By Catherine Shakdam*
“Either we live on this land as free men, or die and be buried as pious men. We have no other choice.” Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr
Once upon a time Bahrain kingdom island functioned as unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy ambitioning one day to offer its people some degree of fair political representation and social justice. Once upon a time a people had a dream – that to transform their nation-state into a thriving democracy true to such principles as religious freedom, political pluralism, and equality before the rule of law.
Once upon a time a nation was betrayed and a people was forced to rise a Resistance against the oppression of its ruling elite.
Betrayal it needs to be said came into Bahrain courtesy of Saudi Arabia. As armoured trucks rolled into Manama in 2011, Bahrainis’ dream of social and political reforms died in violent oppression, knee-deep in the blood of the innocent.
If many “experts” have, over the past few years attempted to map out Bahrain Revolution through the lens of western imperialism, seldom has anyone bothered to appreciate Bahrain’s stand from the perspective of its people. And while I will not claim to own Bahrain’s political truth, I would say that professional humility dictated I tried …
Bahrain’s history belongs to its sons and daughters, not those who ambition to imprint their neo-colonial narrative. Bahrain’s Revolution lies in the hands of those brave enough to rise Freedom’s banner, never to let go. Those men and women deserve their voices to be heard, just as we expect ours to be.
It is arrogance I have found which so far has prevented much of the western world to emphasize with Bahrain’s righteous struggle. How can any so called “modern” capitals still grand-stand on civil liberties and human rights when their officials are cutting deals with the most brutal of tyrants? Was it not Britain Prime Minister Theresa May who, for the sake of geopolitics and lucrative military contracts, trampled over human decency by standing shoulder to shoulder with al-Khalifa and denied Bahrain’s right to be its own master?
Today one man’s struggle for justice has embodied that of a people. It is this man, this cleric, and this revolutionary: Sheikh Isa Qassim, I would like to pay tribute to.
I would say that no other figure in Bahrain has managed to so absolutely stand a rallying banner to an otherwise divided. As Bahrainis have been taught by al-Khalifa, and al-Saud to think themselves in sectarianism and ethno-centrism, Sheikh Isa Qassim has stood testimony to Bahrain’s revolutionary unity.
Bahrain’s revolutionary movement we must remember was never a call for religious domination. What the people of Bahrain did, however, is rise against the injustice al-Khalifa Wahhabist regime systematically wielded against the nation.
What Bahrainis called for is pluralism and fair political representation – sectarianism and oppression were what al-Khalifa answered, and what western powers echoed. I would argue that if fault needs in fact to be laid out, it is at the feet of tyrants, not their victims.
When will we learn that the Freedom God dispensed, none can ever claim away?
And so Bahrain rose in rebellion, and behind its most revered cleric found the strength to push against absolutism. There are worse places to stand but in righteous allegiance. It is maybe because the House of Saud never grasped the wisdom behind such act that the Islamic world was set fire to.
Al-Khalifa now ambitions to disappear Sheikh Isa Qassim’s gravitas so that a nation would be left an orphan. To orchestrate such a feat, Manama registered phantasmagorical accusations against Sheikh Qassim, hoping to disguise its vendetta under a veneer of legal legitimacy … Bahrainis did not bite the poisoned apple.
As reported by ADHRB: “On 20 June 2016, the Government of Bahrain revoked the citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qassim. Shortly following the announcement of the citizenship revocation, the government claimed that Sheikh Isa Qassim had been illegally collecting funds. Bahraini courts have postponed trial dates on Sheikh Isa Qassim’s case a number of times.”
Rather than cower before the criminal will of an illegitimate house, Bahrainis closed rank around their Sheikh, and in an unprecedented show of solidarity sat vigil before his residence in Diraz.
For over 200 days Bahrainis have stood guard – determined to defend to their last their national treasure.
I will ask readers to appreciate the loyalty and devotion Bahrainis have professed Sheikh Isa Qassim. Before such a grand declaration of loyalty one cannot help but wonder where legitimacy truly lies – in the will of the people or that of an elite?
There can be no greater treason but that of a people’s cry for justice.
It is hope that Sheikh Isa Qassim came to embody as he has systematically urged Bahrainis to hold true to the rope of national unity. A man of truth and justice, Sheikh Qassim has held a mirror to al-Khalifa monarchy … what reflected royals cannot bear!
No matter how many injunctions or warrants Manama will issue against Bahrain’s Sheikh, it is unlikely Bahrainis will abandon their watch. What Al-Khalifa monarchy will most certainly precipitate, however, is its own demise.
History belongs to those who have the courage to write it … Sheikh Qassim’s name already figures on great many pages.
* Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements. The Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting.
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