Dr. Gearóid Ó Cuinn of Lancaster Law School paints a terrifying picture of Bahrain drowning in “torrents” of tear gas. He gives the impression that scores of Bahrainis are dropping dead from sickle cell disorder and tear gas-related causes. Fortunately for Bahrain (and unfortunately for his thesis) this picture has no truth whatsoever.
Over the whole of last year, official opposition sources like Al-Wefaq and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights have only claimed one death resulting from tear gas.
The only death over this period attributed to sickle cell causes, Dr. O Cuinn goes on to dispute; preferring to advocate the opposition’s unfounded claims of torture.
Not all incidents are a matter for dispute. The Bahraini authorities chose to accept the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report in full; including evidence of incidences of torture. However, Dr. O Cuinn fails to make clear that these incidents go back to early 2011.
In contradiction to his claim that citing sickle cell as a cause of death has become a “catch all explanation” for suspicious deaths; Dr. O Cuinn can only cite three incidences where this possibly could have occurred. The available data – including statistics from opposition sources – provides little to suggest a wider incidence of such cases. Moreover, as we have seen; he confuses the issue by both suggesting an epidemic of sickle-cell deaths and simultaneously alleging that these deaths weren’t due to sickle cell disorder at all.
Citizens for Bahrain data (see here and here) has shown that the opposition has consistently misrepresented its statistics to create a false impression about the real death toll; when in reality only five to six people have died during confrontations with the police over the past two years – police fatalities during this period has been significantly higher. The number of deaths opposition sources have attributed to tear gas, sickle cell and other causes has also dwindled away to very low figures for this period.
The end of the article finally introduces the issue that the author seeks to have an influence on: “The suitability of Bahrain’s hospitals for the clinical training of students will soon be examined by the Irish Medical Council when they visit the Kingdom later this year”. Dr. O Cuinn clearly wants to convince the Irish authorities not to continue accrediting Bahraini students.
As we can see; the evidence supporting Dr O Cuinn’s case is flimsy to non-existent. It would be a great tragedy if Bahraini students were the ones to suffer as a result of misinformation and scare-mongering.