Protesters march through the streets of Diah village after the death of Husain Barakat, a political prisoner, after contracting COVID.
Hundreds of people staged a rare protest in Bahrain against the death of a prisoner from the coronavirus after being vaccinated months earlier by the island kingdom.
Wednesday night’s protest saw protesters marching through the streets of Diah village after the death earlier today of Husain Barakat.
Videos of the protest, which matched Associated Press reporting on the protests, saw protesters shouting that they held King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for Barakat’s death for poor medical care.
An Interior Ministry statement said Barakat, 48, was on a ventilator and died in hospital. The ministry said Barakat received an anonymous two-shot vaccination against the virus.
Bahrain has come under pressure from human rights organizations due to prison conditions, including overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of medical care.
Since the disease first appeared in Bahrain’s main prison, Jau in March, families have staged small protests demanding the release of political prisoners and better conditions. There was a violent confrontation between the guards and the prisoners in April after the prisoners protested the conditions.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said Barakat had received the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.
Bahrain, like the neighboring United Arab Emirates, has relied heavily on Sinopharm in their per capita vaccination campaigns, but now offers booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
There have been reports of low antibody responses in the United Arab Emirates, which saw the country announce in May that it would offer boosters six months after a two-shot vaccination with Sinopharm.
The two plans use different technologies. Injections from Pfizer, a so-called mRNA vaccine, contain a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.
The Sinopharm vaccine is an “inactivated” injection made by growing the whole virus in a lab and then killing it.
Coronavirus in Bahrain
Bahrain is now grappling with its worst virus wave.
Amid a multi-week lockdown, the number of daily cases has recently declined. The island, home to 1.6 million people, has recorded more than 254,000 reported 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 be vaccinated.”
Barakat lost his citizenship and was sentenced to life in prison with 53 others in a mass trial in 2018, according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).
Her son was also arrested at the age of 16, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Bahrain’s prosecution said at the time that the case involved a little-known armed group it identified as the “Zulfiqar Brigades”.
Zulfiqar is the name of the forked sword of Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad who is revered by Shia Muslims.
Bahrain’s Sunni leader has used denaturalization and mass trials to push back dissent on the predominantly Shiite island off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the years following the Arab Spring protests of 2011.
The disbanded Bahraini opposition group al-Wefaq has called for the release of prisoners of conscience since the start of the pandemic.
Bahrain has released some prisoners considered at risk, such as pregnant women, in response to the pandemic.