Hundreds of people have held a rally in Bahrain to express solidarity with prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim, whom authorities in the Persian Gulf kingdom have stripped of nationality, and to condemn the Al Khalifah regime’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners and opposition figures.
The protesters came together at Fada Square in the northwestern village of Diraz, situated about 12 kilometers (seven miles) west of the capital Manama, on Saturday evening to declare that they will not abandon support for Sheikh Qassim under any circumstances.
They also held up pictures of protesters killed in a raid by police on a sit-in near the residence of the 84-year-old clergyman back on May 23, 2017.
The raid came two days after Sheikh Qassim was given a one-year suspended jail sentence for alleged corruption.
The cleric was also fined 100,000 Bahraini dinars ($265,000) at the time after a court pressed trumped-up charges of collecting funds illegally and money laundering against him.
On June 20, 2016, Bahraini authorities stripped Sheikh Qassim of his citizenship less than a week after the country’s justice ministry suspended al-Wefaq and dissolved opposition al-Risala Islamic Association and Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by Sheikh Qassim.
In a statement released on April 19 this year, the senior Shia cleric said drawing up a new constitution is the only way out of the political crisis in protest-hit Bahrain, urging the regime to pursue an agreement with the opposition instead of increasingly suppressing dissidents.
“Since the people do not find anything to persuade themselves to stop their protest movement and are witnessing a surge in the [regime’s] policy of repression, dictatorship and marginalization, they are pressing ahead with their uprising, whatever the cost may be,” Sheikh Qassim stated.
Demonstrations in Bahrain have been held on a regular basis ever since a popular uprising began in mid-February 2011.
The participants demand that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.
Manama, however, has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent.
On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to the imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.
King Hamad ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3, 2017.