Surge of support seen as Bahrain Government hits campaign
Protest outside DAPA, Korea’s tear gas export licensing authority
Two weeks ago, Bahrain Watch leaked a tender document indicating that Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior was soliciting proposals to purchase more than 1.6 million tear gas canisters — more than Bahrain’s population of 1.3 million. In response to the document, Bahrain Watch launched a campaign called #StopTheShipment (http://stoptheshipment.org/) to prevent this massive order of tear gas from reaching Bahrain’s shores. The campaign targeted Bahrain’s current tear gas suppliers: DaeKwang Chemical and CNO Tech of South Korea, and Rheinmetall Denel of South Africa and Germany, as well as tear gas export licensing authorities in those countries. In its first week, NGOs, media, and activists from around the world threw their support behind the campaign.
This week, it emerged that the Korean Defense Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) is currently considering issuing a license to an unnamed company to export tear gas to Bahrain, and is consulting with the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on the issue. Since the license could be issued at any time, Bahrain Watch launched a new feature allowing individuals to call and fax complaints to the Korean DAPA and MoFA, free of charge.
Bahrain Government mounts counter-offensive
Meanwhile, Bahrain’s Government blocked the campaign’s website, http://stoptheshipment.org/, on 30 October 2013, in an apparent bid to prevent Bahrainis from easily calling, faxing, and e-mailing complaints to Korea. A mirror of the site was immediately made available at http://shipment.freesyria.ch/.
The Government also continued it’s PR offensive on tear gas. Government spokesperson Sameera Rajab claimed that tear gas is “used appropriately by the police, in compliance with the law,” while suggesting that “police would be justified in using direct live fire.” Bahrain’s Interior Minister, Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, remarked that police use teargas to “disperse violent groups and maintain order.” Neither Rajab nor the Interior Minister addressed the 39 tear-gas related deaths identified by Physicians for Human Rights, or the apparent contradiction between their statements and the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which found that the “usual practice” of Bahrain’s police was to use “excessive amounts of tear gas to disperse protesters.” The report also stated that Commission investigators witnessed police firing tear gas directly into houses when they were not under threat, in an “unnecessary and indiscriminate” manner. Such practices are document in countless videos available online.
In contrast to Government statements, Human Rights Watch said in an October 22 statement that police had “repeatedly used tear gas disproportionately and sometimes unlawfully in suppressing antigovernment demonstrations.” The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights recently documented the case of Hasan Abdulnabi, who is currently in a coma after he was shot in the head with a tear gas canister on October 16. On 30 October, police raided an exhibition on Bahrain’s uprising, and confiscated what it described as “incitement material.” Items confiscated included spent tear gas canisters on display.
Korean Tear Gas in Syria
Bahrain Watch has released another document obtained from the website of DaeKwang Chemical Corporation, showing that Korea’s Government granted DaeKwang permission to export more than 100,000 rounds of tear gas to Syria in December 2011. The license was granted to Jongbae Kim, the same executive at DaeKwang who admitted to the Financial Times that his company exported 1 million rounds of tear gas to Bahrain between 2011 and 2012.
Korean activists organised a press conference and a protest on October 31 in front of the DAPA headquarters in South Korea against the export of tear gas to Bahrain (see activist photos and agency photos). The action was backed by 31 Korean NGOs including Amnesty Korea and World Without War. One activist at the protest said, “South Korean tear gas is dangerous to the public and it is dangerous to other countries.” Another added, “the government should immediately stop the tear gas export license.”
#StopTheShipment also organised a second protest outside the South Korean embassy in London with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (see photos). On October 25, protesters rallied outside the main entrance of the embassy in the morning forcing employees to enter through the back door. The police were called as a response, but allowed the protest to continue, despite complaints by the Ambassador. Another protest is planned for Friday 1st November at 9am.
Activists around the world continued to endorse the #StopTheShipment campaign. New endorsers include: Andrew Feinstein (writer and former South African MP); Azadeh Shahshahani, (President, National Lawyers Guild, USA); David Hartsough (Peaceworkers, USA); David McKnight (UNISON, UK); George Monbiot, (writer, UK); Alaa AbdulFattah (blogger and activist, Egypt), and others.
The #StopTheShipment campaign has continued to receive widespread coverage in the international media:
- The Guardian: Bahrain teargas stockpile plan faces international opposition
- Russia Today: ‘Campaign of spiraling repression’: Bahrain’s massive tear gas shipment challenged by rights activists
- Reuters: Bahrain defends use of teargas following criticism
- HuffPost Live: Will Bahrain Have More Tear Gas Canisters Than People?
- Arabian Business: Bahrain said to seek 1.6m tear gas cannisters
- Vila Web (Catalan media): Bahrain: més pots de gasos lacrimògens que no pas habitants
- Global Voices: South Korean Tear Gas Being Used in Bahrain?
- Il Journal (Italian): Bahrain: le accuse al governo sugli scontri
- France24: Campaign launched to stop tear gas shipment to Bahrain
- South Korean media: Newscham, Redian, Press by PLE, News1, Yonhap News Agency
Bahrain Watch is a monitoring and advocacy group that seeks to promote effective, accountable, and transparent governance in Bahrain through research and evidence-based advocacy. About Bahrain Watch: https://bahrainwatch.org/about.asp