Bahrainis Ask: How Come A Government That Has Long Clamped Down on Their Religious Freedoms Present Itself as An Emerging State of Coexistence?

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Another Friday brings streams of Bahrainis onto the streets to protest against the government’s normalization of ties with the apartheid Zionist regime, hoisting both Bahraini and Palestinian flags and posters reading ‘Down Down Israel’. Unlike in the UAE, opposition to normalization runs deep in Bahrain, and no end in sight for these protests against what the citizens widely deem as unconstitutional and unethical betrayal to the Palestinian righteous cause.

In recent years, Manama has banned the freedom of assembly, hence, any peaceful protest is harshly attacked by security forces. In the wake of the 2011 peaceful uprising, the government arbitrarily detained thousands of dissidents and stripped hundreds of their citizenship over fabricated charges of “terrorism”. It has further dissolved the two main opposition groups Al-Wefaq and Waad, also over allegations linked to “terrorism.”

These steps seem to have been taken by the authorities to pave the way to what is widely denounced by a plethora of Bahrain’s elites, academics, intellectuals, journalists, and ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, whoever dares to critique the government’s approach is nothing but a “terrorist colluding with foreign agencies to topple the regime.” This is how totalitarian governments safeguard their thrones, by tyranny, reprisal, and political bureaucracy.

This is the same explicit reason behind holding the opposition leaders behind bars and silencing them. In his plea before the court in 2015,  Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society Secretary General, currently serving a life sentence in the notorious Jaw Central Prison, Sheikh Ali Salman stated: “I am with reforming the regime to become a constitutional monarchy. I have never called for the downfall of the regime nor sought to do so.” He further reiterated that he will continue with his peaceful struggle until freedom and equality are maintained.

However, the Bahraini government is not amenable to harmonious change nor does it tolerate change. It is inherently anti‐democratic and fosters the culture of totalitarianism at the expense of political freedoms. The irony is that Manama guarantees many privileges to foreign nationals yet suppresses the political expression of the indigenous citizens who happen to be Shiite Muslims. Along with scores of other citizens from different backgrounds, they have vehemently opposed bolstering ties with the Zionists. Those wonder how come a government that has long clamped down on their religious rights would present itself as an emerging state of coexistence and pluralism. Wasn’t it necessary that the government tolerate its own nation before allegedly embracing the Tel Aviv regime, which alone has never ever been an emblem of coexistence?

Whatever steps taken by it remain illegal and unconstitutional. Accordingly, the established ties with Tel Aviv are beyond the popular consensus. The people of Bahrain have never authorized the government, which claims to foster freedoms, to take such a defining considerate step. The intolerant government well-comprehends the Bahrainis’ national consensus on the rejection of normalization and that its citizens, from both the right and the left wings, are committed towards the Palestinian cause dubbed as their “first central cause”.