MANAMA, Bahrain â€“â€“ The images of victims like Ridha Mohammed Hasan â€“â€“ lying in his hospital bed, allegedly shot in the brain by the Bahraini army â€“â€“ is splitting protesters between those who want government reforms and those calling for an end to the countryâ€™s monarchy.
What began as a call for Bahrain to move from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one and the resignation of top officials has led to violence never before seen on this tiny, wealthy island that up until now was known more for its oil riches and Formula One racing.
At least five have been killed in one week, driving many to call for the end of the ruling regime. Whatever the outcome, last weekâ€™s events raised questions about how the government can regain its peopleâ€™s trust after unprecedented violence against them.
â€œI donâ€™t know anything about politics, but people say the king must go,â€ said one of Hasanâ€™s nurses, Zainab, whose clothes were covered with Hasanâ€™s blood two days ago when he arrived at the hospital.
She refused to give her last name Sunday because she still fears the government.
â€œThe army may be shooting, but the king gives the orders. How can we trust a government that will kill us?â€
On Sunday, opposition leaders said they would not meet with the government until it promised to stick to any agreements. So far, there have been no direct negotiations, opposition leaders said.
â€œWhen the first casualties happened (earlier in the week), the king apologized and it sounded like they were going to let us stay in the square. And then they shot people in the middle of the night.
It made believing the word of the regime doubtful,â€ said Ebrahim Sharif, who leads a leftist secular opposition group, National Democratic Action Society. â€œWe want democratic reforms.â€
These days, hospital staffers eagerly invite anyone with a camera into the hospital to see the patients overflowing their hallways.
In operating rooms, doctors have bystanders hovering with cameras to record images of those injured by government forces even as they are trying to save patients.
The pictures are distributed throughout the population of 600,000 in a matter of hours. Some gruesome pictures of the injured clinging to life hang outside the hospital entrance and are distributed at the demonstration site, in the capitalâ€™s main square.
Never is a name attached to photos; the images are enough. Opposition members are desperate to document what is happening in a police state where much happens behind the scenes.
During protests Friday, four people were seriously injured by gunshots or tear gas used by the Bahraini army, which includes mercenaries brought in from such countries as Yemen, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The injured remain side by side in the intensive care unit of Salminiya Medical Complex, the largest hospital here and the alternative demonstration site when officials block access to Pearl Square, where the protests began.
On one side of Hasan is a 17-year-old shot in the shoulder, and next to him is a 16-year-old shot in the neck. On Hasanâ€™s other side is a 42-year-old man injured by tear gas.
Hasanâ€™s body is covered with a Bahraini flag that reads â€œI love my country,â€ and for a few minutes his solemn family surrounded him even as he was hooked up to various machines tracking his condition.
Even in the ICU, the injured pose for photographers, some of them doctors, as a steady stream of people flow in throughout the day. One holds up his fingers in the shape of V for victory; another looks up at those photographing him. All is except for Hasan, that is.
â€œHe is brain dead,â€ whispers Zainab, the nurse. â€œThe family does not know yet. We confirmed it today. They are about to tell him.â€
The nurses call Hasanâ€™s father, Mohammed Hasan Ahmed, 55, away to a separate room, and in a few minutes it is painfully clear the family knows. Women collapse, a man grabs a Koran and starts reading it at Hasanâ€™s bedside; one of his six siblings, a brother, screams and is carried away from the hospital bed.
Another nurse grabs a mandated picture of the smiling prime minister off the wall of the ICU and throws it into the garbage.
But that does not seem like enough. She takes it and throws it onto the ground with all the force she can muster, smashing the glass.
Others come behind her, turn over the photo and start writing on it. â€œNobody wants you,â€ someone writes.
â€œDeath to the Khalifas,â€ the nurse yells, referring to the royal family, amid a string of profanities.
â€œDeath to the Khalifas!â€ Zainabâ€™s lips quiver and she turns around and quietly cries. She has worked in the ICU for 14 years and has never seen anything like this.
This is not a hospital that has ever seen multiple people coming in one night with gunshot wounds, let alone from an attack by the government.
â€œWe knew he probably would not make it the minute he came in,â€ she said.
â€œThey did the surgery but fragments of the bullet are still in the brain. But we kept hoping.â€
Hasan, 32, was injured at a protest that began when mourners gathered at Pearl Square to bury the first man killed in the demonstrations.
The army opened fire to clear the square. Zainab has a photo on her mobile phone of an injured boy in her ward, Mohammed Ali Ebrahim, 16, holding up his fingers in a V for victory when he heard the news that protesters had retaken the square Saturday.
On her other phone she has pictures of Hasanâ€™s injuries. She takes pictures every day and sends them on.
â€œWe want the world to see what they are doing to us,â€ she said. And then, she asked: â€œDo you want a copy of my pictures?â€