Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I realize that street protests are a common occurrence throughout the world, but the death of a young Bahraini Shiite teenage protester who was fatally wounded when he was struck in the face by a tear gas canister earlier today underlines the risk of being too close to public protests. Coincidentally, a 14-year-old was also shot and killed on August 25, in Santiago, Chile during protests over educational reforms. How sad it was to see such promising young lives snuffed out in a matter of minutes.

Jawad Ahmed al-Sheikh, 14, was hit in the Shiite village of Sitra during a small protest after Eid al-Fitr prayers, the Gulf kingdom's main opposition group said on its Facebook page. It posted a picture of the dead teenager with his face covered in blood, saying the tear gas canister was fired from close range.

COMMENT: Unlike the protest in Bahrain, the protests in Chile have been massive, with over 175,000 going into the streets nationwide and upwards of 50,000 in the capital. On August 24, for example, 36 people were wounded as well as 42 police officers. Six of them suffered from gunshot wounds.

My advice to local families and foreign travelers is to fully comprehend what can happen. Protests, strikes and riots are emotionally charged for all sides of the political spectrum, where anything can happen. Well-organized, peaceful protests are one thing, but if police or protesters are likely to use deadly force, avoid participating in such gatherings, as demonstrated by the events in Both Chile and Bahrain. Unfortunately, in many countries, police are not controlled as rigidly as they are in others, and often may resort to the use of horses, tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and even deadly force.

Despite my some 30 years' experience in protecting diplomats and clients around the world, I have yet to fully understand why normally reasonable people walk to the sound of protesters, knowing that there are inherent and often lethal security risks. I suspect I'll go to my grave never having an answer.

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