When Citizens for Bahrain asked a cross-section of people what they thought of the death sentence penalties for three individuals convicted of killing three policemen in March 2014, there were several unsurprisingly strong responses.
While many loyalists strongly supported the sentences for those convicted of murder and terrorism; and opposition sympathisers cast doubt on the sentences; there were also many more thoughtful responses which considered the impact of the rare usage of the death penalty for Bahraini society.
“The law will be implemented from now on”
“Bahrain has finally proven that terrorists get what they deserve. People who were convicted for killing others in the events of 1990s were later pardoned by the King in a show of good faith towards starting a new page in 2001. However, terrorists are terrorists and they should be punished;” said Khalid, age 42, from Riffa.
“It is truly disturbing to see policemen being killed and young men being executed. We are certainly not used to seeing this in our country. This is a result of the spread of extremist behaviour in certain communities and we should all speak up against extremism and try to solve the issue;” said Fatima, age 34, from Sanad.
“Violent youth continuously attack policemen while targeting their lives. This has been going on for a very long time and it continues due to the lack of harsh punishment. Bahrainis need to understand that the law will be implemented from now on and that terrorism is unacceptable;” said Sara, age 28, from Hamad Town.
“This is not a part of our culture”
“These men are misguided and brainwashed and do deserve a rehabilitation of some form. The consequences of executing people in a country that is not used to this are dangerous. This is not a part of our culture to execute people, and this might promote the idea of martyrdom within certain communities where young men do not fear death and hence can lead to greater problems;” said Mona, age 30, from Saar.
“The government should have a plan to minimise the number of violent and radical youth, we fear our future. We should acknowledge the role of each and every policeman in protecting the lives of citizens and the government should take the necessary steps to protect their lives as they are carrying out their duties;” said Abdullah, age 31, from Muharraq.
“These men are criminals and not martyrs, I’ve heard some people say that they were wrongly accused and executed. This is truly insensible as it does not serve the government or the nation if these people were wrongly accused. I do disagree with many government policies however I believe the government would not benefit from making such a move if it were not true;” said Ali, age 30, from Riffa.
Prisoner of conscience allegation – “too easy”
“We should look at these three men as youth who have been exploited and radicalised for political and religious gains. There are many other youth who are born into a culture of hatred and anger and hence could be easily lured into carrying out violent activities. The civil society and government should find ways of addressing the issue of radicalisation to avoid such incidents;” said Mariam, age 29, from Saar.
“This is a matter of implementing the law, these men were convicted, proven guilty, sentence to death and their sentences were carried out. This is the case in any civil state that follows international norms, the only issue is that Bahrainis are not used to this, but they have to. Justice is a main pillar of modernisation and democracy;” said Ahmed, age 35, from Manama.
“It is wrong for human rights organisations such as Amnesty to start from this presumption that the defendants must be innocent; particularly given that in this case the prosecution rested on DNA, fingerprints, witness testimonies and other forensic details. It is too easy for these organisations to throw out the ‘false testimony’ and ‘prisoner of conscience’ allegation at everybody who is sentenced;” said Dalal, age 30, from Isa Town.
“It has taken us a while to mend the wounds”
“I support the death sentences being carried out but my only fear was the reaction on the streets as they were quiet frightening at start. People were rioting and burning tyres excessively in our part of town. However I’ve noticed that this was an instant reaction and things have calmed down;” said Aisha, age 27, from Saar.
“Sectarian tensions seem to be on the rise during the past week and we do not want to go back to the period of sectarian divide that followed the 2011 unrest. It has taken us a while to mend the wounds and move on. These incidents unfortunately cause a rise in tensions whether we like it or not;” said Mohammed, age 28, from Muharraq.
“We don’t issue statements every week condemning other countries for using the death penalty against murderers. Why does everybody feel they have a license to comment about everything that happens in Bahrain. They killed people and received the proper punishment.” said Salman, age 29, from Muharraq.
“I hope we could do more to protect young men from being radicalised”
“We in Bahrain are not used to the death penalty being used; so this is a shocking wake up call. I also think that not enough people are reading about these issues and understanding how much Iran has been interfering in Bahrain and other states. When terrorists can attack our main prison with AK-47s and free their terrorist friends – this is not a normal situation;” said Rasha, age 36, from Aali.
“The executions are disturbing on so many levels. I see them as three misguided men who killed three innocent policemen. It’s very difficult for some of us as we’re not used to this level of violence and hate. I pray for my country and I hope we could do more to protect young men from being radicalised and policemen from being killed;” said Hala, age 40, from Budaiya.