Death of Ali Jawad al-Sheikh
Ali Jawad al-Sheikh
Ali in 2010
علي جواد الشيخ
|Born||29 January 1997|
|Died|| (aged 14)|
|Known for||Bahraini uprising|
Ali Jawad al-Sheikh (Arabic: علي جواد الشيخ) was a 14-year-old Bahraini who died in the hospital on 31 August 2011 after reportedly being hit in the head by a tear gas canister shot by Bahraini security forces during the Bahraini uprising. The Bahraini government denied security force involvement in his death and offered a reward for information on the incident. Activists, however, began a series of large protests after his funeral.
As part of a string of protests that occurred across the Arab World following the self-immolation and eventual death of Mohammed Bouazizi in Tunisia, the mostly Shia population of Bahrain took to the streets demanding greater freedoms. The move was seen as potentially destabilising to the Sunni-led regime of Bahrain, following which a brutal government crackdown led to widespread suppressions of the Shia people across many sectors, especially the medical field after the invasion of Bahrain by Gulf Cooperation Council soldiers led by Saudi Arabia. The Bahraini government also hired Pakistani mercenaries to maintain security against the protesters, however, lesser intermittent protests continued.
A number of protesters, including Isa Hassan, Ali's uncle, took part in a demonstration in Sitra, Bahrain on 31 August just after morning prayers. They stated that they were "confronted by the police, who fired tear gas at them from roughly 20 feet away" and causing Ali Jawad al-Sheikh's death. In an interview with the Associated Press, Isa explained that "they are supposed to lob the canisters of gas, not shoot them at people. Police used it as a weapon."
After his death, Ali's body was removed from the hospital and moved to the morgue, where the Interior ministry conducted an autopsy and compiled a forensic report based on the results.(p255) Investigators from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry were present during the autopsy, and compiled their own forensic report.(p255) In the afternoon, Osama al-Asfoor, the head of public prosecution, stated that the autopsy had shown that "Ali had died of injuries to the back of his neck" and that "the boy had injuries under his chin and bruises on his face, hand, knees and pelvic area." However, he also added that a "blood examination showed no effects of tear gas exposure." The Interior ministry's forensic report concluded that Ali's injuries were inconsistent with an impact from a tear gas canister, as the markings on his neck were too large.(p255) The Commission's forensic report concluded that Ali's injuries were consistent with an impact from an unexploded tear gas canister fired at short range.(p255)
Photographs of Ali directly after being injured were released by the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. Mohammed al-Maskati, the leader of the Society, said that, "The picture is affecting people." A videotape had also been made of Ali's family around his body in the hospital. Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, explained that the video was "a gift to the people". The father of Ali, Jawad al-Sheikh, asked in an interview with CNN for "human rights groups to take steps against Bahrain's leaders, saying, 'I lost my child. ... He does not deserve this destiny.'"
The government acknowledged Ali's death, but stated in a report from the state-run news agency that "no reported police action against lawbreakers in Sitra" had occurred the morning of that day and that the security forces had last been involved in "dispersing a small group of around 10 people at 1:15 a.m." that day. The Ministry of the Interior then also set out a "reward of more than $26,000 for information about those responsible for his death."
Activists who had taken part in the uprising stated that police had surrounded the hospital where Ali had died, effectively preventing any gatherings of people in the area. The activists also stated their intention to have a protest on 1 September 2011, after attending Ali's funeral earlier that day. Clashes with police, however, began on 31 August and continued into the morning of September 1.
Funeral and protests
The funeral procession was held early on 1 September, with photographs of Ali both before he died and of his dead body covering the coffin. It had already been delayed for some hours, as Ali's father was unwilling to sign the death certificate for release of his son's body, since the cause of death listed was stated to be "unknown". It is uncertain if the certificate was ever signed or if the body was just released.
Activists stated that thousands of people attended his funeral. Afterwards, the mourners began marching in the streets of Sitra carrying pictures of Ali and chanting 'Down, down, Hamad!'". No security personnel were present at the protest and the protesters had dispersed by the afternoon. However, extensive protests were held in the national capital of Manama that night as the protesters tried to take back control of the Pearl Roundabout, which was the site of protests earlier in the year until a government crackdown and the destruction of the monument. Government forces used tear gas and blocked roads with buses to stop the protests.
Sheik Isa Qassim, a senior Shiite cleric, has blamed security forces for the death of Ali Jawad, saying, "the killing of a 14-year-old boy by security forces during an anti-government demonstration Wednesday shows that the island nation’s Sunni rulers are not listening to people’s demands for greater rights."
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- Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (PDF) (Report). Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. 23 November 2011. p. 431.
- Staff writer (14 February 2011). "Bahrain Activists in 'Day of Rage' – Anti-Government Protests in Shia Villages Around the Capital Leave Several People Injured and One Person Reported Dead". Al-Jazeera English. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
- Cockburn, Patrick (18 March 2011). "The Footage That Reveals the Brutal Truth About Bahrain's Crackdown – Seven Protest Leaders Arrested as Video Clip Highlights Regime's Ruthless Grip on Power". The Independent. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
- Staff writer (15 March 2011). "Bahrain King Declares State of Emergency after Protests". BBC News. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
- Nadir Hassan (17 March 2011). "Meddling in Bahrain's internal affairs". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
- "Bahraini boy killed in protest". Al Jazeera. August 31, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- J. David Goodman (August 31, 2011). "A 14-Year-Old Boy Is Killed in Bahrain as Security Forces Break Up a Protest". New York Times. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- "Shiite teenager killed in Bahrain demo: opposition". Agence France-Presse. August 31, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- "Police, protesters battle in Bahrain's streets after boy's death". CNN. August 31, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- J. David Goodman (September 1, 2011). "Large Protest in Bahrain After Boy's Death". New York Times. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- Brian Murphy (September 1, 2011). "Bahrain cleric blames police for protester's death". Associated Press. Retrieved October 5, 2011.[permanent dead link]
- Media related to Ali Jawad al-Sheikh at Wikimedia Commons