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Bahrain’s crackdown on Shiite dissent

Published on 12/02/2021

The Gulf state of Bahrain was rocked a decade ago by Shiite-led protests calling for reforms from their Sunni rulers, who unleashed a backlash of repression.

he Gulf state of Bahrain was rocked a decade ago by Shiite-led protests calling for reforms from their Sunni rulers, who unleashed a backlash of repression.

Here is a timeline:

– Arab Spring repressed –

Pro-democracy demonstrations start in February 2011 amid the Arab Spring uprisings that toppled presidents in Tunisia and Egypt.

After three days of protests, riot police charge demonstrators occupying the capital’s Pearl Square in a pre-dawn raid on February 17 that leaves four people dead and scores wounded.

As the police and army withdraw from the square two days later, thousands of protesters return.
he demonstrations escalate and in March, Saudi Arabia sends in 1,000 troops and the United Arab Emirates 500 police to help put down the uprising.

On March 16, the Pearl Square protest camp is cleared in another deadly security force raid.

Bloody protests resume in June, as soon as a state of emergency enacted in March is lifted, with unrest notably in Shiite villages around Manama. They are violently repressed.

– Nationality withdrawn –

In November 2012, 31 Shiite activists, including two former parliamentarians, are stripped of their nationality for breaching state security.

An appeals court confirms jail terms for 13 opposition leaders in January the following year over charges of plotting to overthrow the monarchy. Seven get life sentences.

In August, King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa decrees stiffer penalties for “terror acts”.

– Tehran blamed –

In January 2014, Bahrain accuses Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of training opposition militants in the use of explosives to carry out attacks. It announces the arrest of suspects.

It severs diplomatic ties with Iran two years later amid tensions between Riyadh and Tehran over Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Also in January 2016, Bahrain says it has dismantled an Iran-linked “terror” cell connected to the Revolutionary Guards and Lebanon’s Tehran-backed Hezbollah. It says the cell was planning a series of bombings in the kingdom.

Bahrain has since announced it has dismantled several Shiite “terror” cells.

– Opposition outlawed –

In July 2016, Bahrain’s judiciary dissolves the leading opposition party Al-Wefaq over various allegations including “harbouring terrorism”, and orders the seizure of its funds.

In May 2017, the secular opposition movement Al-Waad is also dissolved over allegations of links to terrorists.

– Death sentences –

In July 2020, the kingdom’s highest court upholds death sentences against two Shiite men convicted of murdering a police officer in a bomb attack in 2014.

Amnesty International condemns the ruling and describes the trial as “grossly unfair”.

– The case of Nabeel Rajab –

One of Bahrain’s most prominent rights activists, Nabeel Rajab, who played a key role in the 2011 protests, was freed from jail in June 2020 after serving time over tweets critical of the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

He is currently serving the remaining three years of a five-year sentence in an “alternative” or non-custodial setting.

Rajab had been convicted of insulting the state, spreading false news, and “publicly offending a foreign country”, a reference to Saudi Arabia.

He also tweeted criticism of the Bahraini government’s treatment of prisoners.

Rajab had spent four years in jail after earlier being convicted over media interviews deemed critical of the government.
he United Nations had led calls for his release, condemning his detention as “arbitrary” and “discriminatory”.