Manama: School is out and it seems there's little for the young boys of Mahazza village to do. But it's obvious they never got the lesson about playing with matches or lighters. Six youngsters — probably no older than 12 — have a row of tyres ablaze across a road leading to this Shiite enclave on Sitra Island near Manama.
One poses in front of the black sticky smoke, a balaclava over his face, flashing V-signs with both hands. This is play imitating real life — how often has he seen teens and young men adopt the same defiant pose as flames of hatred and civil unrest blacken the blue skies and scar the asphalt as its tarry surface scalds.
It's a colourful village. The houses are mostly painted grey, but the walls are painted white where anti-government graffiti was sprayed, then painted over, then grafittied again in a battle of pastels for the hearts and minds of those who live here.
Fishing traps sit on flat roofs, out of the way, and out of reach of those who seek anything to erect a barricade.
Across the channel, the tide is out, exposing a muddy shore as across the bay, oil tankers and container ships wait for loading or cargoes.
What few cars come this way must weave through and around barricades, debris, benches and timber. This village gives the impression of a place under siege.
But it's not. There isn't a security vehicle in sight anywhere, and the burning tyres are simple left to burn out. It's just not worth the effort to call out the fire brigade anyway — they'll just be stoned when they come. Something for the kids to do. And then the police will be called, more rocks and stones to break bones, then the tear gas and rubber bullets. The young boys on the burning barricades will be replaced by their older brothers and that's how most weekends are spent here.
The sandy football field is abandoned to the few weeds that manage to exist there. Fighting has replaced football — even though most of the teens sport Barcelona or Manchester United shirts.
These teens are now rioters, not Ronaldos.
Ahmad Farhan used to be a pretty good footballer. He's dead now, killed on March 15 when a police projectile took his head off his young shoulders.
At his family home yesterday, Farhan Ali Farhan was remembering his son.
"The report is a good start," Farhan said as he talked from the doorway of the home. "It says what we all knew, that the police used too much force and tortured us."
The report too calls for compensation for those hurt or detained during the worst of the violence and crackdown that ripped this kingdom apart during February and March.
"Give me compensation if it was a car," he scoffs. "Then I could buy a new one. Compensation will not bring my son back. If they want to give me compensation, give me my rights," he says.
Before visitors depart, this man of limited means opens his heart and hands out bags of mangoes, figs, apples, bananas, melons. He may be bitter but is still sweet enough to think of others.
On the other side of the bridge that links Sitra with Manama, a new street advertisement hangs from a lamp post. A man with a large rifle in full camouflage stands guard on a colourful poster, with screaming words: "Call of Duty, Game On." It's a new computer game just released. Who needs computer games when the young boys of Mahazza village can play the real thing?
At Sulmaniya Hospital, a young father and mother tenderly place their young son, just seven moths old, on an examination table for a doctor to check out. Little Ali has a temperature and they think he has an ear infection.
To get to this hospital — and that's to enter the main Accident and Emergency department doors, the worried parents and their sick son went through three separate checkpoints. And inside the doors, there are security guards roaming. Just about the time young Ali was born, this hospital was at the epicentre of protests and scores of wounded were treated here. But it was a hospital that was deeply politicised, with medical staff facing charges and trials for the manner in which they discarded their duties during those dark days.
Little Ali will be all right with some antibiotics and a large dose of tender loving care.
It's just a pity that all of the scars of this kingdom couldn't be cured the same way.