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Tear gas fiasco.

The use of tear gas to disperse protesters has been and continues to be one of the best ways of crowd control mechanisms available so far. Though, there are a host of criticisms against its use, the advantages overweigh disadvantages by a wide margin.

Governments throughout the world - both developed and developing - continue to use them. Human rights campaigners exploit the use or abuse of tear gas, by developing countries in particular, as an important campaigning tool to defame incumbent governments.

Bahrain is one of the countries that frequently uses tear gas to disperse rogue protesters. The Interior Ministry has assured the world community that it is using tear gas in a responsible manner, in line with its commitment to protect public order and concern for civilian safety.

The so-called peaceful protesters in Bahrain are no more peaceful. Let's forget the failed attempt to smuggle in weapons to the kingdom last week and focus on the thugs who confront security forces in streets.

The use of Molotov cocktails, iron roads and projectiles, among others, are more dangerous than tear gas used by security forces. Thus, even with the use of tear gas, security forces are always at a disadvantage.

Recently, human rights organisations were lobbying against the government's plan to purchase stocks of tear gas from South Korean chemical companies.

Unfortunately, under pressure from rights organisations, South Korean companies have withdrawn from the agreements to export tear gas to Bahrain (Financial Times, January 7, 2014).

What human rights organisations are trying to do is, narrow the options the government uses to deal with street thugs, who recently have become more violent than before. In other words, they are forcing the government to use other alternatives to contain protesters.

But do we have other options?

The fact that the South Korean deal was cancelled doesn't mean that the Bahrain government cannot get tear gasses. It is business and can be purchased elsewhere plenty and at cheap prices.

Those who campaigned for banning South Korean companies from exporting tear gas to Bahrain have allegedly one aim. To restrict the use of tear gas and force the government to use alternative means including 'live ammunition' to control protests and make the domestic conflict bloody. That will be a sought-after political gain for them, which is unlikely to happen here in Bahrain.

Human rights organisations would have done a good job, had they advised President Bashar Al Assad in Syria to use more tear gas than live ammunition so that hundreds if not thousands of lives would have been saved!

Bahrain government will continue to use tear gas responsibly to control protests and will not resort to deadly confrontations as human rights bodies expect.

At the same time, the door to dialogue and negotiations will always remain open. This is the civilised way of containing conflicts.


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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Jan 13, 2014
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