SHAFAQNA – This week Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies conducted an interview with Tasnim news Agency to discuss Bahrain, and Sheikh Isa Qassim’s sentence.
Following is a transcript of the interview:
In the interview Shafaqna underlined the role of Bahrainis’ nationwide rallies in support of Sheikh Isa Qassim in pressuring the Manama regime, saying the cleric’s commuted sentence proves that Al Khalifa is “fast losing ground” in the kingdom.
“To be perfectly fair I would say that Sheikh Isa Qassim’s commuted sentence is proof that Al Khalifa is fast losing ground in Bahrain,” Director of Programs at Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies Catherine Shakdam from London stressed.
“For Manama to bow to popular pressure is very significant and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that this popular uprising has destabilized the regime enough to send fear in the heart of the monarchy,” she noted.
Tasnim: As you know, the Bahraini regime, in a politically motivated move on Sunday, announced the verdict against Sheikh Isa Qassim, sentencing him to one year in prison. According to the Verdict, Sheikh Qassim’s properties worth three million Bahraini dinars (near $8 million) have been confiscated. The cleric was also sentenced to pay a fine of 1,000 Bahraini dinars (about $2,650). According to local reports, Sheikh Qassim’s prison sentence has been suspended for three years. What is your assessment of the developments?
Shakdam: To be perfectly fair I would say that Sheikh Isa Qassim’s commuted sentence is proof that Al Khalifa is fast losing ground in Bahrain. If you consider the outpour of support – both within Bahrain and abroad – to Sheikh Isa Qassim, one can understand just how nervous Al Khalifa monarchy must have been of the fallouts of its decisions.
Sheikh Qassim is not just a Shiite cleric; he has come over the years to embody Bahrainis’ hope for change and democratic aspirations. His struggle and the injustice that he has faced has been that Bahrainis have faced by the hands of the regime.
For Manama to bow to popular pressure is very significant and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that this popular uprising has destabilized the regime enough to send fear in the heart of the monarchy.
Bahrain’s commitment to peace has been a force to reckon with and of course, Sheikh Isa Qassim has been instrumental in such a drive.
To have a man of peace, a cleric, to enact such change from the confinement of his home is nothing short than inspirational when we consider the military power Manama has wielded against its people.
Tasnim: The Al Khalifa regime has declared the verdict after several postponements; in your opinion to what extent have the nationwide rallies held in solidarity with of the prominent cleric had an impact on the postponements?
Shakdam: Bahrainis’ support of Sheikh Isa Qassim has been absolutely key! Without such an outpour of solidarity, it is likely the regime would have long arrested him and with him a nation’s hope for democratic change.
Sheikh Isa Qassim is now the figure of Bahrain Revolution, his fate is linked to that of Bahrain’s democratic dreams and this makes him untouchable. There is nothing now that Al Khalifa can do to change dynamics. Everything the regime has done so far: the killing and the repression, have only anchored Bahrainis further in their determination.
Tasnim: Do not you think that the Saudi lobbies in Bahrain have finally made the Al Khalifa regime to issue the verdict against Sheikh Qassim?
Shakdam: Saudi Arabia may think it is still in control but its influence is clearly waning. Al Khalifa understands that its monarchy is on borrowed time. A fool can see that Bahrain will achieve democracy regardless of what its people will have to go through. Historically speaking monarchies cannot stand the pressure of a people’s call for democratic change.
I would say that 1979 taught the world a beautiful lesson in Resistance against Tyranny and dedication to Freedom’s principles.
When looking at Bahrain you also have to consider that this fight for institutional control is also a fight for religious freedom. Saudi Arabia is terrified Shiite Islam’s principles are being propelled to the forefront of the news by way of Resistance and so it has worked to silence one of Resistance’s flashpoint: Bahrain.
Tasnim: It seems that the Manama regime is not going to change its approach to the opposition. How do you see the future of the February 14 revolution in the Persian Gulf country?
Shakdam: There is no doubt in my mind Bahrain’s Revolution will succeed in bringing about change. It might not happen today or tomorrow but Bahrainis will have their victory and they will be vindicated. Too many people have sacrificed their lives and their personal safety for anyone to dare go back now.
Bahrain’s uprising is not a fluke, it is not a phase that will go away of enough violence is exerted. The regime knows this. In fact, it knows this so well that it is attempting to manage its crackdown against figures such as Sheikh Isa Qassim in a manner that does not incense the population beyond the breaking point. I would not be surprised Manama will attempt to negotiate an exit strategy now.