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Bahrain Regime “off-the-leash” Gassing Operations is Chemical Warfare against Civilans

Bahrain finds an off-label use for tear gas as chemical warfare.

Bahrain: the Tear Gas Regime
By Steve Fake, August 9, 2012

Physicians for Human Rights just released a report on the Bahraini government’s pervasive use of tear gas to repress its restive civilian population. Bahrain has raised the global bar on the usage of tear gas to unprecedented heights. It has become the Tear Gas Regime.

Consider this excerpt from the PHR report:

“PHR investigators visited one home in which residents provided “guest gas masks” to visitors exposed to toxic chemical agents in and around the home. “We’ve been exposed to tear gases almost every day,” said one resident of a Shi’a neighborhood. “We’ve had canisters shot in the house, on the doorstep, and on the roof. We’ve had so many attacks, I can’t count the number of times. You don’t need to go outside to smell the ‘tear gas.’”

The report continues:

“Preliminary analysis of data suggests that the majority of Shi’a neighborhoods (comprising 80% of all neighborhoods in Bahrain) have been exposed to toxic chemical agent attacks at least once per week since February 2011.”

That is a remarkable record of sustained gassing. What does this mean for the neighborhoods and villages affected? As PHR details:

“Symptoms of CS [the most commonly used chemical agent in contemporary ‘tear gas’ worldwide] exposure include severe tearing, burning in the nose and throat, eye spasms, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing among other signs of oral and respiratory distress.”

Imagine encountering that on a daily or weekly basis as many Shia neighborhoods in Bahrain now are.

There is plenty of reason to question the legitimacy of tear gas usage in virtually any context. PHR medical investigators noted in a report published the AMA’s journal in 1989 that:

“[T]he evidence already assembled regarding the pattern of use of tear gas, as well as its toxicology, raises the question of whether its further use can be condoned under any circumstances… [T]here is an important role for the independent [health] professional: to study, document, analyze, and report on such hazards and to advise government on what does and does not carry an acceptable risk. If a weapon is found to present too serious a risk, it is then the responsibility of those in charge of public safety to decide on alternatives.”

Note the ‘pattern of use’ analysis from even the late ‘80s. When is ‘tear gas’ used in an appropriate and proportionate manner? Can a protestor or bystander among us think of an instance? International law permits its use under the category of ‘riot control’. Thus, it is properly deployed to disperse ‘riots’, not nonviolent gatherings, and not some scattered projectile throwing and minor property destruction.

The very label ‘tear gas’ is a euphemism which obscures that its use on humans: “poses serious health risks and even causes death.” The proper term for ‘tear gas’ is ‘toxic chemical agent’ as PHR employs. As PHR notes, ““Tear gas,” implying that these chemical agents merely cause tearing, is a misnomer.“

Perhaps the roots of the crowd control method should give us pause. The origin of tear gas derives from chemical weapons that became so infamous in WW1.

Lest anyone continue to regard ‘tear gas’ as a mere inconvenience, it has also been implicated as a carcinogen, and may even damage DNA, thus impacting one’s future children and family lineage.

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