Clerics in Bahrain have attended a protest in support of the country’s top Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim as the Manama regime intensifies the crackdown on members of the Shia Muslim community.
Hundreds of Shia clerics gathered at a main square of the village of Diraz, west of Manama, to back Sheikh Qassim in the face of the regime’s mounting pressure on the cleric.
The protesters, clad in white shrouds to show that they are ready to die for Sheikh Qassim, held images of the cleric and chanted slogans against the ruling Al Khalifah regime.
Reports said security forces attacked the gathering. They also attempted to arrest two young clerics but escaped the scene after the protest intensified.
A statement issued at the end of the gathering said the clerics have felt the need to take to the streets to show their discontent with the regime’s intensifying crackdown on religious figures.
Bahrain has issued an increasing number of jail sentences against notable opposition figures over the past months. The courts in the kingdom have also stripped many, including Sheikh Qassim, of citizenship, prompting concerns that the regime is pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing.
Manama revoked Sheikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship on June 20 amid an intensifying crackdown on the pro-democracy drive across the Persian Gulf country. Shortly afterward, the military surrounded Diraz, his native village, with checkpoints, stopping people from entering it.
Internet connections and cellular coverage at the village have also been disabled, making it impossible for the villagers to communicate with the outside world.
Bahrain has been cracking down on dissent ever since the popular uprising began in early 2011. On July 17, Bahrain’s so-called administrative court ordered the dissolution of al-Wefaq, the country’s main opposition group. The court also ordered the seizure of its funds.