Authorities in Bahrain are being blamed for the death of a 16-year-old boy, as opposition supporters and human rights activists said police prevented people from attending Friday prayers by setting up checkpoints and firing tear gas at the crowds.
Ali Radhi reportedly tried to break through police barricades to get to a mosque, and was then chased onto a highway where he was struck by a car and killed. According to activists, the boy's family blamed the officers and the police barricades for their son’s death.
"He went onto the highway to run away, was hit by a civilian car. We hold the Ministry of Interior responsible for his death," acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Maryam Alkhawaja, posted on Twitter.
The security measures kept many people from attending the Friday prayers of Sheik Isa Qassim, who denounced Bahrain's move earlier this week to revoke the citizenship of 31 Shiite activists and lawyers.
"The revoking of citizenship from honorable people is aimed at punishing those who have opposition views," he told worshippers who managed to reach his mosque in the Diraz village. The town is a Shiite district outside the capital of Manama.
According to Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja, worshippers prayed on the streets after they realized they won't be able to enter the mosque. Several people attempted to scale the walls in order to avoid the security blockade.
Al-Khawaja also tweeted a photo of the young boy who was killed on the highway, as well as his family preparing for his funeral. She also wrote that police were preventing outraged Bahrainis from attending the burial.
Al-Wefaq, the largest political party in Bahrain, posted pictures of people taking to the streets to protest the death of the 16-year-old on its Twitter account.
The party also posted graphic images of a different boy, suffering from a wounded leg after being hit by a tear gas canister. An elderly man can also be seen suffering after allegedly being suffocated by tear gas.
The crackdown came after authorities blamed Shiite religious figures for fueling tensions in Bahrain, the strategic home of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.
The violence continues to mount. A Youtube video posted today shows several Bahraini officers kicking, hitting, and dragging a civilian from a cemetery before forcing him into a police car.
For 21 months, the island kingdom has faced nearly nonstop unrest between the Sunni-led government and protesters from the country’s Shiite majority who seek greater political representation. More than 55 people have died and hundreds have been arrested in the unrest since February 2011.
Patrick Henningsen, a geopolitical analyst for current affairs website UK Column, told RT that the Bahraini leadership is now effectively tightening the screws on those who dare to speak against it.
“This is an unprecedented move by the government – the violations have been chalking up left right and center for the last year, but what we are seeing now is a real effort to extenuate the division between Shiites and Sunnis. Only last week there was a double bombing in the neighborhood, and that was blamed on pro-reformers or terrorists, according to the government, but little evidence has been presented to show it was done by these people. And what it has done, is it’s given the government carte blanche to really crack down on the pro-reform movements by the reformist Shiite majority.”