A 1-year suspended sentence for a man infuriates large groups of people demonstrating in his town. The protests are so massive and large that makes the government forces intervene leading to 5 people killed and more than 280 arrested. Who is the man and how significant is he for Bahrainis?
With the start of Bahrain uprising in 2011, the hopes for political and societal reforms in the country were stimulated once more. The government, from the beginning, used harsh reactions to oppress the thousands of hundreds of the people who took to streets to call for their rights. Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain king, then called for foreign interventions realizing with his inability to control the streets. Saudi intervention aided Bahrain monarchy in controlling the protests and widespread arresting of the activists. The movement however did not die or even fade away because of the presence of its spiritual leader; Sheikh Isa Qassim.
Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim,77, is the Shia cleric living in Duraz, a town in Bahrain. He was student to renowned religious men like Abdul-Hussain Al-Heli, Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr, and Fadhel Lankarani. Since 2001, he has been leading Friday sermon prayers in Duraz deepening his influence on the people by his wise speeches.
Sheikh Qassim entered the political sphere in 1972, getting elected for the constituent Assembly. A year later, he got elected a member of Bahrain's parliament, the National Assembly of Bahrain until two years later when the assembly was dissolved by the government.
He was also considered the leader of the opposition group, Al-Wefaq, which had a decisive role in leading the protests against the government. The group was suspended in June 2016 after a series of attacks and disputes by the king.
By acting through the years in people’s favor and their rights, Sheikh Qassim turned into a popular character among Bahrainis from Shia to Sunnis and even other religions. The popularity and activities against the ruling monarchy frightened the government and made them limit the spiritual leader of the movement. He was first banned from giving speech in Friday Sermons in Duraz. “Friday prayer can only be held as a congregational not an individual prayer and it's one of the indisputable Islamic duties,” said Sheikh Qassim in a statement.
He was then arrested for recurrent times under various justifications, each time reacted by large groups of people in various cities of Bahrain. He was then revoked from citizenship of Bahrain in 2016 for the authorities to be able to exile him. Thousands of people took to streets in protests from june 20, 2016 around his house in Duraz and started a strike there for more than two months.
The final blow by the monarchy on the spiritual leader of Bahrain uprising was stating inadmissible financial charges against him and putting him into a long process of trials. Giving the sentence was procrastinated for many times until last week after a meeting between Donald Trump and Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa gave the Bahrain rulers the confidence to give a one-year sentence, in suspension, the Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim.
The verdict was harshly reacted by people in Bahrain and other parts of the world. Multiple people were killed and thousands arrested to prove the critical role of Sheikh Isa Qassim in Bahrain and its 6-year movement. Knowing the influence and being afraid of the after-effects of exile or prosecution, the Bahraini rulers are trying to control him and gradually removing him from the political and societal area of Bahrain. The plan, however, is known and reacted by people in Bahrain putting the rulers in another self-created predicament.
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