Drives behind Bahrain regime’s clampdown on opposition

Alwaght– The Al Khalifa regime of Bahrain has executed three young activists named Sami Moshaymaa, Ali al-Sankis, and Abbas al-Samiee, adding to the chain of violent actions against the civilians over the past year. The three young men were arrested and sentenced to death in 2014 on charges of killing an Emirati and two Pakistani troops in the country. The charge was never proved by the government, however. Meanwhile, the decision for execution by the Al Khalifa ruling regime was also influenced by pressures from the Emirati officials who demanded death penalty for the convicts.

In June last year, the Bahraini government revoked citizenship of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, the top Shiite cleric of the country, and tried him for claims of money laundering through collecting charity funds. Since the same month the wave of detention of the Shiite clerics and preachers by the regime saw intensification. The authorities have taken other measures as part of crackdown aiming at distributing the active progress of the popular uprising that started in 2011. The punitive measures included security encirclement of Diraz village, the bastion of the protest movement against the regime and the location of house of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, and banning Friday prayers at Imam Sadiq Mosque in the same village.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights in mid-September 2016 issued a statement in which it reported that within only several months, 87 Shiite clerics were summoned to the military courts while only 12 of them stood trial. Detention of Majid Mashaal, head of the largest religious and clerical Shiite association in Bahrain, summoning Sheikh Mohammad Sanghor, a prominent cleric and imam for biggest Friday prayer in the country, and most importantly detention of Sheikh Ali Salman, the secretary general of the leading opposition bloc Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society were other anti-opposition steps taken by Al Khalifa regime.

On the other side, the ruling regime has followed a set of measures to change the demographic makeup of the society in a bid to hit the growing wave of anti-government protests in the country. The moves included stripping citizenship of the Shiite civilians and instead granting citizenship to nationals from Pakistan, Jordan, and other Arab states. Tightening security and intelligence relations with Britain and the Israeli regime and making huge arms purchases from the US are other measures taken by the Bahraini king and the ruling minority to strengthen bases of their rule. Manama, further, extended mission of the Saudi and Emirati military forces, which were deployed to its soil by their countries since eruption of revolution in 2011 to help the Bahraini government repress the opposition movement in the country. This foreign military deployment was a tool to block any influence by the revolutionary movements on the other parts of the society and silence their voices.

The reality is that after six years since spark of the popular uprising of Bahrain on February 14, 2011, the revolution declined to be curbed despite regional and international supports for the despotic government in the country. Actually, the uprising not only declined to wind down but also in past year it began to grow broader. Notwithstanding arrests and summoning of top clerics with the aim of cutting the clout of the opposition elites and leaders of the demonstration movement, the country saw heated anti-government rallies across the capital Manama, and particularly the Diraz village and its vicinity.

The main goal of the Bahraini regime, which coordinates measures with Saudi Arabia and the UAE as its backers, is to undermine the Shiite leaders of the opposition movement in the country, those who enjoy a good deal of domestic and regional legitimacy and acceptance and play a major role in leadership of the demonstrations. Additionally, seeing that heavy waves of arrests and recalls failed so far to settle the crisis in the country, the Bahraini authorities have resorted to an open clampdown, a step inclined to trigger wide-ranging violent encounters between the government and the protestors in the upcoming months.

Due to a couple of factors like existence of the US military base in Bahrain, direct military intervention of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, military and intelligence supports provided by Manama’s regional and international allies, iron fist approach of the government in dealing with the protests, and disorganization of the revolutionaries in Bahrain, the nationwide demonstrations are unlikely to lead to removal of the ruling regime. But the majority’s legitimate demands are not something that can be easily ignored by Al Khalifa regime.