Consequences of Bahraini Regime’s Crackdown on Top Cleric
Despite regime’s iron fist in the face of the rallying public
Alwaght- As the Arab uprisings sparked in Tunisia and then in Egypt in 2011, Bahrain's revolution began with massive peaceful anti-regime protests in the country. Since the beginning of the reform-seeking rallies, Al Khalifa regime responded to the popular motions with excessive violence.
Despite regime’s iron fist in the face of the rallying public, the demonstrations remain ongoing while they are now more than half a decade old. The people do not seem to have forgotten what they started their uprising for.
The revolt against Al Khalifa erupted in opposition to the religion and ethnic injustice and sought to get things right through demands for political reforms. But so far the campaign failed to go anywhere as the government generally responded with an iron fist to the peaceful gatherings while having the support of its regional patrons such as Saudi Arabia.
The spirit of the movement remains firmly alive among the revolutionary Shiite Muslims of the country who account for a majority of the island kingdom’s population. The erosive crisis that keeps influencing the country has never been beneficial to the Bahraini people nor to the regional peace, something making it necessary to find an appropriate solution to address the people’s rights and resolve the crisis.
The regional actors have different views of the crisis. While Iran, a country with interests in the Persian Gulf region, insists that people should be allowed to determine their fate through political negotiations and elections, Saudi Arabia, another major actor and rival of the Islamic Republic, prefers to help Bahrain regime put down the Shiites' demonstrations.
In the past few days, Bahrain saw new security developments. The security forces on Tuesday raided the home of the top Shiite cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim who was recently given one-year suspended jail term. The attack on the home village of Sheikh Isa Qassim also targeted the sit-inners who protested the court ruling. The raid left at least five people dead and many injured.
After six years of the regime’s violence and while the protesters still insist on their demands realization, Al Khalifa's recent measures will have negative consequences, including:
1. Fueling the religious divides in Bahrain’s society
Bahrain is a small country with small population with diversified religions. However, the majority of the nation is Shiite Muslim. The government during the years of uprising has tried to sectarianize the popular demands, and paint the Shiite Muslims as main triggers of the violence. Such a measure, the analysts suggest, not only failed to yield results to the Al Khalifa dynasty but also had a share in polarization of the Bahraini society and drawing lines between the Shiites and Sunnis. Such a policy, the experts warn, can carry grave ramifications for the nation in the long run.
The recent attack on the prominent cleric's home and putting him under house arrest not only provokes the Shiites' anti-regime sentiments but also gives rise to a kind of pessimism among the Shiites against the Sunnis of the country. On the other hand, the heavy anti-Shiite propaganda will promote Sunni hate against the Shiites. The violent responses to the protesters and disrespecting their religious leaders only deepen the religious gaps, and in the long run add to the already-accumulated problems in the country.
2. Radicalization of the country’s political and social atmosphere
Five years of the regime’s violent repression campaign against the protesting people will automatically contribute to radicalization of Bahrain politically and socially. The fresh round of crackdown on the people gathering around home of the top cleric in solidarity with him and putting him under house arrest by the security forces can even double the radicalization process, the analysts warn. They add that it can pave the way for extremist behaviors in the Bahraini community. Several reports now suggest that many Sunni Bahrainis have joined the ISIS terrorist group. This will pose direct threats to Bahrain and spread radicalism across the region.
3. Regime loses legitimacy both at home and abroad
All of the Al Khalifa’s repressive measures against the people are devoid of legal bases. For example, the recent court verdict of Sheikh Isa Qassim was unveiled to simply satisfy the ruling regime, without any legal backgrounds. This act, beside a harsh clampdown against the sit-inners, raises further questions about legitimacy of the Al Khalifa rule, and tarnish the regime’s image in the eyes of the public opinion both at home and on the international stage. The Al Khalifa rulers are now encouraged by their regional and international backers to take action against the protesters, but at the end of the road the government will lose credit nationally and globally as an anti-public regime.