For the Record: Police in Bahrain Throw Molotov Cocktails

Today the Ministry of Interior tweeted that they would be investigating a policeman after videos were circulated on social media that showed him throwing a molotov cocktail at protesters. Although most people would ordinarly welcome such an investigation, there is little reason to believe that it is anything more than a poor attempt to convince people that the security forces in Bahrain are actually accountable. Indeed, there are a number of  videos that have been circulated in the past that clearly show the police throwing molotov cocktails, yet this is the first time the MOI have launched an investigation into it. (All the the videos of police throwing molotov cocktails are listed at the end of this post, if I’ve missed one let me know)

What is important to bear in mind is that all these incidents occurred after the Bahrain government brought in ‘supercops’ John Yates and John Timoney to supposedly reform the police . It is also important to bear in mind that many of the incidents show the police throwing molotov cocktails in full view of their colleagues, with none of them appearing to intervene. This would suggest that such incidents are not just the work of rogue police officers.

When we see these forms of police deviance in conjunction with other tactics, such as the trowing of  steel rods, the savage beatings of unarmed civilians, and the indiscriminate firing of tear gas, it becomes increasingly hard to believe that the Bahrain government are serious about police reform. Indeed it would be more logical to assume that police transgressions are actually a tactic endorsed by authorities to achieve certain organisational and political objectives.

It appears that police deviance in Bahrain stems number of factors, which include; an inability to police by consent on account of the current regime’s lack of legitimacy, the paradoxical necessity to enforce compliance whilst also appearing to demonstrate restraint, the need to provoke a violent response in order to support the incumbent regimes’ divide and conquer strategy

The extent to which police ‘deviance’ is actually sanctioned by the relevant institutions (Ministry of the Interior) seems to be corroborated by both the ongoing trangressions, and videos such as this, which appears to show plain clothes policemen involved in transporting molotov cocktails. Regardless of whether the tactic is officially sanctioned or not, the police should not be throwing molotov cocktails. I’m pretty sure it contravenes their latest of code of conduct, which ‘requires officers to abide by 10 main principles, including limited use of force and a zero-tolerance policy on torture and mistreatment.’ It certainly goes against the recommendations of the BICI report, which advocated a thorough program of retraining for Bahrain’s state security forces.

It is interesting to note that after all the documented evidence of police throwing molotov cocktails and metal rods, the Ministry of the Interior have decided to investigate only one case. Furthermore, the MOI’s investigations lack any sort of credibility. As @billmarczak says

Will this be ‘the kind of investigation where we never hear anything again, or the kind where an anonymous police officer gets reprimanded?

Let us not also forget the time the MOI conducted an investigation into the policemen who were clearly filmed beating young men on a rooftop in Shakura. @Chanadbh documents the MOI’s response here, though it is still not known what became of the policemen who were supposedly being prosecuted. Given that there are no reports of state security officers being convicted of any crimes, it is likely that those involved in the Shakura incident are not behind bars.  If we consider the fact that the courts recently charged 28 civilians with ‘attempted murder’ for throwing molotov cocktails at policemen, it will be interesting to see how the case against the policeman  pans out – assuming of course, we hear anything more about it.

*For an analysis of protester violence, read this


Videos of police throwing molotovs

Policeman in Juffair throws molotov cocktails towards protesters (this is the video that the MOI seem to be referring to in their tweet)

Policeman throws molotov cocktails in Ma’ameer on 16th March 2012

Policeman in Sitra throws a molotov cocktail at protesters on 23th Dec 2011

Policemen in Al-Eker throw molotov cocktails at protesters on 24th Jan 2012

Policemen in Sitra throw molotov cocktails at protesters on 2nd Feb 2012

Policeman in Tubli throw molotov cocktails at protesters on 12th Feb 2012

Policeman throws a molotov cocktail at protesters

Policeman in Al-Daih carries a molotov cocktail on 14th Feb 2012

Policeman throws a molotov cocktail at a property in Sitra on 22nd Dec 2011

Policeman throws a molotov cocktail in Nabih Saleh 

Policeman in Nabih Saleh throws a molotov cocktail at protesters on 29/03/2012

Riot officer throwing a molotov cocktail in Dar al-Kulaib on 08/04/2012

Riot officers throwing molotov cocktails at a house in Salmabad on 27/01/2012

(note: it appears the MOI launched an investigation into this last video on 10th June 2014, – over two years after it first happened)


20 thoughts on “For the Record: Police in Bahrain Throw Molotov Cocktails

  1. Typical biased journo. Not a single condemnation when terrorist gangs used Molotov cocktails for years and year, but a full article when cops throw back bombs that have been thrown at them.

      1. I actually did. I’m not going to lie it is very well written, but that’s not the point. My point was for someone in the business of wagging the electronic finger, I have rarely seen you condemn any act of violence committed by the anti-government protesters. Especially the acts committed against innocent civilians. Why not make an article about that? Or are you afraid of losing your “street cred” as the defender of the people (TM).

  2. only here in bahrain .. the police can use anything and it’s called fulfilling their duty
    but when some protesters use molotoves inorder to protect their villages and themselves it’s called viollence

  3. What appears on the video is very little of violence and H.t mercenary in Bahrain.

    I am surprised by who asks you to write articles condemning the protesters and ignore the main reasons for using some protesters of Molotov Cocktails after 8 months of peaceful protest !!!

    Thanks you for the good articles .

  4. ” there is little reason to believe that it is anything more than a poor attempt to convince people that the security forces in Bahrain are actually accountable”

    It is very hard to believe that. While I’m writing, I still hear the sound of the police running around and shoot people here
    just out of my window!!!
    Do you believe it? If not come to my flat and you will

  5. There are tens of videos showing police & MOI personnel making, transporting & throwing molotov on citizens & their homes. These are just a few. Add in the shotguns, teargas, & concussion grenades shot directly at civilians heads & upper bodies, their homes, their children and you have an approach to the numerous human rights violations committed by the Bahraini forces.
    Good job as always, Marc.

    1. Yeah it’s ridiculous, hence why I’m also documenting how the police us tear gas, beat people, and throw iron rods. It’s interesting to see how many think that the police are now aiming tear gas cannisters at people. Seems likely, especially when you consider how they already misuse tear gas.

  6. You cannot compare the sporadic violence by young people who try to protest peacefully and faced by excessive force with an ogranised institution that uses violence. For an apparatus of security which is well-known for its chain of authority and discipline such acts of violence could not be unplanned or not pre-meditated.

    1. That is a good point. For month after month those who are pro democracy maintained their totally peaceful approach. Peaceful does not mean convenient; noise and smoke and marches are internationally agreed to be peaceful. Firing excessive amounts of teargas, rubber bullets and live rounds, all of which are intended to harm people, is not peaceful, neither are these approaches proportionate.
      Eventually, some people are going to lose patience with continued repression. After friends witness teargas shot directly at others’ heads, and witness woman pulled and thrown as if they were chattels and witness kidnaps and torture taking place, some will use their anger in ways which escalate from blocking roads to throwing Molotovs.
      Many who want democracy do not want any violence whatsoever. Consider Libya. For many weeks Gaddafi used tanks to fire on his people, who tried hiding underground. Then they had to =defend families and way back at the start they were using hot water, paint and kitchen knives. As the situation worsened, so those who were being repressed became more organised and used arms from soldiers who left the army and defected.
      Consider Assad’s tactics in Syria; so convinced is he that armed terrorists inhabit the towns and cities he kills as many as he can. In self defence some use violence in return; after 8 or 10 thousand are killed, what, in their place,m would you do?
      The situation in Bahrain is escalating. When the police at Alba roundabout recently were not as ‘rough’ with the pro regime as they are with the pro democracy, and are thus being used to maintain the unrest, one has to wonder if some kind of mentoring is going to be necessary for the two “sides” in Bahrain to enter real dialogue.

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