Bahraini clerics announce national mourning to honor Diraz victims

Press TV – Bahraini clerics have declared an open-ended national mourning in commemoration of the slain supporters of prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, who lost their lives after Al Khalifah regime forces opened fire at them.

The clerics, in a statement released on Wednesday, asked all Bahraini men and women to continue staging sit-ins in support of the 77-year-old cleric, who is the spiritual leader of the country’s dissolved opposition bloc, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, in al-Fida Square of the northwestern village of Diraz and ramp up resistance against regime troops, Arabic-language Bahrain al-Yaum news agency reported.

The statement also urged shopkeepers and owners of commercial establishments to down their shutters on Wednesday and Thursday, and attend the demonstrations in honor of Diraz martyrs.

The clerics said Sheikh Qassim’s fate remains unknown a day after Manama regime forces broke into his residence, killing at least six people and wounding dozens more.

The soldiers fired birdshot and teargas to disperse supporters of the clergyman, and detained 286 of them. Reports said 19 policemen were also injured in the clashes.

Bahraini Shia clerics further noted that the nation will eventually turn the tables and prevail, warning that people from all walks of life will not tolerate the ruling Al Khalifah regime’s harm to Sheikh Qassim.

This image provided by a pro-democracy activist, who requested anonymity, shows people carrying a man injured in a raid on a sit-in in the village of Diraz, Bahrain, on May 23, 2017.

The statement also held King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, the ruler of the tiny Persian Gulf island country, fully responsible for the fate of the top cleric and those arrested during the Tuesday skirmishes in Diraz.

On May 21, a Bahraini court convicted Sheikh Qassim of illegal collection of funds and money laundering and sentenced him to one year in jail suspended for three years.

It also ordered him to pay $265,266 in fines. The court ruling sparked widespread demonstrations across the kingdom.

Bahraini authorities stripped the cleric of his citizenship on June 20, 2016. They later dissolved the Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by him, in addition to the opposition al-Risala Islamic Association.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.