Bahrain

How Authorities Shifted their Approach from Politically to Religiously Targeting Shiites?

The authorities in Bahrain do not seem to care, not even a little bit, about the criticism raised against them for fighting the Shiite community, which constitutes the majority of the population, but quite the contrary, government figures are brazenly scouring the world’s capitals to talk about religious tolerance and how all religions are allowed and accepted on Bahraini territory, except Shiites apparently.

Last month (January 2020), the security authorities pursued at least nine Shiite clerics and arrested Mulla AbdulZahraa Al-Samahiji, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Rayash, Mulla Qassim Zainuldin, Sheikh Abdulmohsen Al-Jamri and Sheikh Ali Rahma. They also summoned Sheikh Ali bin Ahmed Al-Jidhafsi, Sheikh Isa Al-Moemen, Sheikh Hamza Al-Dairi and Sheikh Jassim Al-Haddad for interrogation.

They were interrogated over delivering religious sermons or mentioning some Quranic verses. Some were questioned about their intention behind mentioning certain verses. Meanwhile, others were interrogated over praying for mercy for the martyrs or the return of the deported. One of them was interrogated over the meaning behind his recitation of prayers at the end of his sermon pleading for the return of every absentee to his homeland safe and sound. Others were summoned for no clear reasons. The investigator asked some, “what did you say in last Friday’s sermon?”

Although they are often interrogated for a short time, the authorities deliberately detain them for as long as possible. Some are kept waiting for 3 hours before their interrogation even starts, according to one of the clerics.

Since 2011, the authorities have drawn up a deliberate plan to target the Shiite community. They started targeting Shiites politically and then moved on to targeting them religiously. The authorities dissolved in the past years the only two Shiite political societies, Al-Wefaq (the largest opposition political society) and Islamic Action Society (Amal), as well as Al-Tawiya (the Shiite community’s largest religious society) and the Islamic Al-Risala Society, in addition to Bahrain’s largest Shiite religious body (Ulama Council).

The authorities imprisoned the most prominent Shiite opposition figures and targeted the spiritual leader of the sect, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, by revoking his nationality and preventing him from being medically treated for months. The authorities later allowed him to receive treatment outside the country after his health deteriorated and reached a very dangerous stage.

The authorities could have stopped targeting the Shiite community after attacking their institutions and removing their influential figures from the scene. However, the authorities began a new phase of persecution that involved targeting purely religious practices, making a shift from fighting them politically to targeting them because of their religious practices.

Bahrain has witnessed a public war against Ashura manifestations (black banners and signs), and the appointment of a provocative person to the Shiite community at the head of the Jaafari Endowments Directorate (Waqf). This coincided with campaigns organized by the Interior Ministry against mourning processions, to the extent that state security services started observing the content of sermons and lectures delivered by clerics on this occasion. This has evolved to prosecuting anyone who mentions Yazid Ibn Muawiya in the context of condemnation. As a result, a number of preachers were accused of “insulting a symbol praised by a certain sect”.

No one knows how far and how long the authorities will continue to harass the Shiite community, but surely they will not be able to eliminate the Shiite presence in the country.

-Shiites

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