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Teddy Bears Face Off with Police as Bahrain Marks its Fourth Anniversary of Anti-Regime Protests

A giant Godzilla-like ape appears to guard a makeshift barricade put up by protesters in Bahrain today. Barricades made out of debris, construction material, plants and rubbish are erected by protesters on roads leading to protest spots to stall the riot police from attacking the protesters in full force. Source: Unknown

A giant Godzilla-like ape appears to guard a makeshift barricade put up by protesters in Bahrain today. Barricades made out of debris, construction material, plants and rubbish are erected by protesters on roads leading to protest spots to stall the riot police from attacking the protesters in full force. Source: Unknown

For the past four years, Bahrainis have been marking Valentine's Day with massive protests, which are faced with a brutal clampdown by the regime. This year is no different, except that protesters, in keeping with the spirit of Valentine's, took with them stuffed teddy bears to face off with the riot police.

On February 14, 2011, Bahrainis joined the bandwagon of protesters across the Arab world and staged anti-regime protests, which ushered a new era of widespread human rights abuses, arbitrary arrests of thousands of Bahrainis and the killing of protesters and bystanders, including women and children.

This year protesters marked the anniversary with a three-day strike, in which businesses in villages and protest areas shut down.

According to Bahrain Mirror, an opposition online publication in Arabic, the teddy bear has become a “political icon” used by the protesters for “political satire.”

وكانت قرية الدراز، غربيّ المنامة، أولى القرى التي يظهر فيها “الدب” تزامناً مع بدء سريان الإضراب الذي أعلنت عنه القوى الثورية

The village of Diraz, west of Manama, was the first village to see the appearance of the teddy bear with the start of the strike, announced by the revolutionary forces

Copycat teddy bears soon popped up across villages in Bahrain, and were placed at barricades put up by the protesters to protect themselves from police attacks.

On his Instagram account, photojournalist Mazen Mahdi ventures into Sitra to photograph this teddy bear, which faced off with an armoured personnel carrier (APC):

And the teddy bear was also teargassed:

Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab takes the opportunity to take a photograph with a teddy bear in Bilad Al Qadeem:

Depending on who you talk to, the symbolism of the teddy bear changes. One reader even suspects it is a marketting ploy for Ted 2,an upcoming American comedy film, scheduled to be released tomorrow.

But it wasn't all fun and playing with teddy bears for Bahraini protesters. Rajab, who was out documenting human rights abuses, witnessed the regime forces shooting shot gun at women and men protesting in Daih. He tweets to his 260K followers on Twitter:

I saw in front of me now the shooting of women and men protesters with gun shot in Daih

In another tweet, he shares a photo collage of injuries from gunshot from different areas in Bahrain today:

And another tweet describes the scene in Bahrain as a “war zone.”

Thousands of special forces and armed civilians and hundreds of APCs and four-wheel drives and aircraft are combing all areas. Bahrain looks like a war zone

Journalist Naziha Saeed, who was covering the protests today, witnessed the overuse of teargas. She tweets from Maameer, in Sitra, saying:

Mohammed Ashoor shares a photograph that has been widely shared on social media of riot police forces patrolling the streets:

While Ali bin Jawwad shares this video from Abu Saiba showing a riot policeman running after a young protester and shooting towards him:

Like many in Bahrain, Ahmed Al Ghasra has a message for the international media which is adamant in portraying the conflict in Bahrain not as a stuggle of Bahrainis against the regime, but as a Sunni-Shia conflict. He tweets:

The Shia Uprising
The Shia are protesting
The majority Shia are protesting against the minority Sunni regime
Until when will the media fan the flames of sectarianism in Bahrain
We have had enough

Four years into what has become almost daily protests and clashes with the police, and international media is still stuck in its narrative. Four years on, protesters continue to march.

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