Viewing cable 06MANAMA476
Title: SMALL-SCALE VIOLENT CLASHES CONTINUE TO ROIL

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06MANAMA4762006-03-22 14:54:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manama
VZCZCXRO8128
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FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4278
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 1202
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 0627
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 0782
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 1146
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0941
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0865
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 3549
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 2606
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAMA 000476 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/21/2016 
TAGS: PGOV ASEC BA POL REFORM
SUBJECT: SMALL-SCALE VIOLENT CLASHES CONTINUE TO ROIL 
BAHRAIN'S SHIA VILLAGES 
 
REF: A. MANAMA 0264 
 
     ¶B. MANAMA 0184 
 
Classified by DCM Susan L. Ziadeh for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
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Summary 
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¶1.  (C) Following the March 10 violent protest at Dana Mall, 
small bands of masked youth have clashed with security forces 
in scattered, sporadic confrontations.  The incidents 
typically begin with young men burning tires or trash 
dumpsters on the edge of a village, and throwing Molotov 
cocktails at police vehicles when the security forces arrive. 
 Police routinely employ tear gas to disperse the protesters. 
 Villagers caught in the middle have demanded that the youth 
stop provoking the police as small children, the sick and 
elderly are harmed by the gas.  An Al Wifaq leader said the 
breakaway hard line Shia Haq Movement has the power to stop 
the clashes, but its leaders have been silent.  In the 
competition between Al Wifaq and Haq Movement for support of 
the Shia community, it appears that Haq may have overreached 
and provoked a backlash that could damage its longer term 
support.  End Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
Scattered, Sporadic Confrontations Follow Mall Incident 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
¶2.  (U) Small-scale clashes pitting as few as 10 protesters 
against security forces continue to take place in a scattered 
fashion in Bahrain's northern and western band of Shia 
villages following a larger confrontation March 10 that 
spilled into a shopping mall located on the edge of a Manama 
area village.  On any given night, there may be only one or 
two incidents, or even none at all.  Some of the villages 
that have been sites of violence are Sanabis, Daih, Diraz, 
Bani Jamra, and Tashan.  Downtown Manama has been mostly 
quiet. 
 
¶3.  (U) The March 10 conflict occurred on the first of three 
days of Formula One racing in Bahrain, when thousands of 
foreigners were in the country.  A demonstration was 
organized in support of 19 youths serving one- and two-year 
sentences for their participation in a December 25 riot at 
Bahrain International Airport (reftels).  According to 
organizers from the hard line Shia Haq Movement, small groups 
of instigators in the demonstration provoked violent 
reactions from riot police.  The clashes spilled into the 
Dana Mall, located on the edge of Sanabis, with police and 
demonstrators fighting in shops, corridors, and the food 
court.  Outside the mall, rioters burned tires and threw 
stones and Molotov cocktails while police shot tear gas. 
There are unconfirmed reports of police using rubber bullets. 
 The police detained 23 suspects for illegal gathering, 
sabotage, and harassing police officers. 
 
----------------------------- 
Molotov Cocktails vs Tear Gas 
----------------------------- 
 
¶4.  (U) Since the Dana Mall incident, small groups of masked 
men have confronted police using similar tactics in different 
locations:  burning tires or trash dumpsters on the edge of a 
village and, when the police respond, throwing stones and 
Molotov cocktails.  The police routinely resort to tear gas 
to disperse the youths.  In one incident, fire from a burning 
car spread to an apartment building housing groups of South 
Asian laborers, an image reminiscent of the attacks aimed at 
foreign workers in the mid-1990s.  There have been no reports 
of arrests or injuries in the clashes.  Both the parliament 
and the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry issued 
statements condemning the violence and "sabotage" of public 
and private property. 
 
¶5.  (U) Arabic daily Al Wasat journalist Saeed Mohammed 
published reports March 19-20 based upon interviews with some 
of the youths involved in the confrontations.  Their ages 
range from 15 to 25, but the bulk were middle school or high 
school students.  Mohammed asked why they protested violently 
 
MANAMA 00000476  002 OF 003 
 
 
when they had the legal right to demonstrate and express 
their opinions peacefully.  One replied, "The government does 
not accept dialogue or any other approach."  He blamed the 
security forces for provoking violence.  Others said they 
were not rioting but "using force" to express their demands 
and reinstate their rights. 
 
------------------------------- 
Residents to Protesters:  Stop! 
------------------------------- 
 
¶6.  (U) Mohammed also reported that residents of some of the 
villages where the confrontations have taken place told him 
they were sick of the clashes and urged their fellow citizens 
to stop the instigators.  One man called on political 
leaders, religious scholars, and security officials to deal 
with the phenomenon of violence.  Some demanded that police 
stop using tear gas because residents are being punished for 
what others do. 
 
¶7.  (C) A businessman and landlord from Sanabis told the DCM 
March 18 that he and his fellow residents were organizing to 
stop young people from "terrorizing" the village.  The 
residents had posted signs in and around mosques and 
community centers with a message to the youth saying, "If you 
don't stop, we'll take care of you ourselves."  Repeated 
police use of tear gas was harming residents, including his 
three- and five-year old daughters, who he had to bring to 
the hospital because of vomiting and dizziness.  The 
businessman said there were 20-30 youths responsible for the 
violence in Sanabis and residents knew who they were. 
 
