2018: Sheikh Isa Qassim Leaves Bahrain

2019-01-05 - 4:45 am

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Illness put an end to the house arrest imposed on the spiritual leader of the Shia in Bahrain, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, since May 23, 2017, when the authorities forcibly dispersed a sit-in that was held around his house for about a year, leaving five martyrs. The opposition revealed that they were shot from a distance not more than 5 meters.

After Sheikh Isa's health severely deteriorated in the mid of last year, the authorities allowed him to leave the country to receive treatment in London, where he stayed until the end of the year.

In the beginning of January, the cassation court upheld a one-year jail sentence against Sheikh Isa Qassim with suspension of execution, over a case related to the collection of Khums (alms) funds. The authorities looked at this sentence as a big step to put an end to Sheikh Qassim's issue, even amid keeping him under the house arrest imposed on him as well as the siege on his village.

However, Sheikh Isa Qassim's name appeared again in the international media in 2018. In the same month he was transferred to the hospital again to undergo surgery. In April, he was admitted once again by his family to undergo tests and returned to his home one day later, amid strict security measures.

The United Nations revealed in June a letter in which it demanded explanations from Bahrain about the serious deterioration in Sheikh Isa Qassim's health, the restrictions imposed on his receiving of medical care, which went to an extent of putting his life in danger, in addition to the ongoing house arrest.

In the same month, Sheikh Qassim was transferred in an ambulance to the hospital due to serious deterioration in his health. He lost ability to move. The authorities detained his son and son-in-law, who were accompanying him in the ambulance, for 6 hours.

Sheikh Qassim underwent an urgent operation. News agencies circulated the developments of his medical condition. In this context, Associated Press pointed out that Qassim could be deported at any time after the authorities stripped him of his citizenship.

On July 7th, Bahrain's Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, said that the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, ordered "the facilitation of Sheikh Isa Qassim's travel for treatment abroad, according to his wishes and his doctors' opinions, and covering any costs required for treatment."

Sheikh Qassim left to London on July 9 using a temporary passport issued by the authorities. He was directly transferred in an ambulance upon his arrival in the airport to the hospital. After lengthy tests, he underwent an operation that took hours. It was later announced that the operation was successful.

According to his (special) follow-up team data, his medical condition required him to remain under the care of the doctors in London. He then underwent an eye surgery during September and another one operated on his spine during November.

On December 26, Sheikh Qassim left to Iraq, where he arrived in Najaf to visit the holy shrine. He was received by Supreme Shiite authority Ayatollah Sayed Ali Al-Sistani in a private meeting.

Moreover, the repercussions of Sheikh Isa Qassim's case and the Diraz raid remained present throughout 2018 and even after he left the country. A number of prominent clerics were arrested in 2018 to serve jail terms over their participation in the sit-in that was held around Sheikh Qassim's house, including Sheikh Mahmoud Al-A'ali and Sheikh Hamza Al-Dairy.

A case was formed against about 171 citizens who were arrested from the area surrounding the sit-in site, in the largest collective trial in terms of the number of defendants. Meanwhile, the authorities released 140 defendants, and continued the trial until the end of year.

As soon as Sheikh Isa Qassim left Bahrain, the authorities removed the security barriers that were placed in the neighborhoods near his house. Checkpoints around Diraz were also removed and its entrances were opened after a siege that lasted for more than 2 years.

At the same time, there was controversy over the resumption of Friday prayers in the Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque in Diraz, which was led by Sheikh Isa Qassim. It was reported that the authorities sought to name the preacher of the mosque before allowing the resumption of prayers. People of Diraz issued a statement in which they stood up for the interference of the authorities in religious rites and attempts to impose state guardianship over them.

2018 ended and the ban on the largest Friday prayer for Shia in Bahrain continued, reaching round 138 weeks.


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