Direct targeting of the head and eye is the price of demanding legitimate rights

Injured protesters deprived from medical care and arrested from health centers

29 Oct 2011

In an attempt to crush pro-democracy protests the Bahraini regime has used brutal force against peaceful protesters. Government forces use different weapons like birdshot gun, tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets in their attacks. At the beginning of the crackdown even live bullets were shot by the army at protesters in the pearl square and in their villages. Although live bullets are not being used often in recent months, the use of other weapons with direct aim at protesters has lead to countless injuries and even killed protesters.

For months, and almost on a daily basis, Bahrainis have been protesting and still continue to protest in their villages demanding rights and representation. As often as there are protests there usually are attacks by the riot police on those villages. It is worrying that while the protests are mainly peaceful, with children women and elderly taken part, they are attacked violently. Moreover, often riot police aim directly at protesters specifically at the chest and head area. The wounds on protesters speak for themselves, especially the countless eye injuries which have lead to many protesters losing their eyes.

The first eye injury in the Bahraini uprising was on the first day of the protests, February 14th. The only thing Mohammed Yusuf Abu-Saada was carrying when he was shot in his eye, was a Bahraini flag, as he participated in a peaceful protest in his village. Yet the riot police did not hesitate to shoot directly at him. He got hit in his right eye, even after being injured riot police attacked Mohammed and kicked him in the head until other protesters pulled him away. The other protesters used the same flag Mohammed had carried to cover his eye to try and stop the bleeding. The hospital report states that "patient was involved in demonstrations where he was assaulted with bullet injury to his right eye and was betaen and kicked on the right side of face by police". Other victims would not get reports like this after the government took over Salmaniya hospital and detained many doctors and medics.

Mohammed Yusuf Abu-Saada, 1st Bahraini to lose his eye in the pro-democracy protests

For months after losing his eye Mohammed was in hiding, and sleeping at a different house every night, fearing arrest. He told us "I knew my injury would make me a target, wearing an eye patch would definitely get me arrested", as in the case of Jaffar Salman.

Jaffar Salman, has been injured on 15 March 2011 and detained then sentenced in unfair military trial and denied treatment. Jaffar lost both his eyes after being shot with birdshot gun at close range by riot police. Because the Bahraini regime targets injured protesters he was detained when he was taken to Salmaniya hospital. He was then taken to one trial, without the presence of his family or a lawyer, and without giving him the chance to speak, he was sentenced to two years in prison. Jaffar is currently detained at Jaw prison. His family has not visited him in months because he told them he gets tortured and humiliated before and after every visit. His family say that when they did visit him, his 4 year old twins were not allowed to have any physical contact with their father. In most recent phone call Jaffar told his wife that he is not getting treatment for his eyes and that he worries as their condition gets much worse.

(Left) Jaffar Salman with his 4yr old twins before his injury (middle) Jaffar after being shot with birdshot in the face (Right) Jaffar was in this condition when police arrested him from Salmaniya hospital

One of the most well documented and horrifying cases of eye injury is that of Abbas Abdulla Mushaima from Daih village, who was shot by riot police at a very close range. The incident was caught on video. As is evident from the video the victim was shot several times at a very close range and he lost his eye as a result.

Shooting Abdulla Mushaima from a very close range

Young Ali Al-Gattan from Nabi Saleh went out to protest with a few other boys, when without warning the riot police started shooting at them. Ali was rushed to hospital as soon as he was hit with a stun grenade in his eye. However, instead of getting treated he was surrounded by police who interrogated and insulted him. The police did not allow doctors and nurses to enter the room Ali was in until the next day and only after being pressured. By the time Ali could have an operation doctors told him they could not save his eye, and that they might have been able to if they operated on him earlier. Ali still needs treatment and needs to travel abroad to get a glass eye, however until today he has not been able to travel out of the country, and has been threatened with arrest by government employees.

While the majority of victims with eye injuries are men, there are also women and children with eye injuries.

Seham Ashoor Kadhem from Sanabis was hit with birdshot pellets in her eye on 16 Match 2011 when she was looking at the attack on protesters from her house. Like Ali she was subjected to insults and threats when she went to hospital. Seham describes what happened: "Police and soldiers came into the hospital and went inside the rooms, I saw them pointing their guns at the heads of injured protesters, the injured were screaming in pain and fear. That’s when the doctor told me to please try to leave the hospital for my own safety, he was crying as he said this to me"

Seham Ashoor Kadhum

Unfortunately, these attacks continue and the numbers of injuries in general and eye injuries specifically are increasing.

youngest and most recently injured: 7yr old Asma AbdulJalil

Asma AbdulJalil was with her mother in their car on a few days ago, when riot police shot at them. Asma's eye was injured from a piece of glass when a rubber bullet broke the car window. Because of internal bleeding, doctors are still unsure if they will be able to save her eye.

In only two days, on the 6th and 7th of October 2011, there were at least 5 eye injuries caused by riot police shooting at peaceful protesters. These protesters are between the ages of 15-25. Fearing for their safety these latest victims choose not to have their names in this report.

Eye injuries caused by riot police attacks on peaceful protest (6-7 Oct)

Although the regimes forces are responsible for these injuries the government has not made any effort to investigate into these crimes or to compensate the victims. Instead, some of the victims have been deprived medical care, threatened, interrogated and sometimes even arrested when taken to hospital. These attacks started since the crackdown and continue today, with the numbers of injured protesters increasing constantly.

The BCHR has documented more than 50 cases out of the hundreds of victims with eye injuries, and the information we received is very disturbing. Almost all these victims were protesting peacefully when protest were attacked by police, some ended up losing both or one of their eyes, and others with serious eye injuries. For every one of the documented cases there are tens who wish to remain anonymous out of fear of being targeted.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for an immediate stop to brutal attacks on peaceful protests, and specifically the direct targeting of protesters. The Center also calls the Bahraini regime to stop targeting injured protesters through medical facilities. All victims of riot police, including those with eye injuries, must be treated and compensated. Furthermore, there must be investigations into the attacks on peaceful protesters and those responsible must be brought to justice.

Because these attacks have been ongoing for more than 9 months and still continue, the BCHR calls on the international community and organizations to put pressure on the Bahraini regime to stop using such brutal force against pro-democracy protesters. We call on the US administration and other allies of the Bahraini government to take a stand against human rights abuses that continue in the country.

One of the injured protesters who lost his eye told us "when we demand our rights in Bahrain, the regime makes us cry blood instead of tears"

Bahraini protester bleeding from his eye after being injured by riot police

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