Manama: At 6am on Friday morning, 20-year Mahmoud Eisa Mohammad died at Sulmaniya Hospital here. He had been in a coma for a week after being struck behind his left ear during a violent street protest in Daih on Valentine’s night. He is the latest victim in the wave of political violence that has swept this island kingdom for the past two years.
What all sides can agree on is that he was a plumber and leaves behind three sisters and eight brothers — one of whom is jailed for riotous behaviour. Mahmoud was supposed to be buried on Friday afternoon. Mourners had gathered at a mosque and graveyard in his village, waiting patiently for his mortal remains to arrive — they never did. According to family members, the body could not be released because of a discrepancy in the official report.
According to officials, Mahmoud was injured on February 14, the circumstances of which are under investigation. But Mahmoud was not taken to hospital until 24 hours later — in a coma. Either way, there was no funeral on Friday. But those who gathered peacefully at the mosque to pay their respects, turned the funeral into an impromptu protest.
Under new civil obedience laws passed since the events of the Pearl Roundabout, protest marches are illegal and must be signed off by authorities.
This protest march wasn’t. Gulf News watched as the protesters confronted police with stones, and the security forces responded with multiple choking tear gas rounds. Within seconds, protesters ran down alleys, seeking shelter and escape from the unfolding pitched street battle.
Masked youths in balaclavas threw stones and two petrol bombs as police responded with tear gas. To escape the mayhem, Gulf News took refuge in two separate homes in Daih as the violence continued unabated for an hour, tear gas fumes blanketing the village strewn with broken paving stones and missile-sized bricks. At one of the homes, a father offered tea while his young son wondered what was going on. “It is like this most weekends and occasional nights.” he said. “This has been our life for the past two years.” Another in the home gave Gulf News a small carton of long-life milk. “Wash your eyes out with it,” he said. “It’s very effective against the tear gas.”
Outside, police patrolled the village, firing more gas in response to the stone-throwing youths. For an hour, the fumes lingered over the village while overhead a helicopter circled, watching out for clusters of youths ready to engage again. As the violence on Friday petered out, the mourners gather again on Saturday to pay their last respects to Mahmoud.