2016: Bahrain Dissolves Al-Wefaq Society, John Kerry Says Move Undermines Region’s Security (Timeline)
2017-01-06 - 4:58 am
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Bahrain Mirror: On the 14th of June 2016, the Bahraini authorities shut down the headquarters of the main opposition group in the country, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, without any prior warning. This came about two weeks after a Bahraini court toughened the prison sentence issued against Al-Wefaq Secretary-General Sheikh Ali Salman from 4 to 9 years.
This decision prompted condemnation on both the regional and international level. Nonetheless, all the unfavorable reactions did not change the Bahraini regime's attitude, as it continued to take similar moves by dissolving religious societies such as Al-Tawiya and Al-Risala. However, the worst decision of all was stripping the Bahraini Shia spiritual leader Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim of his citizenship.
The United States, Britain, Germany, France, United Nations, as well as international organizations, parties and religious figures denounced the decision to dissolve Al-Wefaq. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf states and prominent Saudi Salafist clerics expressed their support for these measures taken by the Government of Bahrain.
Bahrain only listened to what Riyadh had to say and adhered to the decisions it made. A month after closing Al-Wefaq (July 17, 2016), an administrative court ruled in favor of dissolving the society, justifying its verdict by claiming that Al-Wefaq "summoned foreign intervention...and supported the use of violence."
The US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement in which he stressed that the Bahraini government's "recent steps to suppress nonviolent opposition only undermine Bahrain's cohesion and security, as well as the region's stability."
The UN condemned the dissolution of Bahrain's largest opposition political party, while the European Union deemed the decision a worrying development. For its part, Germany also strongly criticized the move stating that such measures threaten to further polarise Bahraini society. As for France, it called for the need for resuming dialogue and political reconciliation.
The dissolution of Al-Wefaq brought Bahrain back to the spotlight of western media. The New York Times reported that the verdict to dissolve Al-Wefaq marks "one of the sharpest blows yet against civil society activists in the Sunni-ruled island nation," while the Voice of America considered the decision to be against US interest.
The Bahraini regime's measures; however, contradicted the outspoken stances of its western allies. Bahraini authorities raided on October 20, 2016, the headquarters of Al-Wefaq Society and confiscated its assets, which were later auctioned, after an appeal court upheld an order to dissolve the political group.
On November 2, 2016, Al-Wefaq challenged the verdict in the court of cassation, while the authorities announced stopping the auctioning of Al-Wefaq belongings.
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