Noon, February 18, 2011, at the
Blood Runs Through the Streets of Bahrain
As a reporter, you sometimes become numbed to sadness. But it is heartbreaking to be in modern, moderate
This kind of brutal repression is normally confined to remote and backward nations, but this is
To be here and see corpses of protesters with gunshot wounds, to hear an eyewitness account of an execution of a handcuffed protester, to interview paramedics who say they were beaten for trying to treat the injured — yes, all that just breaks my heart.
So here’s what happened.
The pro-democracy movement has bubbled for decades in
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa initially pulled the police back, but early on Thursday morning he sent in the riot police, who went in with guns blazing.
I was not there at the time of the attack, but afterward, at the main hospital (one of at least three to receive casualties), I saw the effects. More than 600 people were treated with injuries, overwhelmingly men but including small numbers of women and children.
One nurse told me that she was on the roundabout, known as
I met one doctor, Sadiq al-Ekri, who was lying in a hospital bed with a broken nose and injuries to his eyes and almost his entire body. He couldn’t speak to me because he was still unconscious and on oxygen after what colleagues and his family described as a savage beating by riot police who were outraged that he was treating people at the roundabout.
Dr. Ekri, a distinguished plastic surgeon, had just returned from a trip to
“He went to help people,” said his father, who was at the bedside. “It’s his duty to help people. And then this happened.”
Three ambulance drivers or paramedics told me that they had been pulled out of their ambulances and beaten by the police. One, Jameel, whose head was bandaged and his arm was in a cast, told me that police had clubbed him and that a senior officer had then told him
A fourth ambulance driver, Osama, was unhurt but said that a military officer — who he said he believed to be a Saudi, based on his accent in Arabic — held a gun to his head and warned him to drive away or be shot. (By many accounts, Saudi tanks and other military forces participated in the attack, but I can’t verify that).
The hospital staff told me that ambulance service has now been frozen, with no ambulances going out on calls except with approval of the Interior Ministry.
Some of the victims, though not all, said that the riot police shouted anti-Shiite curses when they attacked the protesters, who were overwhelmingly Shiite. Sectarianism is particularly delicate in
Hospital corridors were also full of frantic mothers searching desperately for children who had gone missing in the attack.
In the hospital mortuary, I found three corpses with gunshot wounds. One man had much of his head blown off with what mortuary staff said was a gunshot wound. Ahmed Abutaki, a 29-year-old laborer, stood by the body of his 22-year-old brother, Mahmood, who died of a shotgun blast.
Ahmed said he blamed King Hamad, and many other protesters at the hospital were also demanding the ouster of the king. I think he has a point. When a king opens fire on his people, he no longer deserves to be ruler. That might be the only way to purge this land of ineffable heartbreak.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs