Bahrain: Two Years On

Bahrain is a small island with a population of 1.2 million (0.6 million citizens) and a history of pearl diving. Assyrian inscriptions from 2000 B.C. mentioned the island's pearls, which were a gem so unique to it that they lured the likes of Jacques Cartier [1]. For over a century, Bahrain has been the scene of conflict at the approximate rate of once every decade [2]. The unrest has centered around such issues as civil liberties and political freedom, as evidenced in this BBC video from 1956 [3]. In 1921, while Bahrain was still a British protectorate, Major A. P. Trevor wrote to the government of India about the country's instability [4]. Later accounts by Charles Belgrave told of similar unrest [5].

The current conflict began on February 14, 2011 and has so far resulted in the deaths of 107 civilians, including seven expatriates, and three police officers totaling 110 [6][7][8][9]. Of those, 18 were teenagers or younger; 21 were female. Additionally, up to 20 miscarriages have been attributed to the crackdown. This visualization depicts those 110 deaths, relying on data provided by human rights organizations, the Independent Commission of Inquiry and the government, abstracted to take the form of a palm tree. Mouse over for more details; click the axis labels to show or hide the horizontal bands. Unless noted otherwise, the causes of death are from [9], either verbatim or paraphrased.

Causes of death

The leading cause of death is tear gas inhalation or complications arising from that. Several videos on YouTube, such as this one, appear to show police officers firing directly into homes. Birdshot is similarly indiscriminate and can have fatal results when used against people [11]. 15% of deaths are attributed to injuries caused by such shells, while 12% are attributed to other forms of gunfire such as live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas canisters.

Physical abuse and torture while in custody account for 17% of all deaths. The Independent Commission of Inquiry's report concluded that torture was a systemic problem and noted several methods of mistreatment that are used against detainees. They include “blindfolding; handcuffing; enforced standing for prolonged periods; beating; punching; hitting the detainee with rubber hoses, cables, whips, metal, wooden planks or other objects; electrocution; sleep-deprivation; exposure to extreme temperatures; verbal abuse; threats of rape to the detainee or family members” [8].

Tear gas inhalation
(40%)  44

(15%)  16

(12%)  13

Run over
(10%)  11

Physical abuse
(9%)  10

(8%)  9

(6%)  7

Deaths over time

The highest number of deaths in a single day occurred on March 16, 2011, a day after Gulf troops crossed into Bahrain. A nationwide crackdown claimed six lives and left hundreds or more injured. Prior to that, the bloodiest day had been February 17, 2011 when Pearl Roundabout was raided in the early morning hours. Of the 10,000 protestors who were camped there [14], four died and 300 were injured.

[1] Cartier by Hans Nadelhoffer, 2007.
[2] Political Movements in Bahrain: Past, Present, and Future by Omar Shehabi, (
[3] If you take my advice - I'd repress them by Adam Curtis, BBC Blogs,
[4] Bahrain: 1920 - 1971, A reading of British documents (Arabic) by Saeed Alshehabi, (
[5] Belgrave Diaries: Papers of Charles Dalrymple-Belgrave (1926-1957), (
[6] Bahrain Center for Human Rights,
[7] Police Media Center,
[8] Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry,
[9] Casualties of the Bahraini uprising (2011-present), (
[10] Bahrain: Investigate Shooting, Arrest of Man Caught Up in Police Sweep, Human Rights Watch, (
[11] Bahrain in Pictures,
[12] Bahrain: Investigate Deaths Linked to Crackdown, Human Rights Watch, (
[13] Tear-Gas Related Deaths in Bahrain, Physicians for Human Rights, (
[14] Bahrain Takes the Stage With a Raucous Protest by Michael Slackman, New York Times,
[15] Bahrain protesters join anti-government march in Manama, BBC,

ALI ALMOSSAWI  ·  February 12, 2013
The visualization presents the conflict in Bahrain from a neutral point-of-view. The author is not affiliated with any political organization. To report inaccuracies or share your thoughts, feel free to email me. This work is being released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license (CC BY-NC).