Manama Manipulates Covid-19 Pandemic as Part of Its Alarming Prolonged History of Shiite Crackdown
By Sondoss Al Asaad, AHT
It's been roughly seven months since the first cases of the coronavirus were reported in Bahrain. Although various states have wisely dealt with the pandemic, thereby transcending all debates, Manama; however, has unethically leaned towards a radical political and sectarian policy to approach the issue with its majority Shiite population.
Since the very beginning, it accused Tehran of a "biological aggression" by covering up the spread of the coronavirus dubbing anyone diagnosed with coronavirus as Iranian traitors.
Besides, while many governments have come under pressure from human rights groups over prisons' conditions including overcrowding, poor sanitation, medical care negligence and lack of basic necessities, Manama have denied calls to free its opposition leaders and 4000+ prisoners of conscience, in particular ageing detainees or those with medical conditions, including opposition leader Hassan Mushaima and rights activist Abdulhadi Al Khawaja housed in Bahrain’s notorious Jaw Prison.
Meanwhile, the grip has been tightened with the arrival of Ashura season, which constitute a part and parcel of Bahrain's cultural and historical identity.
Due to the pandemic, right from the beginning, Bahrain's Shiite scholars and the largest opposition bloc al-Wefaq National Islamic Society have both stressed on the mourners' strict adherence to social distancing and guidelines designed to prevent the spread.
The authorities' security forces, who follow orders from high officials, have however waged a ferocious war against the Shiites' religious freedoms. They reportedly handed out summonses to people who displayed black banners to forcibly remove them and shut down the Al-Zahraa mosque.
Bahrain’s highest Shiite religious authority, exiled now, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim said the shut down of the mosque would "only stirs up sedition and disturbs the atmosphere of the Ashura season".
Unfortunately, state media campaigners have also manipulated the pandemic to incite hate speech and target the Ashura rituals, which are supposedly guaranteed by the Bahraini Constitution that stipulates "Freedom of conscience is absolute. The State shall guarantee the inviolability of places of worship and the freedom to perform religious rites and to hold religious processions and meetings in accordance with the customs observed in the country."
Manama who claims to be concerned about health condition is going to host the F1 Grand Prix between November 29 and December 6, and none of its mouthpiece have expressed any concern. Perhaps the pandemic is only transmitted by "Shiite"!
Further, rights campaigners have reported that 5 prisoners of conscience are subjected to prolonged isolation and deprivation of communication with their families after being accused of inciting other prisoners to go on hunger strike over the lack of religious freedoms and inadequate healthcare.
Manama has long jailed, deported and interrogated Shiite, in what activists describe as the systematic targeting of the country’s Shiite majority. In the recent years, numerous prisoners of conscience have complained of slander against their beliefs during investigation, torture and imprisonment.
Bahrain laboriously works on modifying the demographic by carrying out mass political naturalization of foreign mercenaries whilst the indigenous Shiite population is subjected to arbitrarily citizenship revocation and deportation.
There is no official statistics regarding the population, which makes political naturalization easier to implement and allows elections to be misrepresented.
Political naturalization has been described as a strategic project by Salah Al Bandar, former adviser in Bahrain's Cabinet Affairs Ministry. The Al Bandar Report was leaked between July and August 2006 and exclusively mentions the plan to encircle Shiite scholars and institutions.
The report contains plans to exclude and marginalize Bahrain's Shiite in all executive branches, cleanse their existence from national institutions, and prevent them from educational opportunities and some benefits, through discriminative policies, adoption by some governmental bodies, substitution of civil societies with Shiite administrations for government operated bogus NGOs [GONGOs] and creation of internet forums fomenting sectarian tension.
Huge funds were set aside for this political scheme, which was orchestrated and financed by Bahrain's members of the National Assembly and senior officials.
On their podiums, Shiite scholars preach about peacefulness articulating their condemnation of sectarian strife in all its forms.
This has been evidenced in the 2011 uprising to this day, where they chanted "Brothers Sunni and Shiite; this nation will not be sold," despite the clear attempts to instigate turmoil and push the opposition to violence.
In 2011, tens of thousands of Bahrainis, from different ideologies and affiliations, kicked off to the street calling for freedom, justice, rights and an elected government with complete authoritative and constitutional powers.
During the imposition of emergency law [March-May 2011], commonly referred to as period of national safety, Bahrain's security forces with the assistance of Gulf Cooperation Council's forces, brutally clampdown on the Shiite by demolishing more than 38 mosques.
The grave-site of Companion Saasaa bin Suhaan was also subject to repeated vandalism. Since then, permits are discriminately not given for building mosques and hussainiyat [congregational halls].
Top Shiite scholarly figures like Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim and Ayatollah Najati are currently stateless. Religious orators, lecturers and chanters are targeted persistently, and attacks are carried out on mourners carrying out religious processions and commemorations.
Further, Congregation prayers are banned in the Central Imam Sadiq Mosque and many other mosques.
The rights of Shiite charitable groups have been confiscated and banned from assisting the orphans and the poor.
The most hazardous side is the systematic hate speech that is being orchestrated to slander Shiite ideology.
Official news agencies broadcasts hate speech in a structured and continuous fashion including accusing Shiite of disloyalty and referred to in derogatory, slanderous, racist and derogatory terms [loyalists to Iran, Safavis, Rafidah, Kafer, etc.]. They purposely omit the existence of Shiite religious culture and events.
While thousands currently commemorate Ashura, State's media is void of any Ashura-related news, with no coverage of any of its activities representing the Shiite identity.
Obviously, the state's curriculum incorporates sectarian teachings that are hostile and in contravention of the beliefs of Shiite. This had pushed the Islamic Ulama Council and Al Tawaeya [two religious educational institutions] for teaching Shiite ideology, but the regime shut them down as well as ceased their funds.
Not only this, but Shiite are marginalized in labor especially in the army, national security apparatus and the state's hospitals.
Since 2011, Shiite students have frequently been denied both national and international scholarships and other educational opportunities regardless of their qualifications. The authorities also have orchestrated mass dismissals against thousands of Shia employees from their jobs merely because they partook in the pro-democracy demonstrations.
Here are some statistics, Shiite only represent:
|15% of the executive branch|
|12% of the judiciary|
|1% of the National Guard, King’s Court and the army|
|12% of the ministerial and judicial senior positions|
|10% of the major companies and organizations|
Since the Al Khalifa family assumed power, Bahrain's Shiite majority, aka Baharna [colloquial term for Bahraini Shia] have been enduring continuous and systematic sectarian persecution.Bahrain is a tiny island composed of 33 archipelagos situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf, with a 765.3 km2 area.
Many international reports have alluded to the persecution of the Shia by the ruling family. For instance, J.G Lorimer, an Officiating British Resident present in the Gulf during the early 1900s, says, "Even though the Baharna are superior in terms of numbers, they are not relevant in the political landscape. In reality, their situation is slightly better than the slaves."
The indigenous people of Bahrain stems from the Shiite tribes of Abdulqais, Tamim and Rabia, and they steeped with amiable character, peacefulness, hospitality and humbleness.