Protesters march on the streets of Dih village after a political prisoner, Hussain Barakat, died after contracting COVID.
Hundreds have staged a rare protest in Bahrain over the death of a prisoner from the coronavirus despite the island kingdom being vaccinated months ago.
In Wednesday night’s demonstration, protesters marched on the streets of Diya village over the death of Hussain Barakat the day before.
Videos of the protests, which were consistent with Associated Press reporting on the demonstrations, showed marchers shouting that they blamed King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa for Barkat’s death over poor care.
A statement from the Interior Ministry said Barakat, 48, suffered breathing problems and died in a hospital. The ministry said Barakat had received an unidentified two-shot vaccination for the virus.
Bahrain has come under pressure from human rights organizations over prison conditions including overcrowding, poor sanitation and a lack of medical care.
Since the outbreak of the disease in March in Bahrain’s main prison Jau, families have been holding small protests demanding the release of political prisoners and better conditions. There was a violent confrontation between guards and prisoners in April after prisoners opposed the terms.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said that Barkat has received the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm.
Bahrain, like the nearby United Arab Emirates, relied heavily on SinoPharm in its world-record per capita vaccination campaigns, but is now offering booster shots of Pfizer-BioNtech’s vaccine.
There have been reports of low antibody responses in the UAE, which saw the country announce in May that it would offer a booster six months after the Sinopharm two-shot vaccination.
The two shots use different techniques. Pfizer shots, a so-called mRNA vaccine, contain a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiky proteins on the surface of the virus.
The SinoPharm vaccine is an “inactivated” shot made by growing a whole virus in a lab and then killing it.
coronavirus in bahrain
Bahrain is now battling its worst wave of the virus.
Amid a week-long lockdown, the number of daily cases has declined recently. The island, home to 1.6 million people, has recorded more than 254,000 cases and 1,171 deaths.
Bahrain told the AP last week that 90 percent of new cases in the country were “people who chose not to receive any vaccinations”.
According to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Barakat lost his citizenship in a 2018 mass trial and was sentenced to life imprisonment along with 53 other persons.
His son was also arrested at the age of 16, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The Public Prosecution of Bahrain said at the time the case involved a little-known armed group identified as the “Zulfiqar Brigade”.
Zulfiqar is the name of the barbed sword of Imam Ali, son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, revered by Shia Muslims.
Bahrain’s Sunni ruler has carried out denaturalization and mass trials to quell discontent on the Shiite-majority island off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the years since the 2011 Arab Spring protests.
Bahrain’s disbanded opposition group al-Wafaq has called for the release of prisoners of conscience since the start of the pandemic.
Bahrain has freed some prisoners deemed at risk by the pandemic, such as pregnant women.