---------------- 
Clerics Weigh In 
---------------- 
 
¶8.  (U) In their Friday prayer sermons March 17, several 
clerics addressed the Dana Mall violence and subsequent 
incidents.  Shia Shaikh Issa Qassem said the political 
situation in Bahrain is suffering from a deterioration in 
security.  He attributed the situation to the government's 
refusal to engage seriously with the opposition on its 
concerns about the constitution.  He said the government had 
"closed the door of dialogue" and increased the gap between 
the people and government.  Sunni Shaikh Juma Tawfiq 
criticized the rioters and highlighted the importance of 
stability and security.  He reminded demonstrators that the 
government had tried to address their concerns on the family 
law, housing, and employment. 
 
¶9.  (U) Al Wifaq President Shaikh Ali Salman launched an 
attack on the instigators, calling them "self-serving 
opportunists."  "The acts of sabotage targeting public 
property invariably hurt the people who work in these 
facilities.  Whenever we engage in an activity, we must make 
sure that we convey the message we want others to hear.  Our 
activities must not result in harming others or destroying 
property."  According to a reporter, Salman's statement was a 
clear indication that Al Wifaq was disassociating itself from 
the provocateurs and the clashes. 
 
------------------------ 
Haq Movement Responsible 
------------------------ 
 
¶10.  (C) Al Wifaq Advisory Council member Nizar Al Qari told 
EmbOffs March 20 that the hard line Shia Haq Movement had 
created the conditions for the continuing clashes with 
police.  Haq was responsible for the Dana Mall protest and, 
while it did not call for continuing confrontations, its 
leaders had not said or signaled that the violence should 
stop.  This was enough for the young people to continue to 
fight.  He noted that Haq leader (and former Al Wifaq vice 
president) Hassan Mushaima and Ali Salman would meet that 
night to discuss the security situation.  This was the first 
formal meeting between the two organizations. 
 
¶11.  (C) Al Qari stated that while Al Wifaq was not involved 
in the protests or clashes, it would not "serve as a 
policeman for the government."  It was the government's 
responsibility to find a way to stop the incidents.  He said 
 
MANAMA 00000476  003 OF 003 
 
 
he almost wished a protester or police officer would be 
killed because then the King would have to get involved in a 
serious way.  "The King has been ignoring us," Al Qari said. 
 
¶12.  (C) Al Qari indicated villagers are getting fed up with 
the clashes.  Because of his position in Al Wifaq, women from 
his home village of Daih had approached his mother and asked 
her to organize a meeting with Ali Salman.  Al Qari said his 
mother is a simple, non-political woman, but that she and her 
friends were angry that their village was being used to 
launch attacks on the police. 
 
--------------------------- 
Time for Leaders to Step Up 
--------------------------- 
 
¶13.  (U) Press commentary has fallen along predictable lines, 
with Sunni columnists condemning the rioters and Shia 
accusing the government of ignoring their community's demands 
and complaining of excessive use of force by police.  Al 
Wasat Editor-in-Chief Mansour Al Jamry wrote March 19 that it 
was the residents of the villages who were paying the price 
of the actions oQa few young men.  "Some readerQcalled and 
others sent letters complaining about the situation in their 
villages, saying that their suffering is double because this 
time they are harmed by a group of unknown rioters from their 
areas and not by the government, and because leaders are 
scared to take a clear stance on the incidents."  In a 
separate March 18 column, he wrote, "I hope that those who 
appoint themselves leaders of the people realize that their 
silence is dangerous.  You are wrong for neglecting your 
responsibility." 
 
¶14.  (U) In a March 14 unsigned editorial, Arabic daily Al 
Watan says that the people responsible for mobilizing the 
youth "are known to us.  They use the issue of unemployment 
at one time and naturalization (of foreign Sunnis) at another 
to justify demonstrations and protests.  Those who are not 
condemning the recent violence and crimes are accomplices." 
Editor-in-Chief of Arabic daily Akhbar Al Khaleej Anwar Abdul 
Rahman wrote on March 14 that parents need to pay more 
attention to raising their children and setting in their 
hearts and minds the values of patriotism and peace.  While 
the right to protest peacefully is an important pillar in 
reinforcing democracy, he hopes that parents try to figure 
out why their sons are so violent. 
 
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Comment 
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¶15.  (C) The sporadic small-scale clashes popping up in 
various parts of the country do not appear to be centrally 
organized.  In the absence of a red light, young men looking 
for some action will likely continue to provoke police.  In 
this situation, it is the Haq Movement leaders who have the 
ability to stop the confrontations by way of a clear signal 
to their followers.  Al Wifaq's Ali Salman issued his 
statement, but Al Wifaq does not control this group.  The 
angry reaction of villagers caught between protesters and 
police may have come as a surprise to those who favor 
increased confrontations.  It appears that in its haste to 
provoke the government, the Haq Movement may have overreached 
and caused a counter-reaction from the very Shia "street" 
whose support it is trying to attract. 
 
MONROE