The Persian Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain recently placed an order for 1.6 million tear gas canisters, more than one canister of gas for every person in the small country located between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The country’s ruling regime has been battling to put down pro-democracy uprisings since February of 2011. The government has used tear gas a primary weapon against protesters, sometimes using the canisters themselves, fired from powerful guns, as ammunition.
The country has found a willing business partner in the Republic of Korea, commonly known as South Korea, whose armaments industry has been a major supplier of tear gas canisters and other anti-personnel weapons to the Bahrain government, according to watchdog groups.
As early as New Year’s eve, 2011, Bahrain security forces shot a 15-year-old boy with a tear gas canister, killing him. More recently, a YouTube video shows a Bahrain security officer shooting 20-year-old Mahmood Al Jaziri with a canister, striking him in the head.
The young man reportedly died from his wounds on February 22 of this year. The video is viewable below, but be cautioned, It contains disturbing images.
Companies in the United States and United Kingdom had earlier sold tear gas canisters to the Bahrain government, but those countries have since cracked down on the sales, citing Bahrain’s poor human rights record.
But South Korea has imposed no such restrictions, leaving that U.S. ally, which says it does $1 billion in trade with Bahrain, as the likely source of the 1.6 million canister shipment revealed in a document leaked to the U.K. activist group Bahrain Watch.
The Kingdom of Bahrain has fewer than 1.3 million citizens.
On its web site, the activist group Stop The Shipment says that 39 people have been killed by tear gas since the start of the pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain.
“Based on videos and images we have seen, the top suppliers of tear gas products used in Bahrain between 2011 and 2013 appear to be DaeKwang Chemical Corporation and CNO Tech of South Korea. Another company, Korea Defense Industry (KDI) may also export to Bahrain,” the group says on its site.
DaeKwang has denied selling tear gas to Bahrain, but protesters in the Arab country say they have recovered tear can canisters that, though they bear no markings, have identical characteristics to canisters produced by DaeKwang.
SOURCES: PolicyMic, Vice, The Independent, Stop The Shipment, YouTube