How Did “Bahrain Watch” Tests Prove Bahraini Gov’t Technique in Deliberate Cut of Internet in Diraz?

2016-08-17 - 5:39 am

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Bill Marczak, a well-known American internet and digital security expert, believes that the Bahraini government's war is stretching from the streets of Diraz to reach the Internet, and that it is seeking at this time to tighten its grip and control everything.

Marczak, based in California, is an expert in Internet Affairs and Digital Security, who is pursuing his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Berkeley. Marczak told "Bahrain Mirror" that the campaign launched by the regime against the Internet is part of the crackdown designed against all sectors, which is in the same context of dissolving al-Wefaq society, and revoking the nationality of Sheikh Isa Qassim.

Since the early days following the revocation of Sheikh Isa Qassim's nationality, who is the Shiite spiritual leader in the country, telecommunications companies took the initiative to cut the internet connection in the town of Diraz, where thousands of protestors have launched an open sit-in, despite the siege forced on the area by security forces.

On this level, Bahrain Watch, in collaboration with Bill Marczak and filed under AmanTech, published a report in which it dwelled on the issue of "Internet Curfew" which was imposed on the town of Diraz, in the aftermath of Sheikh Isa Qassim's citizenship revocation. The report is based on tests and technical experiments conducted in the United States of America.

"Diraz is home to one of the central spiritual leaders of Bahrain's Shia community, Sheikh Isa Qassim. On 20 June 2016, his citizenship was revoked by Bahrain's Interior Ministry, rendering him stateless. Hundreds of people have been peacefully protesting this decision with sit-ins around his house in Diraz that take place in the evening. In response, the government has placed the community on lockdown, blocking all but two roads that lead into to the village; the two remaining entrances are controlled by police checkpoints," said the report.

The results of the test and experiments demonstrated in the report were of high-credibility, and were reported by press agencies and several television channels and news sites, including The Associated Press, and the BBC.

On the political level, the internet curfew imposed at that time made it impossible to cover the protests, or any other events happening in the area. On the economic level also, many shops whose work and trade rely on online network, had to close down for lack of connection. Meanwhile, several unsubscribed to their telecoms companies due to the lack of connection and terrible service.

It was an "electronic blockade" imposed on Diraz in addition to the already existing security siege. From the Bahraini citizens' perspective, there is no doubt that the government is the one conducting this blockade, obliging companies to limit the internet, or even cut it, without any justification or right to do so.


On the technical level of evidence, Bill Marczak, who is active in Bahrain Watch and had lived in Bahrain during his high school years, conducted direct tests on the network in Diraz during the past month of July 2016.

He stated in the report, that they will "investigate the disruption to Batelco's fixed-line services, as well as the disruption to Batelco's and Zain's mobile data service in Diraz."

He clarified that the "experiments show that between 7PM and 1AM, certain 3G and 4G cell towers belonging to Batelco and Zain appear to be turned off, and 2G cells broadcast notifications to phones indicating that mobile data services are not supported."

Based on the aforementioned finding, Marczak stated how the report concluded that both companies, Batelco and Zain, are likely deliberately disrupting both fixed-line and mobile data services in Diraz.

The "Bahrain Watch" report said the tests also revealed "the presence of a device on Batelco's Internet backbone that disrupts certain Internet traffic to and from Diraz between 7PM and 1AM, while leaving other traffic undisrupted."

According to the monitoring of "Bahrain Watch" organization, Batelco appears to have changed its disruption on July 12, the same day as the first major Bahraini media coverage of the Internet problems in Diraz by al-Wasat newspaper.



"The new disruption appears to be more precisely targeted at users in Diraz, while affecting fewer users outside of Diraz", the report further explained.

The evident report stressed that since the disruptions are coordinated at roughly the same time across different ISPs, "it is possible that the disruptions are a result of a Service Restriction Order (SRO) from the Bahrain Government, in relation to the protests."

Moreover, the report clarified that international organizations including the United Nations, as well as industry bodies including the GSM Association, have condemned this type of Internet interference by governments.

Bahrain's ISPs have acknowledged issues with Internet connectivity in Diraz. On 12 July, Al-Wasat newspaper reported that ISPs said the disruption was a technical issue, and they were working on a fix.

"The most specific public response by an ISP to the disruption seems to be a 29 June public Twitter message from the official @BatelcoSupport account, which told one individual that there was a "general issue in Budhiya Exch," presumably a reference to a telecom exchange point in Budaiya, and that they were working to repair it," the report noted.

ip ad


Arabic Version




comments powered by Disqus