NEWS: Bahrain’s sectarian tensions in the light of the Ashura commemoration

Athena Tacet | Contributor

The Sunni Muslim monarchies of the Gulf fear that the Arab Spring will inspire Shiites on the Arabia peninsula to revolt against their rule. The Ashura commemoration today had also raised some concerns.

“We do not know how things are going to end up next week in Qatif,” said Fawzia Hani, a Saudi Shiite human rights activist , to AFP.

 Bahrain’s crackdown on Shiite protestors supported by other Gulf rulers earlier this year,  has led to tensions in the region and in Kuwait and Saudia Arabia. Last November four people died in Saudia Arabia as a result of clashes with security forces.  

The Ashura religious procession commemorates the killing of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed  by armies of the  caliph Yazid in 680 AD. Millions of Shiites around the world took to the streets for the traditional mourning procession .

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Ibn Ahmad Al Khalifa said bringing democracy and the rule of law to the Gulf states is not likely to be easy, Russia Today reported last Dec. 1.

“They want to transform the Arab Spring into a ‘Shiite Spring’,” Abdellatif al-Mahmud, a Sunni cleric in Bahrain, told AFP on Dec. 3.

“Since the Shiites are the majority, they are attacking Sunnis,” Kuwaiti Sunni Walid Tabtabai , said in the same report. He cited the examples of Iran, as well as Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

 Sheikh Ali Salman, head of a Shiite opposition group in Bahrain, Al-Wefaq called this approach inappropriate.

Acording to AFP he said, “The Arab Spring involves all faiths and all communities, including the Amazigh,” “or Libya’s Berbers, who helped to overthrow Moamer Kadhafi’s regime.”

Bahrain’s Shiites constitute approximately 70 percent of the nation’s 525,000 citizens, but have pushed for a greater voice, AFP revealed last Nov. 23. They have generally complained of being the victims of discrimination, including their being blocked the access to some governmental posts and to military posts.

 According to the Washington Post, at least 35 people have died in clashes and hundreds have been arrested since the protests in Bahrain started.

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