Coalition of Sunni societies
The coalition of Sunni-led societies taking part in the dialogue have called on a meeting to study the possibility of withdrawing from the dialogue due to the opposition’s use of violence on the streets.
The National Unity Gathering that first gathered Bahraini loyalists in Al-Fateh in February and March 2011 at the peak of the unrest, has called on a gathering next week. The NUG issued a statement condemning violence.
Isa Qassim’s support for protesters
Leading Shia cleric Ayatollah Isa Qassim announced his support for the protests in a statement circulated by Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society. Isa Qassim urged the protesters to “remain united and not become separated”. He added: “the goal is to achieve the rights of the Bahrain people and people will resolutely continue the path towards freedom”.
This arguably demonstrated Al-Wefaq’s direct support for riots and violence as a strategy to strengthen their negotiating position in the dialogue.
Minister of Justice statement on National Dialogue
The Minister of Justice stated on 15 February that the Government would not allow the violence to influence the decisions taken by the dialogue participants.