SHAFAQNA – Ashura played highly effective political roles in all stages of Bahrain throughout history. Since the mid-90s, “It was surprising if not at least one political activist was arrested on the backdrop of an anti-government rhetoric, at the height of Ashura and the entire month of Muharram,” this is how academic researcher Justin Gengler says it in a nutshell.
Ashura will always incite controversy and continue to be monitored by not only state authorities, but the US embassy as well.
According to the Wikileaks Cable, since 2005, the US Embassy in Manama collects information on Ashura for study and examination in order to give a comprehensive overview to the US administration, in a form of an annual confidential report.
The cables date back to the period between 2005 and 2010. The embassy was closely monitoring the Ashura commemoration events in Bahrain and regularly sending detailed reports to the State Department. The details in the cables included the number of people participating in a certain event, what Sheikh Isa Qassim and Sheikh Ali Salman said, how the Ashura speech went, and how the security situation was. They further mentioned whether there were violations, whether the United States was mentioned, what upsets and provokes these people participating in the events and how the commemoration of Ashura would affect them that particular year.
It is the type of information gathering that even the government would not detect and civil society organizations would disregard.
These cables do not only reach the US State Department, but are also sent to the central US leadership in the Gulf as well as to intelligence agencies, analysts and researchers.
The Embassy lists all the minor details of Ashura in their religious, social and political context. The deep observation of Ashura in Bahrain (even if the US flag is drawn on the streets to be marched on) makes the US Embassy reports historical documents of great significance.
In 2008, the former US Ambassador Adam Ereli and other embassy officials attended Ashura commemorations in central Manama in January, as part of a post’s outreach to Bahrain’s Shiites.
There is a team that the Embassy sends annually to observe these events attentively. The Embassy also calls its Shia contacts to collect more information.
To US policy, Ashura was an inspiration for many revolutions and Shia resistance movements in the region, starting from Iran and not ending in Lebanon. The US has since been asking itself when this Shiite passion for Ashura in Bahrain will end?
The cables prove that Ashura is related to Gulf security, the stability of ruling regimes, the fifth fleet, the Iranian neighbor, and how the US image is portrayed in a Shiite’s mind.
Coinciding with the occasion of Ashura in 2015, “Bahrain Mirror” displayed these dangerous documents, and now publishes them in a book for the first time for research purposes, aiming at analyzing how the US diplomacy works in this regard, as well as how the Bahraini government deals with the US Embassy’s follow up.
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