Clashes and tear gas at Jabreya school

Jabreya boys secondary school, located about a kilometre from the capital Manama, is once again the site of violence. On Tuesday, dramatic scenes unfolded as the school was attacked by police firing tear gas against students who were protesting the arrest of a fellow student the day before. Today, protests resumed. An Al Jazeera correspondent reports:

Students have barricaded themselves in, we could see smoke from burning tyres and I’ve seen pictures of tear gas outside classrooms. We’re hearing reports that two students are injured. They are protesting because a fellow student was removed from the school last week by plain clothes police. He is still in custody. This has died down and now we are seeing sporadic clashes with police and protesters.

Photojournalist Mazen Mahdi tried to cover the unfolding events, but authorities prevented him. About 10:30 local time Mazen tweeted:

Police kicking me out from the protest near the school in Manama claiming without police media ID journalist can’t work

Half an hour earlier, Said Yousif Almuhafda, head of monitoring at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, tweeted this picture of tear gas being used against the students, sent to him from inside the school:

Jabreya_School_21-4-2013_teargas

Other photographs from inside the school have been posted online by the “Sanabis Revolutionary Movement”.

Said Yousif later drove towards the location of the school and reported that he could see “riot police blocking the road” leading to the school, and a helicopter hovering above it. He took this picture of the police outside:

Jabreya_School_21-4-2013_police

Shortly before midday, local time, one activist, Maryam, tweeted an eyewitness account:

I’m now next to AlJabriya school. Gun shots are being heard non stop. Mercenaries are aiming directly at students while shooting. Toxic gas canisters all around AlJabriya school area. AlJabriya’s school campus is more like a war-zone!

Students are out from the entrance next to the public garden standing at a close range with mercenaries. As we stood next to AlJabriya school, a man was documenting the attack, mercenaries asked him to hand his phone over to them. Mercenaries asked us to leave telling us that the situation is stable & everything is under control! Yet,we can still hear gunshots.

The officer asked who seemed to be the school doorman if he could recognize any of the guys who started the protest earlier this morning. The doorman replied he couldn’t recognize any of them as their faces were covered. The officer replied, “you expect me to believe this?! You’re telling me you cannot recognize not even one of them?” After that, we were asked to leave that area as the officer told us everything was under control and our stand was unnecessary.

This picture, taken by students, reportedly shows the tear gas cannisters collected by students following the police attack:

Jabreya_School_21-4-2013_teargas1These cannisters are most likely South Korean in origin. Another picture reportedly from the school shows a tear gas cannister manufactured by US firm NonLethal Technologies. A cannister from this company was also identified in Sanabis yesterday.

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Media roundup – F1 criticised, police attack school, protests

With the race just days away, international media is now turning the spotlight on Bahrain. Many journalists have arrived in the country and – to date – there have been no reports of people being denied access to Bahrain unlike last year. Below is a roundup of the various stories from the past 24 hours:

Independent_TheWorld_17-4-2013The front page of British paper The Independent‘s World section led with Bahrain and the attack on Jabreya boys high school by police yesterday. The wide ranging article by Loveday Morris also included a comment by Bahraini activist Sayed Ahmed, currently in exile in the UK having been arrested, jailed and tortured in 2011:

The street are clear, they don’t want a race on their blood. The security being used is enormous – it’s simply martial law which has not been announced.

The BBC also ran an article leading on the school attack, along with an analysis by correspondent Bill Law on the “background to the protests”. The Metro ran a similar guide on “Why the controversy?”

Many media organisations, including The Independent, covered yesterday’s press conference at the House of Lords, where the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain announced that they had written to F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone asking him to cancel the race:

BBC SportBahrain Grand Prix: MPs want race cancelled because of unrest

Daily Mail – Ecclestone under pressure from MPs to cancel Bahrain race after letter condemning ‘atrocious human rights violations’

Evening StandardMPs insist Bernie Ecclestone axes Bahrain race

Others organisations led on the recent comments by Bernie Ecclestone:

ReutersEcclestone willing to meet Bahrain opposition

BBC SportBahrain Grand Prix: Bernie Ecclestone backs race to go ahead

Daily TelegraphBahrain protesters are just like those ‘complaining about Mrs Thatcher’, says F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone

The Guardian had an article on FIA President Jean Todt’s decision not to attend the Bahrain Grand Prix as he “will be busy electioneering because his four-year stint in office comes to an end this autumn”. The article adds that “he is expected to be re-elected unopposed.”

Other articles led on the growing protests and tensions:

Voice of AmericaBahrain Protests Heat Up Ahead of F1 Race

ReutersBahrain opposition calls for stepped up protests ahead of F1

Daily TelegraphBahrain on edge ahead of Formula One race

The Daily Telegraph’s Chief Foreign Correspondent David Blair also ran a piece in the wake of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishing its annual human rights report. He writes:

The Foreign Office launched its annual human rights report today, singling out 27 “countries of concern”. But how are these offenders chosen? William Hague was at pains to say that the criteria have been reviewed since last year, although the only change is that Chad has dropped off the list. Meanwhile, various oddities remain.

(…)

Another curiosity is Bahrain. Once again, a case study on page 48 is deeply critical, quoting how a commission “observed that the use of torture by the security forces was a deep-rooted problem and that there was a lack of accountability for such acts”. The government of Bahrain responded by setting up a “Special Investigations Unit”, but the “number of officials being investigated is low, and actual convictions even lower”.

You would think those would be grounds for concern. So does Bahrain make the list? No it doesn’t.

See also the Media Roundup compiled by the Bahrain Justice and Development Movement for April 16th