Cablegate: Shi'a Youth in Weekend Skirmishes with Security
PP RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #1033/01 3191135
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 151135Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7413
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 001033
NSC FOR SINGH
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/15/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ASEC CASC BA
SUBJECT: SHI'A YOUTH IN WEEKEND SKIRMISHES WITH SECURITY
REF: A. MANAMA 198
B. MANAMA 950
Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(C) Summary: Last Spring's pattern of small clashes on weekend nights between Shi'a youth and police has resumed with the return of cooler weather. End summary. -------------------- A Pattern Re-emerges --------------------
2.(SBU) Each weekend since October 26 small gangs in impoverished Shi'a areas have set tires alight after dark and thrown rocks at police vehicles. On several occasions the young men also threw Molotov cocktails. To date there have been no injuries. Local media have reported these incidents as juvenile delinquency and omitted any reference to their sectarian nature. Similar clashes this past Spring (ref a) petered out in April when the Gulf's ferocious summer heat set in.
3.(C) Post contacts in the Shi'a community say the renewed clashes have taken place near the villages of Jid Hafs, Sanabis, Karzakan, Daih, Sitra, and parts of Hamad Town on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. They say that typically, two or three youths will seek to provoke police by throwing stones, and that if police pursue them deeper into a village, up to a dozen more young men will join into what often becomes a running skirmish.
4.(C) Bahraini authorities and some Shi'a establishment contacts dismiss the rock-throwers as young men seeking weekend excitement. Shura Council member Fuad Al-Hajji, who is Shi'a, told Ambassador November 4 that the previous weekend's incidents in Karzakan and Hamad Town in which a small group of youths lobbed a Molotov cocktail at a police vehicle were "vandalism, nothing more." Another Shi'a, Abdullah Al-Derazi of the government-sanctioned Bahrain Human Rights Society, told poloff the rock-throwers were unorganized, underemployed youth but that they are inspired by Shi'a radicals' blame-the-government-message. ------------------------- Sitra Incident November 8 -------------------------
5.(C) On one occasion, the youth violence may have had a political link: contacts in the Shi'a community and in the security services both told us that previously unknown persons calling themselves "Khalas" ("Enough") circulated flyers calling on Shi'a to stage an unlicensed demonstration in Sitra on Thursday, November 8. In the event, the police appeared in force and no demonstration took place, but after sundown a few young men skirmished with the security forces. Area residents told Poloff that the skirmish was not serious enough to deter residents from shopping and other street activities throughout the evening. The authorities detained seven, according to local media, including one Shi'a auxiliary policeman. (Note: Bahrain's regular security forces, which include almost no Shi'a, do not attempt to maintain a presence in some Shi'a neighborhoods, and employ Shi'a part-time "community police" to assist them.)
6.(C) An internet site, Aafaq, carried a report of "violent clashes" in the Sitra area on November 8. The Aafaq site lists the dissolved Bahrain Center for Human Rights as a primary contributor of Bahrain-related information published on the website (www.aafaq.org/english/aboutus.aspx). BCHR's leadership, particularly Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, is close to the Al-Haq movement, which opposes Shi'a participation in parliament and advocates pressuring the regime with street opposition.
7.(SBU) E-mails are circulating among Shi'a with photos of unmarked government security vehicles and their license plates. The e-mails proclaim the "Youth Resistance Movement," a previously unknown group. Bahraini authorities are concerned Molotov cocktail throwers will target the cars.
8.(C) Comment: The recent incidents fall somewhere between juvenile delinquency and the venting of pent-up frustrations within the Shi'a community. The skirmishes, which remain confined to weekend evenings, appear to lack significant support within the Shi'a community. Broader political MANAMA 00001033 002 OF 002 participation and freer press have done much to channel Shi'a energy in positive directions over the past eight years. On the other hand, the lack of economic and social opportunities continues to frustrate many Shi'a and is being exploited by radical populists. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI