On February 14, 2011, thousands in Bahrain, both Shia and Sunni, took to the streets demanding democracy and reform in their country. The only Gulf country with a Shia majority governed by a Sunni ruling family, the Bahraini government responded to the protests with violence and suppression. Peaceful demonstrators, along with medics, journalists, and other citizens that came to their aid, were arrested, detained, tortured, and even killed for their involvement.
In response to international pressure, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ordered the establishment of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to document human rights violations that occurred during the protests. The BICI report found over 500 cases of torture and 46 deaths as a result. Yet even with these documentations and a promise from King Hamad to hold accountable those responsible for human-rights abuses, the culture of impunity continues. The ruling family's suppression and intimidation tactics have included the use of arrest, detention, physical and psychological abuse, torture, and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
Twitter has been frequently used during the Arab Spring as it provides immediate, and often anonymous, information. Witnesses can document abuses by security forces with photographs and inform participants where a protest is to occur. This type of instant news creates a challenge for governments that practice systematic censorship of unwanted information. In an effort to combat this, the government of Bahrain has begun to target Twitter users with harsh punishments, including torture and jail.