“The decision to strip Sheikh Isa Qassim of his citizenship takes Bahrain into the darkest days it has seen since the protests and crackdown of 2011,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “The Bahraini authorities are shutting the door on political reform, while simultaneously stoking dissent. These actions should be met with serious consequences, not expressions of concern.”
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry announced in an statement on Monday the country’s top Shiite cleric was stripped of his citizenship.
“Isa Ahmed Qassim has been stripped of his Bahraini citizenship,” Bahrain state news agency cited the ministry’s statement, referring to the country’s most senior Shiite Muslim cleric in Bahrain.
The latest move by the Bahrain regime against the country’s main opposition figures came as the Al-Kahlifeh regime is exerting mounting pressure on the opposition.
Opposition members feel the government is willing to accelerate its crackdown on dissent because it believes it will only face minimal censure through statements of concern in the US and Europe. Both the US and UK have large naval bases in Bahrain.
Last week, the government suspended the main Shia opposition party, al-Wefaq, accusing it of having links to foreign terrorists and inciting hatred. Sheikh Ali Salman, al-Wefaq’s secretary-general, was arrested in 2014 on charges of inciting violence. His sentence was doubled to nine years on appeal last month.
The cabinet decided to revoke the citizenship of Sheikh Isa — an indigenous Bahraini who applied for nationality to get a passport in the 1960s — after a presentation by the interior ministry. The lack of judicial oversight raised concerns among rights groups.
Stripping the nationality of dissidents has become a popular tool for Persian Gulf Arab littoral states battling domestic dissent, such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, where nationality is perceived by many as a privilege not a right.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says more than 250 Bahrainis have been stripped of their nationality for alleged disloyalty.
The move by the Manama regime has received furious response from Iran.
Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani warned the Manama regime to stay away from Bahraini Shiite cleric or wait for dire repercussions, including armed struggle by people and overthrow of the Al-Khalifa dynasty.
In a rare statement issued on Monday, General Soleimani warned the Manama regime that in case of any insult or disrespect for Sheikh Qassim, “the toppling of the regime will only be a small part of the repercussions that will also include armed resistance”.
The General blasted the Manama regime for its “unacceptable and inhuman oppression, discrimination, injustice and humiliation” against the Muslim Bahraini nation, and said people on the tiny Persian Gulf island have so far tolerated the Al-Khalifa regime’s apartheid and heavy pressures and continued their uprising peacefully despite the fact that a number of their political and religious leaders have been arrested, their women and children have been imprisoned and tortured, some others have been stripped of their citizenship and undergone intensifying pressures with their rights trampled upon.
He said people’s rise for their demands in a peaceful way has, unfortunately, emboldened the Al-Khalifa regime to intensify its crimes and crackdown of the Bahraini nation, “specially as a result of the meaningful silence shown by the UN, the US and the Western states,” everyday.
“The illegal detention of Sheikh Ali Salman (the head of the main opposition group, Alwefaq) and other political and religious leaders of Bahrain in light of the silence of the international circles has emboldened the Al-Khalifa to threaten the sanctuary of the remarkable cleric and religious leader of Bahrain’s Shiites, Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Qassim, and inspired the people of the region and Bahrain with worrying thoughts,” General Soleimani said in his statement.
“The Al-Khalifa seems to be misusing the peaceful movement of the people and is miscalculating the extent of public fury,” he said, and added, “They certainly know that trespassing the sanctuary of Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Qassim is a redline whose crossing will set fire to Bahrain and the entire region and leave people with no other option, but armed resistance.”
“The Al-Khalifa will pay the price of such an action whose endpoint will be nothing but annihilation of this tyrannical regime,” the Iranian Quds Force Commander warned.
General Soleimani also warned supporters of the Manama regime that any insult to Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Qassim and continued overpressure on the Bahraini people heralds “a bloody Intifada (uprising) with consequences whose responsibility will fall on those who legitimize the arrogance of the Bahraini rulers”.
By Fars News Agency