Unrest in US ally Bahrain takes a more violent turn
Shiite protesters in Bahrain have begun using Molotov cocktails, while Sunni hard-liners also are urging more extreme measures.
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Former Miami police chief tapped to reform Bahraini police
However, authorities say women, too, are becoming increasingly violent.Skip to next paragraph
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“We have seen women taking active part in facilitating or assisting young men with these Molotov cocktails and those women should not be surprised if they are going to be arrested by the police,” says John Timoney, the former police chief of Philadelphia and Miami who was recently hired by the Bahraini government to help reform the nation’s police force.
Mr. Timoney’s appointment followed the release of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report in November, which detailed “the use of excessive force by police officers,” as well as “a systematic practice of physical and psychological mistreatment, which in many cases amounted to torture.” His appointment was criticized by some in the US, who cited his heavy reliance on riot police to contain public demonstrations in Miami.
Timoney says that while there may have been isolated cases of abuse carried out by officers since he arrived in Bahrain, it is not condoned by the government as some opposition supporters claim.
“There is no systemic policy for dealing with women in general, that’s absolutely untrue. All that is, is a pure excuse for these young rioters to carry out their criminal behavior,” he says in a Monitor interview.
Timoney also defends the right of security forces to use teargas to protect themselves from potentially deadly Molotov cocktails and says the government has shown it is sincerely committed to reform.
Top US diplomat praises progress
Both the government and the opposition say dialogue is the only way to resolve the country’s problems, yet opposition leaders continually say conditions for talks are unsuitable. They pulled out of formal discussions last year after receiving “unfair representation” in them.
Western powers have been reluctant to condemn Bahrain for its handling of its unrest, in which rights groups say more than 60 people have died. The kingdom is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is seen as vital to counter Iranian influence in the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
During a visit to the country last week, US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner – whose portfolio includes for democracy, human rights, and labor – underscored America’s strong relationship with Bahrain and praised its progress on reforms suggested by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) – including legislation on torture and the rebuilding of religious sites affected by the unrest. Mr. Posner also called for a more diverse police force and greater transparency regarding a wave of Shiite employees who were summarily fired amid sectarian tensions last year.
"The United States views the BICI report and its followup as a bold measure by the government to begin to rebuild confidence with the Bahraini people," he said. "Implementing these recommendations is not an easy task, and we commend the efforts undertaken so far to realize the goals of the BICI process. Ultimately, the goal of the BICI and implementation of its recommendations is to create a path toward genuine political dialogue and national reconciliation."
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