The March Intifada - Bahrain, 1965

The March Intifada in Bahrain, 1965 began with the laying off of hundreds of workers at the Bahrain Petroleum Company, school students protested, were suppressed by the military, and things developed into a general strike against British rule. Bahrain joined the UAE in 1968, and annual protests continued until 1972.

Submitted by Mike Harman on August 17, 2018

libcom editor's note: Retrieved an in arabic and lightly corrected from a machine translation. The article is written mainly from the perspective of the national liberation leadership and the colonial government, but includes many historical details of the uprising, which is barely documented in English.

In 1966, a year after the uprising, Ian Henderson, a British police officer who had spent the previous decade in Kenya suppressing the 'Mau Mau' uprising and became famous for capturing General Kimathi, was installed as head of the security service in Bahrain. He continued in that role for the al-Khalifa ruling family after Bahrain gained independence, and until 1998. Henderson was notorious for the torture conducted under his tenure and became known as the 'Butcher of Bahrain'.

The March 5 uprising 1965 was renewed every year for seven years, until the government in mid-March 1972 opened dialogue with the opposition and announced three members of the workers committee would join the government. The demands of the opposition and unions went much further than this, but at the same time there were pay increases and the release of all political prisoners.

What should be emphasized here is that this uprising has imposed itself on the political and militant reality of Bahrain until 1972, and therefore it is not a matter of extremism or exaggeration to call this intifada a "permanent intifada".

What distinguishes this uprising from the movement of the Supreme Executive in the fifties is that secret ideological organizations lead the work of national struggle. The nationalist and Nasserite tide played a major role in rallying the street in favor of the uprising. It is also characterized by the entry of the external factor as an important and pressing factor both at the level of the Arab world and internationally

At the level of the Arab world, the position of the United Arab Republic and Iraq has been the supportive position politically and media, as recognized by British documents. The issue was brought to the attention of the British Government and the Government of Bahrain. The case was brought to the attention of the United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, the British Red Cross and Amnesty International. The issue of Bahrain was also discussed in the British Parliament, the BBC and the British press. The Sundays Times, the Observer, the Guardian, and the Economist, To publish accurate information on unemployment, poverty, misappropriation of wealth and mismanagement, for which Britain bears the responsibility.

The extent of the damage caused by the uprising to the British administration, due to the regime, on the one hand, and the reliance on military and political support on the other, Internationally.

In an attempt to absolve itself of the role it played in the incidents, especially with regard to acts of violence and extrajudicial killings, Her Majesty's government has evaded responsibility for its interference in internal affairs and claimed that Bahrain is an independent state and therefore not responsible for maintaining its internal security. It manages the foreign affairs of Bahrain, all at the request of the Governor.

But the attempt to create a new legal status for the relationship between Britain and Bahrain has not succeeded in convincing world public opinion and has not stopped the condemnation of human rights organizations and international.

In today's symposium, there is no room to elaborate on the details of the struggle saga that the people of Bahrain wrote in the March 1965 uprising. They need those who write about them and chronicle them before they blur their features and falsify their incidents by means of formal and informal schemes.

"The first document, entitled« The unrest in Bahrain », the British Foreign Office sent the following report to its embassies and representatives in the countries of the world, which said the following:

« On Monday, the eighth of March refused students of the school Hidaya enter the classes after the morning and came out carrying banners and slogans condemning the program to dispense with national employment and demand workers strike for their rights, and raised the flag of the United Arab Republic, and the arrival of police arrested two of the demonstrators and led to the subsequent investigations to identify nine of those who have precedents in the preparation of student demonstrations.

On Thursday, March 11th, more than 200 high school students tried to protest against Bapco's layoffs, but were stopped by police in the school yard. Clashes broke out between the students and police, and the police did not hesitate to use cavalry and tear gas to disperse them.

On 12 March demonstrations broke out in Muharraq and brought together more than 500 participants. The demonstrators tried to cross the Muharraq bridge on their way to Manama, but were prevented by force and using tear gas (Greener guns) and smoke bombs.

Bapco workers who were not in favor of the strike, many of whom were prevented from taking buses, greatly affected the work of the company, especially in the refinery, but the strike extended to public services, especially the port, where work fell to its lowest level. The shops in the capital Manama have been closed. " Following the demonstrations, security forces arrested a number of leaders of the strike.

On March 13, Bapco school students and refinery workers went out to demonstrate in the factory in protest against the demobilization process and in solidarity with the striking workers.

"The report of the British official"

According to the report of the political official sent on this same date that the police arrested a number of leaders of the demonstration, including two officials responsible for the demonstrations on Monday (March 8) and Thursday (March 11).

On the thirteenth of March, the first cable was sent by the political resident of the Gulf (Sir William Lose) to the Foreign Ministry. The first was the abandonment of the training school at Bapco in solidarity with the dismissed and the workers leaving at a demonstration in the sewing factory in Sitra. High school in Manama and continued tension within the city of Muharraq. Sir William Lose said that the Prince looked with great concern to put an end to these disturbances by his police alone. (The number of police on March 5, 1965 was 921, including 234 Bahrainis.) However, for a longer time, it must be recognized that the police can not control the situation. Then the Prince may find himself in the next few days compelled to seek help from British forces for the maintenance of law and order.

The cable adds that there is ample evidence that the unrest has been reinforced by the movement of Arab nationalists directed by the Egyptians and operating in Kuwait. While Bapco is the main target, the regime has also become a target. "In these circumstances, it seems important to me that we must immediately respond to the Prince's request for assistance as long as we are convinced that the situation has gone beyond the control of the police. I therefore request the authority immediately to use British forces in accordance with the internal security system if the above conditions are met ». The resident says he now has the authority to use British troops to protect British lives and property, but this may not be enough in the current circumstances. So the political resident stressed that reference to the Queen's law before the use of British troops.

«Secret cable number 287»
On the same date, in reply to cable No. 186, the British Foreign Office sent the secret cable number 287 to Bahrain, which gives the political resident the right to use British forces to maintain internal security if the resident believes that the situation has exceeded the possibility of the local police and that the resident obtains a specific request from the Emir about this. The foreign official said he would review this authority when the crisis is overcome.

The cable said that the resident can notify the British Command in Bahrain (CLFPG) that these powers have been approved by the Ministry of Defense. The cable referred to Royal Act No. 4 of 1956, which appeared to cover the case they were considering, and said that it should avoid the introduction of a new law unless the Legal Counsel saw a need for it.

The March 13 letter spoke about the possibility that the governor resorted to the request of the British forces to intervene for security. In this regard, the British Foreign Office wrote that in order to give the authority in Bahrain the authority to use British forces to restore order and security, if the police can not do so, the Prince's signature must be taken in writing.

Indeed, it was the political resident who requested the use of British troops by taking the governor's signature on demand.

The Bahraini authorities have accused the Arab Nationalists Movement, which is run in Kuwait.
The resident has accused the outside parties of preparing this good preparation for the organization of joint action between Arab nationalists, Baathists and communists in order to manage the movement of workers and students.

As a result of the use of riot rifles in three cases, one demonstrator died in the eastern Riffa area, while 12 demonstrators were seriously injured.

It is noteworthy that the total of those killed in these incidents to date are three demonstrators, while twenty-one wounded, some of them eloquently. The prisons inside the police fortress and in some centers were filled with hundreds of detainees, most of whom were arrested in a random way.

«Political Agent telegram to his foreign»
On March 14 sent a telegram to the political deliberate foreign states , including the following:

1) The continued unrest day yesterday despite being slimmer than the day before. The applicant estimated the size of the assembly to be 500 young men and women (and some girls) and they came around the city (Muharraq) throwing rocks at the cars and breaking windows. In four cases, the cars belonging to the Europeans were burned.

2) Bapco workers who gathered at bus stations to go to work were in some cases threatened by instigators to go to work. Nevertheless, the attendance at the refinery registered about 90%, but the instigators also appeared there and asked them to strike, threatening to harm their families if they refused.

3) Bahrain Radio broadcast a statement to the Emir announcing the formation of a special committee to investigate complaints about Bapco's layoffs and called on Bapco workers to return to work. The effect of this, according to our report, was largely eliminated by the threat of workers by regulators.

4) The police now have evidence of careful preparation from outside Bahrain, including Arab nationalists, Baathists, and some communists who work together with workers (including, of course, Bapco with the largest number) and students. Attempts were made this morning to involve other workers.

5) Injuries to this date are the fall of one of the demonstrators dead in the Riffa area and twelve wounded. Police have not yet used firearms, but they have used riot guns on three occasions.

In a cable sent by Political Resident Sir William Luce on March 15 to the Arabic Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the resident said that at the written request of the Emir, he had granted permission to use the helicopter of the Air Force by the Bahraini police. Helicopter - he says - helps to monitor the gathering of demonstrators and throw them with smoke bombs if necessary to differentiate them. "By allowing this limited use of British troops, they reduce the risk of their extensive use and the authorization is made on a day-to-day basis," says Los.

On 15 March, the actors in the arena issued a statement calling on the Authority to meet the following demands:

1) Form a committee in which representatives of the elected workers are the majority and the task of the committee is to determine the affairs of all workers in Bahrain, including the workers of the oil company Bapco.

2) Allow Bahraini workers to form trade unions for them.

3) Stop the dismissal and return Bahraini workers to their jobs whether they are in the oil company or in the government or with other companies and contractors.

4) Form a committee in which the workers and students participate to investigate the issue of shooting at the demonstrations and punish those responsible for the shooting incidents that led to the killing and wounding of the demonstrators in Muharraq, Minamah, Rifa'a and Sutra.

5) Lift the state of emergency immediately and release freedom of the press, meeting, speech and demonstration.

6) the separation of British and foreign personnel from the police and the liquidation of the apparatus of repression, espionage and investigation.

7) Release all detainees immediately and stop pursut.

The statement was signed by:
1) The Arab Movement.
2) National Liberation Front.
3) Bahrain Labor Federation.
4) Bahrain Student Union.
5) Bahraini National Youth.
6) Arab Nationalists Movement.

In a telegram sent to the British Foreign Office on March 16, the political official said that the police had become almost in control of Bahrain, except Muharraq, where the demonstrations took place in the morning and in the evening and included about 500 individuals. These demonstrations were dispersed by the use of smoke guns and "greener guns" without any fatal injuries.

In the second paragraph, the official says that rioters in their numbers, who are less than yesterday, continued to entertain themselves, as stones were thrown at cars and two cars were burned last night.

In the third paragraph, the agent says that the intimidation of Bapco's workers has not stopped, and this has prevented workers except a small number of them from going to work. However, the process of refining and production continued almost as usual. The call for a general strike did not work, knowing that port workers were not working today, and that the port might have to divert the ships if the situation did not improve. Public facilities were maintained by very few staff.

In the fourth paragraph, the official says that the government ordered the closure of schools today and asked teachers not to incite and lead student demonstrations.

Paragraph 5 said that the committee appointed by the Prince to investigate the dismissal complaints at Bapco will meet this morning.

«First visit to the Red Cross»

Between 15 and 21 March, Rochat of the International Red Cross. This was followed by a second visit between 14 and 24 March and a third between 1 and 3 April.

In the telegram sent on 17 March to the Foreign Ministry, the political official spoke of the following:

1) The general situation regarding the demonstrations was better yesterday, except for Muharraq, where a series of demonstrations took place in the morning and again before dark. They were dispersed without problems , Using smoke bombs and there were no fatal injuries.

2) The number of rioters was lower and there were no reports of burning cars. The Manama market is still volatile and has been opened intermittently due to threats received through telephone calls.

3) Bapco workers remained reluctant to work because of the continued threat. The committee set up by the Prince to investigate the dismissal complaints released its first report, saying that Bapco had agreed to return the dismissed persons who had been separated since October 1, 1964 and numbered less than 100. Workers in public services were also hesitant to go to work. This affects the functioning of the port, which will stop working today.

4) The schools were closed by order of the Government and will remain closed until Saturday (20 March) at least.

5) There is evidence that regulators are seeking to expand their demands, for example: Demands to dismantle the Criminal Investigation Service (CID) Now the police can identify some local organizers and are about to begin arresting them.

On March 17, the British Foreign Office sent a telegram of 298 entitled "Demonstrations in Bahrain".

In this cable, the foreign affairs official in Bahrain will inform that he will go to Washington and that the Middle East will be among the other topics to be discussed next week. On this basis, he would like to have preliminary estimates regarding the following:
1) .
2) the possible effects on the Governor and his policies.

3) If there are lessons from us of these incidents.

The letter sent the letter to Washington in a telegram.

The cable has ended. We would like to ask why Britain has discussed the events of Bahrain with Washington, noting that Britain has influence in this region. Is this step a sign of the start of the process of transforming the Gulf to the United States?

«Students of Bahrain in Egypt»
On 17 March it was reported Cairo, that the Bahraini students in the United Arab Republic issued a statement yesterday condemning the indiscriminate actions taken against national in Bahrain, and calls for the statement of Arab revolutionary forces to stand with the people of Bahrain and support. The students also sent a cable of condemnation to the Emir of Bahrain and sent a copy to UN Secretary-General U Thant.

On the following day, March 17, the students organized a sit-in at the association's headquarters on Dr. Al-Sabki Street in Dokki.

In the evening, the sit-in turned into a festival that was called by the late Saudi fighter Nasser al-Sa'id and the broadcaster Sawt al-Arab Ahmed Said. It is said that the speech of the Association in this festival is the late Professor Abdul Jalil Al-Saffar, while Clovis Maksoud delivered the speech of the unions of students of Kuwait, Palestine and Iraq.

It is noteworthy that the Council of the Association at that time was composed of Dr. Ghazi Mahrous (President), Mohammed Ghanem Al-Rumaihi, Abdullah Al-Bakr, Dr. Ismail Al-Qasab, Khalid Al-Hamad, Ahmed Shamlan and Abdul Jalil Al-Saffar. The Egyptian government has opened the way for the use of Sawt Al-Arab Radio and among those who spoke to Mr. Ahmed Sanad, Khaled Al-Hamad and Abdul Jalil Al-Saffar.

The leadership of the political movement at home has strengthened its position through the strike that affected most companies and institutions, prompting the following demands:

1) Release all political detainees who were arrested in the incidents.

2) Increase the salaries and pensions of all Bahrainis at the level of Bahrain as a whole.

3) that all Indians working in Bahrain should be laid off before 1975.

The government found that these demands, especially the demand for the release of political prisoners, are difficult and that their implementation weakens the prestige of the government.

However, the discussions of the government committee with the oil company (Bapco) resulted in the latter agreeing to return all workers who had been laid off since October 1, 1964.

On 18 March, Mr. AD Parson ADParsons, telegram No. 34 to the Foreign Office in which he said the following:

1) The police became stronger in relation to yesterday's demonstrations. There was only one demonstration, which was in Muharraq and was quickly dispersed.

2) The number of rioters was very little with it being notified of two cases of house burning. Most of the Manama market remained closed for most of the day, and threats continued to be made to those who opened their shops or intended to go to work.

3) Although 500 Bapco workers went to the company to collect their salaries, they were locked back to their homes immediately. The workers did not respond to the request of the committee set up by the Emir to investigate complaints of dismissal to return to work.

Many other workers have been away from work, some for the first time. Although electricity, water and fuel supplies continued to be maintained, the port was closed and public transport had decreased on the street more than the day before. The post office also suffers from difficulties due to the low number of staff.

4) The situation seems to be in trouble due to the simple victory achieved by the organizers through their success in closing the market and keeping the workers away from work.

Parson concluded by saying that he would send a copy of the letter to the political resident.

The telegram No. 202, sent by the resident on 18 March, addressed the subject of the helicopter. The resident said that its use by the Bahraini police was authorized for the purpose of locating the demonstrators in order to disperse them if necessary. As for the question of licensing the use of smoke bombs, the resident replied yes, because the Bahraini police in the helicopter considered that this method is more humane and more effective to disperse gatherings.

The third paragraph confirmed that this method is more humane, compared to the number of casualties that occurred in the fifteenth when six people were injured compared to the previous day (March 17), in which three were killed and 15 injured as a result of the use of riot bombs to disperse similar demonstrations There was no authorization to use the helicopter at the time.

The fourth paragraph responded to the question about the use of the helicopter and said there was no credibility in the rumors that the helicopter was used for shooting.

In view of the ongoing demonstrations, the Government of Bahrain announced on the night of 21 March that it would release a number of detainees on bail and that workers should return to their jobs, students and schools to their shops while the government investigated the cases of the remaining detainees. Closed and school-free students. The Bapco oil company registered only 5% of Bahraini workers' attendance. Demonstrations have continued in Muharraq and the number of casualties since the incidents began has risen to four, while the number of injured has risen to 37, including three Westerners.

In the nineteenth of March sent a resident William Los Barda on the cable of the State Department with respect to the source and motivation behind the unrest and the reply came as follows: the
source and motivation for demonstrations, according to our knowledge, the United Arab Republic and Iraq have two workstations efforts to incidents of unrest in the Gulf in order to destroy the power of rulers and British presence there. The plan, closely linked to the Egyptian intelligence that begins to stir unrest in the Trucial States - is likely in May as expected - prompting British troops in Bahrain to go there to deal with the new situation, leaving Bahrain at the mercy of the rebels who believe that if there is no British forces could overthrow the regime despite the presence of Bahraini police.

Bahraini police have learned that the clandestine National Arabist organization in Kuwait has built an effective local organization in Bahrain on the basis of cells. The remnants of the Baathist group active here for nearly two years now appear to have supported the current turmoil.

The most evil factor, the most professional in the present situation, is the accession of at least three Communists with organizers of these disorders. The ruler, contrary to our advice, was heavily pressured by the Bahrainis who were associated with him and misled him so he released one of the trained communists in Moscow in October 1964. Since then this element is still living in Bahrain and without doubt not without Activity.

In addition to the covert efforts of these subversive elements, Al-Tali'ah newspaper, which was dominated by the Egyptians, was for several weeks attacking the presence of the British in Bahrain in a very strong tone and calling on the Bahrainis to get rid of the yoke of British tyranny. Although the call for unrest was on behalf of Bapco's workers and was directed at Bapco's layoffs, this is not the right reason behind the strike.
We have known for some time that there is an organization in Kuwait working to overthrow the sheiks of the Gulf, and we sent a report in 1965 (reference to Crawford on March 15).

At least nine Bahraini exiles who are members of this organization have been successfully infiltrated by Bahraini police. Spies between Kuwait and Bahrain became active, especially after the secret meeting held by the subversive organization in February.

«Original Plan»
As we know, the United Arab Republic and Iraq have united their efforts to destabilize the Gulf with the aim of destroying the authority of the rulers and the British presence. The plan, developed under the supervision of the Egyptian intelligence, is about the beginning of the unrest in the Trucial States. In May, Britain sends its forces in Bahrain to deal with the unrest there. This creates the appropriate situation for revolutionaries in Bahrain to overthrow the regime despite the presence of the Bahraini police.

1) the potential impact of the current turmoil on the Governor and his policies.

It is difficult to predict this through the conversations raised Prince of these points: a) The oil company is responsible for the unrest, because of the dispensing program. B) Strikes and demonstrations are organized from abroad. C) The activities of the underground movement in Kuwait and supported by Nasser are responsible for everything that happened. D) The British release of the prisoners of St. Helena was the main reason Bahrainis continued to work abroad against Bahrain.

There is a glimmer of hope from Sheikh Khalifa, in making his valuable remarks to the political official on March 17 about the need for the Gulf states to resolve their differences and unite their ranks in the face of escalating attacks emanating from abroad. On this day, in the presence of the Emir and his brother Sheikh Mohammed, Sheikh Khalifa repeated these remarks to me.

2) What we learn from these lessons.

Since the stability of the Gulf region is an important British interest and Bahrain is the cornerstone of our position here, we have no choice but to continue to support the traditional Emir of Bahrain and recognize us against the subversive elements that seek to remove it. We must use this opportunity to invest new awareness of the rulers of the Gulf of the importance of uniting and cooperating for the common good.

"We have to look at the deployment of troops in the region on the grounds that this threat is always present in our minds," the cable concludes. Finished reply.