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article imageOp-Ed: More tear gas canisters imported than population of Bahrain

By Ken Hanly     Oct 24, 2013 in World
Manama - Human Rights Watch claims that Bahraini security forces have often used disproportionate amounts of tear gas in suppressing anti-government demonstrations since 2011 when protests first began demanding reforms to the ruling monarchy.
The warning from Human Rights Watch came after a watchdog group , Bahrain Watch released documents they claim is a public tender for 1.6 million gas shells, 90,00 tear gas grenades, and 145,000 sound and flash grenades. The tender was dated June 16 and is issued by the Bahrain Ministry of the Interior which is responsible for the riot police. The document is reproduced here.
Protests in Bahrain, mostly by the Shiite majority against the ruling Sunni Kahlifa monarch and his family have been ongoing for almost three years now with the government severely repressing protests. As of August this year protests are banned in Manama. A good summary of the uprising and response of the government can be found here.
Most of the tear gas supplied to Bahrain comes from South Korea and a joint South African-German owned company. Bahrain Watch claims: Based on videos and images we have seen, the top suppliers of tear gas products used in Bahrain between 2011 and 2013 appear to be DaeKwang Chemical Corporation and CNO Tech of South Korea. Another company, Korea Defense Industry (KDI) may also export to Bahrain. The other major exporter is a South African/German company called Rheinmetall Denel. DaeKwang Chemical Corporation and CNO Tech have exported over 1.5 million pieces of tear gas to Bahrain between 2011 and 2012. This is more than the entire population of Bahrain, which is 1.2 million, of which 600,000 are citizens.
South Korea in particular has strongly developed trade ties with Bahrain with over one billion US annual trade. It has yet to comment on human rights abuses in South Korea, and refused to join 47 other countries including the US and UK in expressing "serious concern" about the "human rights situation in Bahrain". The Bahraini government spends millions on PR including in the US. It also denies journalists access often and also relies on silence from allies such as the US. However, the US has spoken up on human rights abuses and has refused licences to export tear gas to Bahrain. However the US still provides military aid to Bahrain and regards it as a key ally in the area. The US fifth fleet is stationed in Bahrain.
According to Physicians for Human Rights, more than 39 persons have been killed since the protests began in 2011. The group says the governments use of tear gas against civilians unprecedented. There are numerous individual reports about experiences from Bahrain here along with a petition. Here is just one:
“I live in Sehla – Bahrain. Tear gas became a daily routine that we got used to, I would never dare open the window driving into town, knowing that I could suffocate and drive into a lamp post on the way. My wife is pregnant and we bought gas masks and put them in our cars,”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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