Beirut – While rights defenders and pro-democracy activists both in Bahrain and abroad have long spoken against the many, and let’s face it, heinous crimes committed by King Hamad ibn Issa al-Khalifa regime, one of the monarchy’s dirtiest little secrets has remained well hidden from view: ethno-sectarian engineering.
Behind Bahrain’s officials smiles and promises of reforms lies a reality which few have dared look squarely in the face since it speaks of a tyranny of such aberrant proportion, it can be only equated to a genocide. Not only has Bahrain’s Sunni ruling elite naturalized Sunnis en masse to dilute dissent among its majority Shiite population, and thus bolster its security forces, it has wielded demographic engineering and sectarian cleansing as weapon of mass-oppression.
Trapped in a cycle of violence directly aimed at their faith, Bahrain Shiites have however refused to engage the regime on such a narrative of exclusion and radicalisation – instead they have chosen to stand for social justice and political determination on the basis that freedom and dignity are inalienable human rights. In utter and complete violation of international law, notwithstanding ethic and human decency, Manama government has run a systematic of intimidation against its own citizens, threatening to make individuals stateless should they dare challenge al-Khalifa’s monarchical rule.
Behind such institutional absolutism, Western capitals have stood the loyal footsoldiers of violent repression, cloaking their so-called partners with political absolution in exchange for military access and other lucrative dealings.
Since 2011, Bahrain, a tiny island kingdom on the Arabian Peninsula, has experienced unprecedented civil unrest and political instability amid the throes of a popular movement which has been relentless in its calls for meaningful democratic reforms. With the country caught between the formidable wills of its Shiite majority and Sunni monarchy, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa decided to sanction the acceleration of a naturalization policy that has been equated to demographic engineering due to its sectarian and ethnic nature — a policy that uses national security as a smokescreen to obscure sectarian repression.
“Although Bahrain has long seen political polarization between the ruling Sunni elite and the dominantly Shi‘a opposition, the events of 2011-12 stand out because of the intensity of the popular mobilization, the state’s reliance on violent repression, and the increasing shift from economic and political grievances to sectarian religious conflict,” Quinn Mecham, a scholar of civil conflict and political Islam, wrote in December 2013.
Today repression has reached new dizzying heights as it involves a desire to erase Shia Islam from Bahrain, on account its traditions and history are fiercely rooted in resistance against tyranny. The regime’s attack against the home of Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Ahmed Qassem, a prominent Shiite cleric and the main voice of the opposition in November 2014, stands testimony to the violence and merciless approach al-Khalifa adopted vis a vis its people, when all they have ever called for were reforms. And though al-Khalifa stooges have often depicted Bahrain uprising as a Shiite revolution, a movement directed by Iran to expand its political traction in the region against Saudi Arabia, the truth lies in the desire of a people to exercise political self-determination.
Bahrainis only ambitioned to live free of fear in a system which mirror their political will – religion and ethnicity were never part of the equation. It is really Manama regime which weaved such narrative as to force protesters to engage in a rhetoric it knew would bog down their efforts towards change.
Bahrain uprising was never sectarian-motivated. “Bahrain uprising was born from the desire and need to shape a just and fair society, where all Bahrainis, regardless of their faith and ethnic background could feel heard, represented and valued as members of society,” said Hussain Jawad, a leading human rights activists and Chairman of EBOHR (the European Bahraini Organization for Human Rights) in exclusive comments.
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