2019 Roundup: Al-Jazeera “Players with Fire” Film Angers Bahrain, Manama Fails to Disprove it

2020-01-10 - 7:50 ص

Bahrain Mirror (2019 Roundup): Al-Jazeera Channel's broadcasting of a film entitled, "Players with Fire" on July 14, 2019, presented by Palestinian journalist Tamer Al-Meshal in a series of episodes on his show "What is Hidden is Worse", represented an important part of the political polarization between Bahrain and Qatar. It contained an exclusive testimony by a Bahraini officer who led the military battalion that stormed the Pearl Roundabout in 2011. It also included a confidential videotaped testimony by Salafist extremists who admitted that the Bahraini government had asked them and their companions to assassinate dissidents. This led to many consequences.

Al-Jazeera published a number of promos early July about this film and even leaked some of its video clips to its guests as a form of psychological war on Bahrain. The program interviewed Yasser Al-Jalahima, commander of the battalion responsible for expelling protesters from Lualua Roundabout on March 16, 2011. Al-Jalahima said that the protestors were unarmed. He added that security forces brought a number of weapons and took photos of them inside the roundabout area to incriminate the protestors.

The film included the testimony of Salafist extremist Mohammad Saleh, who has been previously arrested by Bahrain over the charge of joining terrorist "Al-Qaeda" group. He said that the security apparatus contacted them in 2013 to recruit them in order to execute a scheme, assassinating dissidents, mainly Mr. Abdulwahab Hussein. Al-Saleh said he made calls with leaders in the organization in Saudi Arabia to provide arms for executing the plan, before he was arrested by Saudi Arabia when he entered its territory over suspicion. Seven months had passed when Mohammad Saleh was released, after King Hamad's intervention. He met the king who confirmed that Saleh was oppressed and that he will compensate him.

The testimony of Ansar Al-Furqan leader Hisham Al-Baloushi revealed his close relationship with the Bahraini intelligence. According to Al-Baloushi's testimony, the Bahraini intelligence asked him to gather information and take photos of military sites in Iran, including the Konarak military airport in the coastal city of Chabahr, and Revolutionary Guard military sites in Khash southeast of the country.

The broadcast of the film was a shock to the Bahraini government. An official source at the Information Ministry condemned the documentary and said that Qatar is a "rogue and terrorist state in word and deed, and this will inevitably lead to escalating what is happening to even worse and more severe levels."  Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that the documentary was filled with "clear and blatant lies and fallacies. This affirms, beyond any doubt, that this country [Qatar] has become the most serious threat to the Gulf Cooperation Council."

Bahrain immediately arrested Mohammad Saleh who appeared in the video and was in Bahrain when the documentary was aired. It also arrested Jamal Al-Baloushi, brother of Hisham Al-Baloushi, who appeared in the video too (Hisham was killed in Iran in 2015).

Bahrain TV broadcast new confessions prepared hastily under pressure in security rooms, claiming that the video testimonies were true, but recorded in 2011 in Hamad Town, for the purpose of blackmailing Bahraini security services in the event that they get arrested. However, the confessions had many gaps, as brother of Hisham Al-Baloushi confirmed his brother's close relationship with the Bahraini security service. "My brother's relation with the security agencies is good. The security agencies have always helped him," he said.

The Bahrain Defence Force issued a statement saying that this film "is the latest episode of a series of conspiracies against the Kingdom of Bahrain in Qatar's attempt to undermine the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and stir up strife among its members." It also revealed for the first time that Yasser Al-Jalahima is sentenced to death over charges of recruiting intelligence cells working with Qatar to spy on the BDF. It claimed that his testimony was false and a twist of the facts on the ground. It added that he was hired to work at Salmaniya Medical Complex in 2011 and wasn't present at the LuaLua Roundabout.

Bahrain also lodged a complaint with the Arab League against Al-Jazeera, claiming that "the episode had offended it and relied on the opposition."

As for the reactions, journalist Aqeel Swar recounted his testimony on the circumstances of the weapons situation aired by Bahrain TV. "I was among the first to enter Bahrain TV to talk after dispersing protestors at the roundabout. They showed us a short documentary film in which a gun appeared on one side of a tent and a sword thrown on the ground," he said. "I told then-Minister of Information Fawaz Al Khalifa: I hope that the television will not show these scenes because I will say something that isn't pleasing." He then told him: "If you want to make films and you are entitled to do so, use a professional theatre or cinema director, not a security man."

For their part, the Al-Baloushi family issued a statement disowning their son Hisham Hilal Al-Baloushi despite his demise in 2015. The statement described Hisham as a "traitor to his homeland and his family" and stressed on the family's loyalty to the leadership of King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, and adherence to national values. Several loyalist families then issued statements condemning Al-Jazeera's film and renewing allegiance to the king.

Meanwhile, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society called on observers inside and outside Bahrain to seriously and responsibly take into account the information and testimonies mentioned in "What is Hidden is Worse" program, broadcast by Al-Jazeera Channel, which "represent a betrayal of the country and show the coordination and arrangements made with very dangerous terrorist forces."

Arabic Version