Tensions are rising in Bahrain, as pro-democracy protests continue and activist Nabeel Rajab was jailed for a tweet on Tuesday. Now, a newly released video appears to show an opposition demonstrator being shot in the street by security forces.
The footage — captured by Bahraini activists on January 20 — shows a man standing on a street corner holding a poster of Sheikh Ali Salman, the arrested opposition figure and head of the al Wefaq movement. The text on the poster reads: "You Will Become Helpless, and We Will Not."
The protester seems to be deliberately fired on at close range from an armored police vehicle. Bleeding significantly from head wounds, the man collapses to the ground, before being carried away by other demonstrators.
The shooting occurred in Salman's hometown of Bilad al-Qadeem, a suburb of Bahrain's capital, Manama. Tensions have flared there since the opposition leader was arrested at the end of December, accused of attempting to overthrow the government. The Shia cleric is expected to stand trial at the end of January and he could be facing a decade in prison.
Sayed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, told VICE News that the attack captured on video was not an isolated incident, but rather evidence of a tactical strategy that the Bahraini security forces have been using to subdue dissidence. "This is the policy of the state," he said. "This gunshot, which is used to kill birds, they use it on the protesters in Bahrain."
'There is no way that he can go to a hospital unless his situation is highly critical.'
Alwadaei — who is in constant contact with Bahraini opposition activists — said that it is highly unlikely that the injured man would have been taken to a hospital. "Before you get any kind of treatment they will start interrogating you," he said. "Often the case is that you are going to go to the prison cell before you get any treatment… There is no way that he can go to a hospital unless his situation is highly critical, and he would rather go to jail."
The London-based activist admitted that there had been some clashes between the police and the opposition protesters, but added: "If the police respond that violently then what do you expect the people to do?"
WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES
Many have pointed out the hypocrisy that was shown by Bahrain when they sent their foreign minister to join the Paris "unity march," an event held earlier this month to promote support for freedom of expression in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch, said that when it comes to punishing peaceful critics of the government or ruling family, "Bahrain is a serial offender." He added: "The arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman seems calculated to send a message to Bahrainis and the world that political reconciliation and respect for fundamental rights is completely off the table."
'The situation in Bahrain is deteriorating.'
Britain has stated that they regard Bahrain as an "important ally in the region." This week, British foreign secretary Philip Hammond praised moves forward in Bahrain's human rights record, while defending the UK's decision to open a naval base there. "It is a country that is traveling in the right direction," Hammond said.
However, his comments clearly jar with other evidence emerging from the state. "This video shows that's not true," Alwadaei said simply. "The situation in Bahrain is deteriorating."
On Tuesday, another Bahraini activist — Nabeel Rajab — was sentenced to six months imprisonment, charged with insulting a public institution and the army through a tweet.
The evening before he was sentenced, Rajab spoke to VICE News. During the interview, he said that his organization was receiving reports of protesters "being tortured systematically and dying." He also said that he believes democracy "has a cost and we will pay the cost."
Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd