Police Assist in Vandalising & Looting a Supermarket in Bahrain

Yesterday I wrote a post about how the Ministry of the Interior treat Bahrainis differently depending on whether they are pro-government or anti-government.   This was after their tame dispersal of a large group of regime supporters who, after gathering at the Alba roundabout, wrecked two cars and then vandalised a nearby Supermarket. The reason the market was attacked is it because it was owned by Jawad Group, which is maligned by many loyalists for apparently serving food to protesters at the Pearl Roundabout last year.

Of course there are numerous examples of the police turning a blind eye to violence perpetrated by pro-regime supporters. There’s also a lot of evidence to show plain clothes thugs operating alongside the police. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the thugs are civilians, or just security officers in mufty. Today however, this CCTV footage (and this, video also at end of this blog) from the attack on the 24 SuperMarket emerged. Not only does it show thugs breaking into and looting the shop, but it also shows police standing idly by as this happens. That’s not all, at 5.15 one of the security officers wearing a fluorescent bib smashes one of the windows. At 4.50 another officer helps himself to a bottle of water.  Clearly ignoring crime is thirsty work.

Although some of the perpetrators run away when they realise the police are coming, many stay behind, casually looting as the law enforcement officials stand and watch. Check out the dude in white at 5.23, he just brazenly walks out with a box of something (cigarettes maybe?) What’s  even more amusing is that there is a police officer filming proceedings – see 6.07 for example! At 6.11 the same officer informs one of the looters that there is a CCTV camera, the looter then proceeds to smash the CCTV camera. This is all while the officer is filming! The looter didn’t smash the officer’s camera, so clearly he thought that what the policeman was filming was not going to be used as evidence against him. Unless he was just a bit, you know, stupid. I guess you can’t be too bright to think smashing a CCTV camera will affect what’s already been recorded.

While the police are also telling people to leave, they really are doing absolutely nothing to stop the perpetrators. On the contrary, some of the policemen take part. One smashes a window, whilst another helps himself to water. Whether or not they would have acted differently had there been more policemen is hard to tell. After all, confronting a large mob when you’re outnumbered is probably not wise. Though having said that, many of the perpetrators left fairly early on, leaving the police in a position to enforce the law. We also know from experience that the police are not averse to throwing tear gas grenades into enclosed spaces when the targets are civilians in Shi’a villages, though they chose not to do that here.I think one of the most galling aspects of the whole thing is the sheer impunity with which many of the perpetrators feel they can operate. They obviously believe they have a good chance of getting away with it.

Finally, another amusing and well-timed aspect of all this is how John Yates, the ex-British copper sent into retrain Bahrain’s police, says he feels safer in Bahrain than London. This video is a perfect example of how safety in Bahrain is selective, depending on what side of the political, ethnic and religious fence you sit on. Indeed, if you’re pro-gov, then the police may well ensure that you can loot in complete safety.

Though having said that, a guy in a red t-shirt does trip up at the end (4. 36). Not as safe as I thought…

video 2

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4 comments

  1. […] Marc Owen Jones meanwhile makes the point that ‘safety’ and treatment by the police in Bahrain is highly selective: Finally, another amusing and well-timed aspect of all this is how John Yates, the ex-British copper sent into retrain Bahrain’s police, says he feels safer in Bahrain than London. This video is a perfect example of how safety in Bahrain is selective, depending on what side of the political, ethnic and religious fence you sit on. Indeed, if you’re pro-gov, then the police may well ensure that you can loot in complete safety. […]

  2. Haukur says:

    I’m a bit slow in mentioning it, but it’s been surprising that the point of Yates’s comment seems to have been missed completely. From the link: Yates wrote: “Along with my family, I feel completely safe. Indeed, safer than I have often felt in London.”
    He is comparing the current ‘typical’ level of safety in Bahrain with his worst experiences from London. By comparing apples and oranges in this way, he has given everyone a nice soundbite to carelessly quote him on (with horror or with pride depending on which country’s press you are reading) while actually saying absolutely nothing.

  3. I think that is true to an extent, though his rhetoric reflects what a lot of people in Bahrain say when they wish to marginalize violence. It’s always along the lines of ‘come to bahrain and see for yourself, it’s completely normal’. Such rhetoric often mirrors the prejudices of those who don’t experience the day to day violence as experience by disenfranchised communities in Bahrain. The police generally do a good job of containing ‘deviance’ within villages, alleys and prisons, therefore the visibility of violence is often reduced. Feelings of safety and security are usually contingent on one’s position in society, since they often come at the expense of others.

    I don’t think people are quoting him carelessly as such, as I think his words, regardless of their intent, reflect an often regurgitated PR line that is indicative of his own prejudice and privilege. I also think by making that comparison he is trivialising the suffering of many Bahrainis, just so he can justify his own position with minimal (potential) guilt.

    • Haukur says:

      I’m trying not to speculate about his motivations, because I don’t know about the situation (i.e. whether he was deliberately promoting an idea of peaceful Bahrain contrary to reality, or whether it was his honest experience; whether it is in his interest professionally to be pro-police; whether it is in his ethical interest as you suggested; or whatever – it’s outside what I can honestly comment on).
      Let me clarify my point though: there is a huge logical hole. From the statement above, it does not follow that Bahrain is safer than London. Nonetheless, it has been reported as though it does, definitely in London and no doubt in Bahrain too. It appears to me – and I may be wrong – that this phrase was quite carefully chosen for that effect. By “careless” I meant that they are all coming to the wrong conclusion even though the logical mistake is quite an obvious one.

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