SHAFAQNA – The following letter was sent to Shafaqna News Association by by Lawyer Reema Shaman – Wife of Shiekh Ali Salman; political detainee and the secretary general of Al-Wefaq, the largest banned political opposition bloc in Bahrain.
Six years of struggling for freedom have passed in which the Bahrainis have been subjected to the ultimate severe level of suppression, as a punishment for their ongoing revolution against oppression and inequality, that has been taking place since February 2011, by the beginning of the so called ‘Arab’s Spring’. Dozens of citizens were killed amid the absence of accountability. Thousands were detained including heads of political parties and prominent human rights activists, based on unfair trials that lack the minimum standards of justice.
Clearly, the regime inclines to escalate the situation. In the same context, the authorities revoked the citizenship of Shiekh Isa Qasim, the spiritual leader of the Muslims Shia’a who represent the majority of the population in Bahrain. Shiekh Qasim is an indigenous Bahraini citizen. He is highly esteemed by the Shia’a in Bahrain and in the Islamic world. Additionally, he was among the representatives of the public who filed a draft of the constitution in 1972. In 1973, he was elected as a member of the National Council. He is a preacher of tolerance, and he always calls for dialogue as an approach to surpass political disputes. Qassim has the vantage in stabilizing the security conditions of the country throughout several critical periods.
Revoking Sheikh Isa Qasim’s citizenship incurred the rage of the public. People staged regularly to protest in the square facing Qasim’s house, as a reaction against the arbitrary verdict. Since then, the security forces have been besieging the domicile of Qasim, Diraz village. They restrictively blocked all the entrances, making the movement of the residents terribly difficult. Only Diraz’s citizens are allowed to reach the village. They have to wait for a long time in a queue, then, they have to display their identity cards to verify their place of residence.
The imposed blockade on the village, and the disarray on the Internet connection are heinous violations of the national laws and the international covenants which guarantee the right of movement. The intensified strict measures are taken on daily basis, since June 2016, approximately from 7:p.m. to 1:00 a.m. These imposed sanctions are some of the list of severe restrictions against the right of expression and assembly. They are regarded as a systematic approach to silence the people, in order to paralyse the pro-democracy popular uprising.
Early on May 23th, 2017, the security forces raided the village of Diraz, and stormed into the peaceful sit-in site. The Ministry of Interior claimed that this action was a security operation ‘to remove violations’, pointing to the peaceful protest in the square facing Shiekh Issa Qasim’s house. This attack was launched after a verdict was issued in May 22, 2017, sentencing Qasim to one year imprisonment, suspended to three years, and he was ordered to pay 100 thousand BHD, in fines. The arbitrary verdict is considered a violation against the religious rituals of the Shia’a in Bahrain, who have been subjected to sectarian and political persecution for decades.
Particularly, what happened in the peaceful sit-in site is not a security operation but a bloody attack. The raid was launched by scores of security men and armoured vehicles against peaceful protesters who were armed by no sort of guns, but their strong determination to defend for the sake of their spiritual leader. At least five of the protesters were executed in the raid, and several were wounded as a result of firing shotguns (birdshots). Besides, over 200 citizens were detained, most of them have an unknown fate, yet. This bloody raid occurred, unfortunately, amid the disregard of the International community.
Sheikh Isa Qassim’s house is under an entire imposed military blockade. Bahrainis are greatly concerned about exiling Qasim outside Bahrain, as a possible measure to be taken by the Bahraini authorities, at any time. The disregard by the international community to slam the Bahraini authorities’ policy of persecution, and its abstain from practicing effective measures by urging the government to take into consideration serious reforms is a great opportunity to commit various, additional violations by the authorities.
We call upon the international community to exercise a great deal of influence to deter human rights violation in the Middle East region, through taking positive and prompt actions, and to exist the state of shameful silence regarding the crisis of the Bahraini people.
We, further, request it to stop the imposed blockade on the spiritual leader’s house, since the silence upon besieging Diraz, all over the recent months, had facilitated the bloody raid against the village by the Bahraini authorities.
We, in addition, urge the international community to be responsible for protecting the protesters and human rights activists, in accordance with the standards of the International law, and to oblige the Bahraini government to obtain a fair political reform that put an end to the suffering of all Bahrainis.