Alwaght- As the Shiites across the world mark Muharram mourning month, the authorities in the predominantly-Shiite Bahrain are banning mourning ceremonies in the tiny Persian Gulf state.
The crackdown on the Shiites by the West-backed Bahraini regime every year sees a surge with the start of Muharram, when the Muslims and mainly Shiites mark martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
Al Khalifa regime goes to great lengths to prevent holding of religious ceremonies in Muharram. Reports emanating from the small island kingdom suggest that this crackdown is even placed in the prisons.
Political prisoners in Jau Prison, Bahrain's main jail, said that the prison managers are preventing ceremonies marking Ashura. Mira'at Al-Bahrain news website, citing prisoners, reported that the jail management banned the Ashura ceremonies under the excuse of them violating the rules of the prison.
Saeed Hilal Ahmed, one of the political prisoners in Bahrain, says that despite the claim of supporting religious freedom, Bahrain "has informed us that we are not allowed to hold religious ceremonies." Osama al-Saghir, another Bahraini political prisoner, confirmed such news and said that the prisoners are facing some kind of "targeted sectarian actions" and that the official media outlets are participating in suppressing the prisoners and covering up the illegal actions against them. Another political prisoner in the central prison of Bahrain has asked human rights activists to visit block 7 of this prison closely to "see with their own eyes the prohibition of religious ceremonies."
Attacks and restrictions on mourners
Since the day one of Muharram, massive restrictions were imposed on Shiites, and local sources in Bahrain announced that security forces attacked the mourning ceremony in the town of A'ali in the north and brought down flags symbolizing the mourning for Imam Hussein.
Recently, Minister of Interior Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa announced that his country has banned the travel of Shiites from Persian Gulf countries to participate in Ashura Day ceremonies. He emphasized that the authorities will not allow the occasion to be promoted using religious tourism, as this contradicts the Al Khalifa government's approach.
A couple of days ago, he had insulted the Shiite citizens, triggering reactions.
With the beginning of the month of Muharram, Al-Khalifa regime has intensified its restrictions against Shiites. Recently, "Nizak", a Twitter account, announced that a document was leaked from the ministry of the interior of Bahrain showing how the authorities clamp down on religious lecturers and preachers during Ashura in the country.
According to the document with the serial code MOI-SECT-0156-7, there is "a table" for so-called "violations" during the ceremonies of the 2018 Muharram and based on it, a number of people were summoned to the police stations for interrogation or arrest.
For example, this table shows that Sheikh Hassan Al-A'ali, one of the prominent preachers in Bahrain, is one of those who were summoned to the police station and was warned that he should adhere to religious matters during his speeches and not go out of context. The Bahraini authorities, the document reveals, summoned two of the madahs (religious singers) and officials of a Husseiniyah and forced them to sign a pledge to abide by the law. Husseiniyah is a building constructed by the Shiites mainly for their religious ceremonies, taking its name from Imam Hussein.
This document shows the level of pressure and crackdown by Al-Khalifa regime's security forces on the Shiite citizens, while the government claims to be the leader of peaceful coexistence and respect for religious freedom.
Collecting Ashura symbols
This year, the clampdown on the mourning ceremonies of Ashura has elevated to new heights, with social media users posting videos showing security forces taking down Ashura flags and posters in A'ali town.
Al-Wefaq, the country's leading opposition movement, said that Al Khalifa regime is assaulting Ashura ceremonies and signs as part of a systemic discrimination and persecution program against the Shiite majority.
The Al Khalifa regime, which has been ruling the majorly-Shiite Island country since 1975, is always mentioned along with Saudi Arabia as the gross violator of the human rights and the common feature of the two regimes is the suppression of the Shiites.
Based on the tribal logic of the political system in Bahrain, as well as according to facts and figures, Shiite citizens have been subjected to systematic discrimination and deprivation by the Al-Khalifa regime.
Muharram not just for the Shiites
The restrictions on the Shiite citizens have driven various reactions. Sayyed Abdullah al-Gharifi, a Bahraini cleric, panned the crackdown on Ashura ceremonies and signs. He said that Ashura ceremonishave never been and will never be for provocations, sedition, and conflict in the country.
"Muharram is a ceremony for sacrifice, [religious] proximity, and unity and is not restricted to the Shiites and for all Muslims and the whole world," he said. He added, addressing the government: "Why do you punish me just for flying a flag in the street or in my house. How does this influence the security of the country and its policy."
Al-Gharifi also called for all efforts to be made for successful celebration of the Ashura ceremonies and said Muharram should be widely considered, especially in Bahrain which has a long history in the distinctive marking of Ashura. All official and public sectors should cooperate in the success of this event.
"The occasion of Ashura will never be an occasion for incitement or bigotry or sedition or fueling conflicts in this country or any other countries," he assured.
Addressing Bahraini rulers, he noted: "If you want to introduce this occasion as a source of crisis, you should know that Ashura is not a source of crisis. We never think of making the situation in the country critical through Ashura speeches because an informative speech with insight and purpose protects the country and nation."
How far will Al Khalifa go?
Though accounting for 70 percent of the country's population, the Shiites have always been under biggest discrimination and pressures by Al Khalifa rulers for organizing Ashura ceremonies.
Still, people in this Persian Gulf Arab state every year arrange Muharram ceremonies with more enthusiasm than the year before despite the government crackdowns. Al Khalifa regime knows that it is far from capable of countering the Shiites and Muslims in the country and since Ashura ceremonies are also attended by non-Shiite Muslims, it is unlikely the government can do much to ban them. Crackdowns of past years have so far delivered the reverse and each year people more enthusiastically mark Muharram in the streets and their houses. What is certain is that Al Khalifa cannot restrict or fully ban Muharram ceremonies in the houses.