“The problem with the opposition’s statistics, is that they are not only highly misleading; but that they fail to differentiate between legitimate protests; rioting and violence and incidences of outright terrorism.”

Over the past three years, NGOs and media organs around the world have given a lot of attention to statistics generated by the Bahraini opposition into alleged human rights “violations”. Organizations like Physicians for Human Rights have published entire reports based on statistics from groups like Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Iranian media outlets.

The leading opposition party, Al-Wefaq Islamic Society, has just published their data on Bahraini Government “violations” for the month of February 2014; so let’s take the opportunity to have a look at these statistics and what they show us.

We are presented with a graph that is something of a mess of information: Numbers of “detainees released” are placed alongside incidences of “collective punishment” and the number of “martyrs”.


Starting with the “martyrs”, we find that there are two. Mohammed al-Durazi who was transferred to hospital and died of complications related to sickle cell disorder; and 52-year old Asma Hussein, who in Al-Wefaq’s words, died of “consternation and terror” after police raids in the vicinity of her home. One could argue that these cases stretch the concept of “martyr” beyond reasonable limits.

Despite the fact that this report covers a period during which policemen were killed by explosive devices and substantial supplies of weapons smuggled in from Iran had been impounded, Al-Wefaq also cites all the incidences of arrests that month as “violations”, noting that a single woman was detained and 73 people were also released.

However, one of the more surprising statistics was the figure of 769 protests for that month. This is a rate of around 200 “protests” per week. Given that significant protests mainly only happen at the weekends and there are only around 20 locations where incidents of rioting are frequent (remember that Bahrain is only about 10 miles from one side to the other!), this statistic is impossible.

February 14 marks the anniversary of the 2011 unrest; so February is always a high point for protest activity. However, there were only a small number of significant organized protests. This shows that at the very least, Al-Wefaq is also recording all incidents of rioting, vandalism and attacks on police as “protests”. Even then, they would struggle to come to the total of 200 per week.

They also log 472 incidences of “collective punishment” for February. Given that we have no idea what they mean by this, it is difficult to comment. However, presumably this somehow corresponds with every time the police get called out for incidences of rioting.

For example, police are called in to control a group of teenagers burning tires and tossing Molotov cocktails in their village neighborhood. Police will first use tear gas to disperse the group of violent youths and later apprehend and arrest them at their homes if they are able to pursue and identify the individuals involved.

Al Wefaq will then proceed to report the occurrence of a “peaceful protest”, several cases “home raids” and “arbitrary arrests” as well as one incident of “collective punishment” for the tear gas used to disperse vandals and rioters. These intentionally misleading statistics will then be used to produce their crooked reports.   

So there are several things we can conclude from this.

Firstly; it would appear that the opposition are grossly inflating some of their statistics; perhaps increasing them tenfold; in order to give a skewed account of what is happening in Bahrain.

Secondly, by conflating “peaceful protests” with incidences of rioting, attacks on police, vandalism and even terrorism, it would seem that the mainstream opposition sees all these acts in the same category and all broadly legitimate.

Thirdly; while Al-Wefaq rightly condemned the killing of three policemen last month; their statistics still regard all police actions to counter such activities as “violations”. The opposition must recognize that the police have a right to arrest someone suspected of murder, attempted murder, use of petrol-bombs and explosive devices and destruction of property. By failing to do so the opposition are aligning themselves with terrorists and condoning acts of terrorism.

To quote an alternative set of statistics; police had to deal with 101 explosive devices placed in public locations around Bahrain during 2013.

Meanwhile, a report recently released by the Human Rights Affairs Ministry revealed police seized a total of 154,816 weapons from violent anti-government groups and 35,914 Molotov cocktails from 2011 to the end of last year. The report cited 11,195 acts of arson, 25,725 attacks on police; 2,080 injuries to policemen; 2,298 incidents of damage to public and private property and 14,205 blocking of roads in the same period.

Each one of us can decide for ourselves whether a particular set of statistics are credible. The statistics above from the Bahraini authorities at least have the benefit of being in the same ballpark as information covered in the media throughout that period.

The problem with the opposition’s statistics, is that they are not only highly misleading; but that they fail to differentiate between legitimate protests; rioting and violence and incidences of outright terrorism.

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