The human rights record in Bahrain has deteriorated significantly in the past year. The Human Rights Watch has stated that the country’s record of human rights has decreased sharply in mid-2016. The tiny Gulf state that is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet has heavily cracked down on activists, most of whom are Shias.
In this article, we will take a deeper look at the repressive action of the Bahraini government against the Shia group in the country.
Crackdown of Shias in Bahrain
Shias in Bahrain comprise about 70 percent of the total population. However, they occupy less than 18 percent of jobs in governmental organizations, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. The Al Khalifa regime that currently rules Bahrain is Sunni. They had emigrated from Saudi Arabia to Qatar during the late 1700s. Later in the 18th century, they conquered Bahrain and became its rulers.
However, the majority of the local population in the country professes Shia religion. They had coexisted peacefully with the Sunni population for most of Bahrain’s history. However, lately the current regime's discriminatory policy along with the denial of civil rights has created a wedge between the two.
According to Vali Nasr, an expert on Middle East and the Islamic Word, most Shias feel as if they are living under apartheid. They are discriminated against in government posts, as the majority of these posts are held by the minority, the Sunni people. The ongoing feud between the Sunni Gulf states and Shia governed Iran is most likely the catalyst to Bahrain's stand on the Shia population.
Experts state that the government of Bahrain has been following a form of sectarian apartheid by not allowing Shias to hold important government posts. They are not allowed to serve in the military or the policy. The surprising fact is that a large number of security forces belong to either Pakistan or Syria. Most of them are offered fast track Bahraini citizenship much to the displeasure of the Shia population.
Recent Brutal Campaign against Shias
During the 2011 uprising, Shias were brutally repressed by the government with the help of Saudi Arabia. Currently, the government has launched a full scale military action against Shias that are protesting over the illegal detainment of top Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassi. The spiritual leader of the Shia majority in Bahrain was detained by the government for airing anti-government views.
At a village located close the capital city of Manama, the military had killed five demonstrators and arrested hundreds of people. The deadly raid has drawn vehement criticisms from human rights agencies. Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation of the excessive use of force against the Shias.
The government of Bahrain has marginalized the majority Shia population. Forced disappearances and torture are common in the country. The Human Rights Watch had stated that large number of individuals in the country, mostly Shias are tortured and subjected to ill treatment. Meanwhile, the western leaders have ignored the human rights violations as they don’t want to risk alienating the oil rich Sunni leaders in the region.
So the hostilities go on. Not just in Bahrain, but within the entire oil rich Middle East area and what they deem to be a continous growing Iranian (Shia) threat, the abuses will most likely continue before they get better.