Turning point for dozens of policemen in Bahrain
As tiny as Bahrain is, 24 hours a day are not enough to cover all the stories we want. There are so many invisible soldiers and so many moving stories that the world doesn’t know about.
A few days ago we talked to about 15 men, who worked at the ministry of interior. They all had put in between seven and 27 years of dedicated services as policemen or similar positions. Most of them have families and children depending on them.
When we asked them, what’s their situation now, they all said we’re on hold, waiting. The ministry of interior didn’t officially dismiss them, they don’t have a letter that sets them free, but they won’t take them back either. They can’t work elsewhere because they’re caught in the middle.
In the beginning they were all hesitant to talk on camera, they were worried that the government will come after them or punish them, as some are still waiting their appeals in court. Some didn’t mind showing their faces, others wanted to tell us their stories anonymously.
While we’re working on their individual stories and we’ll post them for you to read, we thought it’s still important to give you a quick highlight on what these policemen went through since the uprising.
Some of them were called in for interrogation during working hours then arrested, others just decided to not show up because of the injustice and inhumane approached they’ve witnessed. Most of them were forced to stand in their uniform under the sun facing the wall for hours.
Without mentioning their names here, one of the policemen said his turning point was the events that took place at the University of Bahrain. He claims he saw with his own eyes riot police protecting thugs and siding with them, because those masked thugs were well known officers, and sons of ministers. He specifically mentioned the son of the foreign minister wearing a mask and joining the thugs in beating people and harassing women. After that he decided not to go to work after what he had seen.
Another man saw what happened when police evacuated the lulu roundabout, saying the theft, burning, and stealing policemen committed was shocking. They take anything and everything as they go. He says when he saw what they did to the people, and one man after another falls, he couldn’t continue because he couldn’t do this to his own people.
When protesters blocked the road at the financial harbor, one of the policemen told me the riot police and the protesters were on good terms. They were talking and no violence erupted until thugs and other riot police showed up and started hitting the front row of protesters with their batons. The ones at the back started throwing rocks, and protesters in front rows tried to calm them down. He overheard police saying that one of them should try and get hit to reverse the pressure. He said he saw a policeman getting hit; he picked him up and sent him with a Syrian policeman, with a minor injury. Then a rumor came out that this officer had died. He told us, after this incident he realized the dirty game the government is playing, and the lack of transparency in their approaches, as well as the continuous planning to frame the revolution and the protesters in a violent manner. That was his turning point.
Police told us that when Peninsula Shield Forces entered Bahrain, they were given the same uniforms as Bahraini riot police. Several police further said that a member of the Peninsula Shield Forces shot martyr Ahmad Farhan in the head.
Those policemen are sentenced to between one and eight years in prison, as well as the dismissal from their jobs. Some have already served their sentences, and others are awaiting their appeals. Some still get 50 percent of their salaries, others get nothing at all. Like many other Bahrainis, they’re just waiting, jobless, demanding justice.
One of them told us “Even if they ask me to go back to work, there is no way I will, ever.”
** There are no exact numbers yet, but different accounts suggest more than 200 hunderd policemen defected to in support of the Bahraini uprising, not including females. **
Wait for our video interviews with some of these policemen. We’re also working closely with Human Rights First to release a proper report.