Bahraini Villagers Fear Effects of Tear Gas
Many towns are blanketed nightly with the gas, raising fears of cancer and other long-term health problems.
Shoqqi Abdulnabi’s daughter, Zainab, was born three months premature; she was healthy but frail when he brought her home in March of last year to this village, a cheerless warren of concrete buildings in an industrial area just outside of Sitra. Weeks later, she was blind.
The village, like so many others in Bahrain, has become a flashpoint for clashes between riot police and angry protesters, signs of which were evident on a visit earlier this month. Makeshift barricades - branches, large rocks, dumpsters - lined the roadside, ready to be pulled into place on short notice.
Residents had gathered more than twenty empty tear gas canisters near the entrance to the village. They were all from the previous night, one resident said, though his claim could not be independently verified. The sharp, sour smell of the gas lingered in the air.
Abdulnabi blames the almost nightly tear gas for blinding his daughter, now almost 18 months old, and for causing a range of other health problems, including asthma.
“Two weeks after her discharge from the hospital, there was so much toxic gas in this area, so much of it that she suffocated,” he said. “I thought my daughter would die. She wasn’t able to breathe. She choked.”
Abdulnabi took Zainab to the hospital in Sitra, which referred him to Salmaniya Medical Complex, the largest hospital in Bahrain. She spent a week there; Abdulnabi said he was afraid to visit her because of rumors that police were arresting people inside the hospital.
So it was only after her discharge that he realised his daughter was blind, a diagnosis he said the doctors refused to acknowledge. “None of the medical staff would give us a report that my daughter was blind, we could not prove anything,” he said. “This was caused by the wrongdoing of the government… and they won’t take responsibility.”
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