Ashura in Bahrain under Threat
2019-09-09 - 10:30 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Ashura in Bahrain is no longer a peaceful spiritual season during which the Shiite majority freely practice their religious rituals as they used to hundreds of years ago. They now practice these rituals under the authority of threats and intimidation after the Bahraini authorities took Ashura season as an opportunity to further harass, provoke and target the Shiite community in Bahrain.
The Ashura literature, movement and manifestations have been put under the microscope of the authorities who consider that every word said is against them. The following well known Ashura related phrases and slogans such as: revolution against injustice, the triumph of blood over the sword, rising for reform, martyrdom, unjust ruler, victorious Imam, rejection of injustice, tyrants and dictators, standing up for the oppressed and vulnerable, far from us is disgrace, standing with the right against falsehood, rejecting subservience and surrender to injustice and oppressors...etc, are all terms and concepts that are used in speeches of Hussaini mourning gatherings because of their direct connection to the Karbala battle and tragic slaughter of the prophet's grandson, his family and companions. They are not new vocabulary; they are engraved in the heart of this occasion. However, the perpetrator's ear itches and deems every word against it, and only one of these phrases is enough to provoke it. The authorities even appointed themselves as defenders of Yazid ibn Muawiyah, considering him a symbol of an Islamic sect not to be assaulted, to the extent that they started to go after anyone who critically mentions Yazid.
In recent years, the Bahraini authorities have been summoning and interrogating Ashura preachers and eulogy reciters and arresting some of them for any mention in their speeches of criticism of tyrants, victory for the oppressed, or promotion of any of the above concepts, because they consider themselves to be directly targeted by these words. "High orders are issued every Ashura season to the security services instructing them to monitor, pursue, punish and threaten all preachers, clerics, Hussainniyas (Shiite congregation halls) and religious institutions to prevent any mention of what contradicts or differs from the authorities' view, constitutes an inconvenience, or any criticism or even observation," al-Wefaq said in its latest statement.
The daily summoning of preachers hasn't stopped since the beginning of Ashura season. On Friday (September 6, 2019), 4 clerics were summoned and interrogated. Meanwhile, Sheikh Mounir Al-Maatouk was summoned for a second time and arrested. Eulogy reciter Abdullah Al-Buri was also summoned and apprehended after interrogation.
According to statistics carried out by Bahrain Mirror, the security authorities have summoned 14 Shiite clerics, 5 eulogy reciters and two Ma'tam (Shiite mourning hall) managers since the beginning of Ashura season.
A number of the clerics who were summoned and arrested are: Sheikh Isa Eid, Sheikh Sadiq Rabie, Sheikh Fadhel Al-Zaki, Sheikh Abdulmohsen Mulla Atiya Al-Jamri, Sheikh Mounir Al-Maatouk, Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Ojaimi, Sheikh Hamed Ashour, Sheikh Jaafar Al-Saegh, Mulla Kassim Zainuldin, Mulla Jawad Al-Mirza, Sheikh Mohammad Ali Al-Mahfouz, Sayed Jaber Al-Shahrkani, Sheikh Zuheir Al-Khal as well as Sheikh Isa Al-Moemen. The authorities also summoned eulogy reciters Ali Hamadi, Mahdi Sahwan, Sayed Hadi Al-Biladi, Ahmad Al-Owainati and Abdulla Al-Nouri, in addition to heads of "Ansar Al-Haq and Sheikh Hussein Al-Asfour Ma'tams".
The series of summonses, which are still ongoing, is accompanied by another attack on Ashura manifestations in some areas and sabotage of the black Husseini banners and flags. These types of manifestations have shrouded Bahrain's areas and public streets on this occasion for hundreds of years without being targeted by anyone, yet Bahraini authorities have been launching attacks on them in recent years, which violates the Bahraini people's right guaranteed by Bahrain's constitution.
The authorities went so far in their crackdown in Ashura season, as to target political prisoners by preventing them from commemorating Ashura rituals collectively as they used to do in the past. Since 2017, prisoners have been allowed to commemorate the rituals only in their cells between 7 to 9 p.m. The gates of their cells used to open in the evening during these days and prisoners were left to practice their rituals of mourning and offering condolences, preaching and other rituals collectively.
The latest oppressive measures taken by the authorities was summoning the head of Sheikh Hussein Al-Asfour Ma'tam (father of martyr Ahmad Jamil Al-Asfour) to Al-Budai center on Friday (September 6) noon over hanging a Ashura symbol that read "with a victorious Imam". All the Ashura banners were confiscated and he was told that he was not allowed to put them up in the Ma'tams.