Bahrain Roundup 2020: Al Khalifa and their Attempts at Painting Coronavirus as a Shiite Virus

2021-01-11 - 7:36 ص

Bahrain Mirror (Roundup 2020): There are of course plenty of issues that we can put in the category of events and problems associated with the outbreak of the Coronavirus in Bahrain and the world, which has been suffering from this pandemic for more than a year. We can talk about the economic impact, closure of mosques, obsequies and facilities, closure of the only land port, crisis of the stranded citizens abroad and other issues that have occurred due to the Coronavirus. However, we cannot overlook the Bahraini authorities' determination since the first days of the crisis to link the spread of the virus to the Shia.

On February 24, Bahrain announced the country's first coronavirus (COVID-19) case on Bahraini territory, which left citizens in a state of horror. However, media outlets close to the authorities focused on the fact that the infected was a Bahraini "returning from Iran", as was the case with the second infection that was announced the following day.

These announcements were followed by accusations and contempt against the Shiite community that suffers from marginalization, discrimination and persecution, which has worsened dramatically since 2011. Infectious diseases specialist at the Military Hospital, Dr. Manaf Al-Qahtani, noted this when he said during a press conference held by the national team for countering the Coronavirus (February 25, 2020): "Neither the virus nor the disease has any relation to a specific race or a certain sect. It is a widespread virus that anyone may catch. We hope no one will nickname the virus, linking it to a specific party or doctrine. The World Health Organization made sure not to name it "China or Wuhan" virus, referring to the city of Wuhan from which the deadly virus originated."

However, Al-Qahtani's words didn't affect the campaign launched against Shiite citizens in general and those stranded in Iran, in particular. A number of government measures led to strengthening this campaign, starting with preventing citizens from traveling to Iran (February 25) and suspending flights with Lebanon and Iraq which were not suffering from the virus outbreak at that time (February 26).

Despite Al-Wefaq's calls for volunteering to fight the Coronavirus and the repeated statements of senior Shiite clerics in which they demanded closing mosques and obsequies, suspending religious rituals (before the authorities took any decision in this regard) and insisting on adhering to the followed health measures, the authorities didn't stop its campaign that linked the virus to a specific sect.

On March 7, King Hamad directed the Jaffaria Endowments Directorate to meet the needs of the Bahraini nationals stranded abroad. This; however, is deemed one of the Foreign Ministry's duties and not the Jaffaria Directorate's. On March 13, Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa accused Iran of waging a "biological war" against his country.

MPs, journalists, and newspapers urged the authorities not to evacuate citizens stranded in Iran, in particular. Meanwhile, citizens stranded in Italy were being evacuated, noting that Italy was suffering from a broader outbreak of the virus compared to Iran. These calls were condemned by senior Shiite clerics.

After over a month, a number of stranded Bahrainis in Iran decided to return to Bahrain after the authorities abandoned them. They took a long trip on March 27, 2020 from Iran to Doha and then to Muscat, where they were supposed to return to Bahrain on Gulf Air, which canceled the trip preventing them from returning home. This led to a diplomatic crisis between the Sultanate of Oman and Bahrain which ended the following day by evacuating them via a commercial airplane rented by the Bahraini government.

The day following the Muscat airport incident (March 28), the Qatari authorities banned 31 Bahrainis from travelling to Oman, based on the Sultanate of Oman's instructions. Bahrainis refused to return to Iran and as a result the Qatari authorities decided to welcome them. This led to an urgent move by Bahrain to evacuate them from Doha due to its conflict with Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

What happened at Muscat and Doha airports led to a serious move by the government, which scheduled the evacuation of Bahrainis from any country around the world. Indeed the last batch of Bahrainis in Iran were evacuated on May 4, 2020, and Bahrainis were evacuated from Iraq on May 8. However, the crisis of Bahrainis stranded in Syria lasted about 4 months, and they were not evacuated until June 9, 2020.

With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the government has shown that it is ready to handle anything with sectarianism, although no one has so far mentioned that the Coronavirus is Shiite. It is worth mentioning that more than 2,000 Bahrainis were stuck in Iran for more than two months and 8 of them died far from their homeland and loved ones, due to deliberate government negligence and attempts at humiliating Shiites as much as possible.

Arabic Version