2018: King Closes Obsequy Center in Al-Malikiya, Government Targets Shiite Rituals in Ashura
2019-01-15 - 3:00 am
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa became irritated during the Ashura season this year once again. However, this time he closed down a Ma'tam (obsequies) - Shiite center in which religious occasions are commemorated, namely Ashura.
As a result of the King's frustration and upon his order, the Jaffaria Endowments was directed to close down the Imam Al-Rida obsequy center in Al-Malikiya, after deeming its officials guilty of collaboration and not taking the suitable measures against the funeral procession, during which mourners marched stomping on a slogan painted on the street, which irritated the King, "Down with Hamad".
The Interior Ministry arrested the head of obsequy Mohammad Bu Hamid and one of his assistants over charges related to these slogans. He was released 40 days later. The Ministry also punished Al-Malikiya residents by deploying checkpoints at its entrances and randomly arresting a number of youths, accusing them of taking part in this act.
A few days later, the authorities surprised the public opinion in Bahrain by accusing Iran of being behind the protestors who wrote the king's name on the street. The Interior Minister said in a statement that an investigation had revealed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had financed the operation. This accusation was met with sarcasm.
Since the scene seemed more like an act of revenge and rage, the King, himself, announced putting an end to this campaign. "What happened in Ashura ended with the completion of the measures that identified the perpetrators," he said, warning against repeating the act of insulting his name in public again, especially during Ashura. The king reiterated the Ministry of Interior's claims that these were nothing but evil calls for sedition encouraged by outside forces.
The King's direct intervention reflects the extent to which the authorities have been involving themselves in the Ashura occasion every single year, and how the regime has made a cultural and perhaps ideological stance against Ashura. The king's intervention in itself makes the other security measures taken by the authorities every year against preachers, clerics, eulogy reciters and even participants in the ceremonies and rites practiced seem not strange at all.
Every word uttered by preachers was placed under scrutiny and surveillance. Since the beginning of this Shiite religious season, preachers were summoned to police stations for interrogation about the content of their lectures and sermons. The Interior Ministry even went as far as explicitly telling them that speaking about the martyrdom of Imam Hussein has a terrorist purpose, even if the speech lacks any political hints.
Hence, the authorities took prominent preachers into custody, such as Sheikh Hani Al-Bana'a, Sheikh Yasin Al-Jamri, Sheikh Mohammad Al-Rayyash, Sheikh Majeed Al-Sehlawi and eulogy reciter Mahdi Sahwan. As usual, some of these preachers and clerics spent the days of Ashura and the Month of Muharram behind bars, instead of practicing their rituals. The majority were released at the end of October; however, some are still face trial on the grounds that their lectures had content that "incites hatred against the regime."
Head of Ras Rumman obsequy Shaker Al-Majed was apprehended as well and so was eulogy reciter of the obsequy Sayed Mahmoud Al-Wadaei, in addition to eulogy reciter Sayed Hussein Al-Mousawi. Well-known cleric Sayed Kamel Al-Hashimi was also arrested after made a public comment in which he attacked the government over the arrests of preachers. He was then transferred to Jaw Prison to serve a previous three-year jail sentence.
The arrests of preachers and eulogy reciters continued until the end of October. Imam of Al-Khaif Mosque in Al-Dair Sheikh Isa Al-Momen was arrested over a sermon he delivered in Ashura in which he used verses of the holy Qur'an, whose meaning and purpose the investigator didn't understand. He was released a day later.
Moreover, the authorities arrested about 27 citizens over their participation in the annual central prayer held in Manama on the eve of the 10th of Muharram. The authorities deemed this prayer an unauthorized assembly, although it has been annually held since 2011.
The authorities also arrested Haj Majid (Sumoud) and transferred him to prison to serve a previous sentence over taking part in unauthorized Ashura rituals.
Clashes erupted between security forces and protestors, who attempted to prevent the security officers from taking down religious banners that were hung in their neighborhoods on the occasion. Security forces used shotgun pellets to disperse protestors.
Political prisoners held in Jaw prison were beaten and forced to stand under the heat of the sun. They were also forced to curse and insult the leaders of the Shia sect in Bahrain. All of this was committed only because they commemorated the religious occasion.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) stressed in a statement that security authorities in Bahrain target freedom of religion through imposing restrictions on the commemoration of religious and Ashura rituals in Bahraini villages and cities. It then issued a detailed report on the violations witnessed during the 2018 Ashura season in Bahrain.
At the end of this battle with the authorities, King Hamad bin Isa received (appointed) head of the Jaffaira Endowments and some heads of obsequies affiliated with the government. They recounted Al-Malikiya event. The head of the Jaffaira Endowments criticized Al-Mailiya obsequy head in front of the King. Thereafter, the King said, following all of these arrests, measures and restrictions, that it was "a minor flaw which the obsequy heads have to work on to avoid".
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