During an overnight raid in the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain, heavily armed riot police surrounded thousands of demonstrators as they slept in a central square in the nation’s capital. Rubber bullets, tear gas and concussion grenades were fired into the crowd without warning. At least four people were killed and hundreds injured. Some 60 people are reported missing. We hear from human right activist Nabeel Rajab outside a hospital in Manama where the wounded are being treated. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, a rolling rebellion continues to unfold across North [Africa] and the Middle East, often amid violent repression by state security forces. During an overnight raid in the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain, heavily armed riot police surrounded thousands of demonstrators who were sleeping in the central square in the nation’s capital. Without warning, police fired tear gas and concussion grenades into the crowd of pro-democracy activists that included women and children. The Associated Press reports four people were killed and hundreds beaten or suffocated by tear gas. Bahrain’s main Shia opposition group called the storming of the central square by police “real terrorism.”
Early this morning, Democracy Now! reached Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. He spoke to us from outside a hospital where the wounded were being treated. It is very hard to get through to people in Bahrain right now. Rajab’s cell phone connection was poor, so listen closely.
NABEEL RAJAB: The past two days, people were protesting in Pearl Square, tens of thousands of people, children, men and women, calling for reform and democracy and respect for human rights. Unfortunately, today, morning, at 3:00, 3:30 in the morning, the riot police and special forces attacked the protesters. And many of the protesters, as you know, are children and old men and women and young people. So, among those people, we have many, many injuries. At least two dead confirmed so far, but we expect to see more.
And I see many injuries coming. The people are protesting outside the main hospital, which is Salmaniya Hospital, and were attacked 15 minutes ago. And I see a lot of doctors going out of the main Bahrain hospital to treat people in the street, as there are no places to get them in. And many, many of them are inside, so there is not enough space for them. So doctors are treating the people in the street. And I could see the trolley beds of the hospital taken out to the street to carry as many people as possible.
A lot of people — now, this woman is shouting here beside me. She’s saying, “We need blood! We need blood!” because a lot of people have lost blood. And [inaudible] front of hospital, tens of thousands of people are standing. They want to make sure that their children are not dead. A lot of injured people are still in the scene in the Pearl [inaudible] but cannot be carried because the government, they stopped all the ambulance to go inside. They stopped all the people to go inside to carry the injured people. So, a lot of people don’t know about their kids, don’t know about their people, if they’re alive or dead. So people here around me are crying, they are shouting, they say, “We want to see our children!” They want to go inside the hospital. Doctors are banning them. They say, “You can’t go. A thousand of people inside the hospital.” People in the street are bleeding in the street, and some doctors are treating them.
Governments and international governments and all international organizations should voice — we need to hear their voice at this moment — countries like United States, countries like England and Europe. I know how my country is rich. I know why I’m victim of being a rich country, that the United States and other European countries don’t want to make them angry, because as their interests, economic interests, and oil is low. But yes, but there are human beings here. They want to live like your people in the United States. They want to see democracy. They want to see human rights. They want to see that. So, if Barack Obama could come out and speak about other countries like Egypt and Iran, so he could speak about Bahrain. Especially we have more dead people here than they had in Iran, that he should come out and speak and say to the Bahrain government, they should stop this. Barack Obama and the United States are a very influential country here. They are the big brother here. They are the people who could voice. They are the people who could speak. But so far, unfortunately, we have not seen any positive statement made by the United States government.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab speaking to us from Democracy Now! just after Bahrain security forces attacked a gathering of sleeping protesters last night, killing at least four people, injuring hundreds, among them an NBC reporter.