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Police Chief TImoney, Meet Bahraini Mothers

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/21-7 Tuesday, February 21, 2012 by Common
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 22, 2012
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Tuesday, February 21, 2012 by Common Dreams
      Police Chief Timoney, Meet Bahraini Mothers
      by Medea Benjamin

      John Timoney is the controversial former Miami police chief well known
      for orchestrating brutal crackdowns on protests in Miami and
      Philadelphia- instances with rampant police abuse, violence, and blatant
      disregard for freedom of expression. It should be of great concern that
      the Kingdom of Bahrain has brought Timoney and John Yates, former
      assistant commissioner of Britain's Metropolitan Police, to “reform”
      Bahrain’s security forces. [A Bahraini anti-government protester argues
      with riot policemen. (AP)] A Bahraini anti-government protester argues
      with riot policemen. (AP)

      Since assuming his new position, Timoney has claimed that Bahrain has
      been reforming it brutal police tactics in response to recommendations
      issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. He says that
      there is less tear gas being used and that while tear gas might be
      “distasteful,” it’s not really harmful.

      I have no idea what country Chief Timoney is talking about, because it’s
      certainly not the Bahrain I saw this past week, a week that marked the
      one-year anniversary since the February 14, 2011 uprising.

      I was in Bahrain for five days before being deported for joining a
      peaceful women’s march. During my stay, I accompanied local human rights
      activists to the villages where protests were raging and police cracking
      down. Every day, I inhaled a potent dose of tear gas, and came close to
      being hit in the head with tear gas canisters. Every evening I saw the
      fireworks and smelled the noxious fumes as hundreds of tear gas
      canisters were lobbed into the village of Bani Jamrah, next door to
      where I was staying. The villagers would get on their roofs yelling
      “Down, Down Hamad” (referring to the King). In exchange, as a form of
      collective punishment, the whole village would be doused in tear gas. I
      went to bed coughing, eyes burning, wondering how in the world the
      Bahrainis can stand this.

      Tear gas is supposed to be used to disperse violent gatherings that pose
      a threat to law and order. It is not supposed to be used on unarmed
      protesters who are simply exercising their freedoms of expression and

      “Shamefully, Bahrain has the highest tear gas use, per capita, in the
      world,” said human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. “And the police don’t
      just shoot outside to disperse crowds. They use the tear gas canisters
      as weapons, shooting them directly at people. And they shoot the gas
      right into people’s houses. If Mr. Timoney thinks the use of tear gas
      here is ‘moderate,’ he has obviously not spent many evenings in Bahraini

      Timoney also told reporters that there is no evidence that tear gas has
      killed anyone. He should meet Zahra Ali, the mother of Yassin Jassim Al

      On November 19, 2011, riot police—running around the village of Ma'ameer
      searching for a few people chanting anti-government slogans—fired three
      tear gas canisters directly into her home.

      Everyone in the family started choking, especially 13-year-old Yassin,
      who suffered from asthma. Yassin could barely breathe. Panicking, his
      parents called an ambulance. “I’m dying from the tear gas, I’m dying,”
      Yassin cried on the way to the hospital. He struggled desperately to
      survive for the next 29 days before his lungs simply collapsed.

      Zahra lovingly showed me photos of Yassin donning a party hat,
      celebrating his 14th birthday in the hospital a few days before he died.
      “All the doctors and nurses loved him—Sunni, Shia, everyone. They even
      came here for his funeral,” she said proudly.

      I asked Zafra if she had a message about the tear gas for Police Chief
      Timoney. “Just ask him if he has ever lost a child,” she whispered.

      Timoney should also meet the parents of 14-year-old Ali Jawad al-Sheik.
      He did not die from inhalation. No. He was killed on August 31, 2011,
      when the police fired tear gas at protesters from roughly 20 feet away.
      A canister busted open the young boy’s face. To his parent’s furor, the
      autopsy said the cause of death was “unknown.”

      The same thing happened exactly four months later to 15-year-old Sayyed
      Hashem Saeed. The police then used tear gas to disperse mourners at
      Sayyed’s funeral.

      Faisal Abdali, a businessman who lives at the entrance of Sitra, would
      also love to speak to the police chief. He is hopping mad and wants some
      justice and accountability.

      For months now, as the police enter the village of Sitra, they have been
      tossing tear gas directly into his house. Every time he lodged a
      complaint, the house would be targeted even worse the next day.

      Faisal had taped up all the windows and sealed the air conditioners to
      keep the gasses out. On January 27, 2012 the police shot tear gas inside
      the garage. When Faisal’s wife opened the garage door, the gasses filled
      the house. Everyone felt sick, especially Faisal’s father—a healthy
      58-year-old. He started vomiting, and went to bed early in the hopes
      that he would feel better the next day. When Faisal opened his father’s
      bedroom door the next morning, he found him lying on the floor. Five
      days later, he was dead. The doctor said he died from tear gas but he
      was not allowed to put that on his death certificate.

      Faisal showed me about ten of the canisters that had been thrown into
      his house. Three of them came from Combined Systems in Jamestown,
      Pennsylvania and three from factories in Brazil. The rest had no
      markings at all. Faisal thought that the unmarked ones were the most toxic.

      A Bahraini doctor told Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) about the
      different types of gas she found in the villages. “[There was] a white
      gas and a yellow one, but I also saw a third gas of a blue color from a
      distance. The gas felt like a poison, like a thousand knives and needles
      all over your body; what kind of tear gas is supposed to affect people
      this way? I have seen tear gas patients who are in a state of convulsion
      that never ends, like a prolonged seizure.”

      Other Bahraini doctors have noted that the symptoms of the tear gas are
      unusual. When they asked the Ministry of Health to run tests on the gas
      canisters, their requests were denied.

      Since the long-term effects of prolonged and repeated exposure to tear
      gas has never been studied, physicians and environmentalists in Bahrain
      have begun to worry about the impact that repeated exposure to these
      chemicals may have on the general population.

      On January 26, 2012, Amnesty International called on Bahrain to
      investigate 13 deaths that followed the misuse of tear gas by security
      forces. At least three of those deaths occurred after Timoney was hired.

      Environmentalist Moh’d Jawad Fursan told me that there are no accurate
      records of how many people have died from the tear gas, since doctors
      are not allowed to report this as the cause of death. He thinks more
      than 13 people have died and thousands have been affected, particularly
      the young and the elderly. Fursan says the rates of miscarriages and
      stillborn babies have increased, and he expects the rates of cancer will
      soar, as well as babies born with deformities.

      The day before I was deported from Bahrain, I visited the home of a poor
      extended family where 44 people lived in an open-air complex. They had
      one tiny, windowless room that was covered; they called this the “safe
      room” for the little children. The day I visited, there was a nursing
      mother of a 2-week-old child, another baby and a two year old. This
      “safe room,” just like the open space around it, reeked of tear gas.
      “The babies cry, their eyes are all red and swollen, they get skin
      rashes, but what can we do?”, sighed the young mother. “We have no way
      to protect our children. We have nowhere to hide.”

      Mr. Timoney, I suggest you take another tour of Bahrain, led not by
      government minders but by women from the villages. (Make sure you bring
      along a gas mask.) I also suggest you donate the blood money you’re
      taking from the Bahraini government to a fund for the tear gas victims.
      Medea Benjamin

      Medea Benjamin (medea@...) is cofounder of Global
      Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace
      (www.codepinkalert.org). She is author of Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A
      Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.

      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
      in charge on this island?
      Professor: Why, no one.
      Skipper: No one?
      Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
      -- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"
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