Bahrain has revoked the citizenship of the country’s most senior Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, a move which could further complicate the social unrest in the tiny Persian Gulf Arab state.
“Isa Ahmed Qassim has been stripped of his Bahraini citizenship,” state news agency BNA said on Monday in a short message on its Twitter account.
The Bahrain Mirror, a website close to the Bahraini opposition, also said on Monday that authorities stripped Sheikh Qassim of citizenship claiming that he has been involved in spreading extremism.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that Sheikh Qassim actively sought the “creation of a sectarian environment” through his connections with foreign powers. The ministry claimed that the cleric had misused his religious position to advance a political agenda and serve foreign interests.
The Interior Ministry’s statement added that the senior cleric “caused harm to the interests of the Bahraini kingdom or had acted contrary to the duty of loyalty to the government.”
Describing as illegal donations to Sheikh Qassim by his followers in Bahrain, the statement further accused the cleric of receiving money and using it without obtaining the required legal licenses.
Rights group, people slam Bahrain’s move on Sheikh Qassim
Bahrain Forum for Human Rights has slammed the decision to strip Sheikh Qassim of his citizenship. The rights body has also called the measure arbitrary and against international laws.
Meanwhile, Bahraini people and clerics have held a protest rally in the village of Diraz near the capital Manama outside the cleric’s home, condemning regime’s crackdown on peaceful opposition figures.
Following the demonstration, Bahraini security forces banned people in several areas in Diraz from taking part in the any form of protest in front of Sheikh Ghassim’s house.
Hezbollah condemns revocation of Sheikh Qassim’s citizenship
The Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, has condemned a decision by the government of Bahrain to revoke citizenship of senior Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim.
Issuing a statement on Monday, Hezbollah said the “silly” and “dangerous” move by Bahraini government will trigger a harsh response from the Bahraini people.
Hezbollah added that Sheikh Qassim should be regarded as a strong guarantee for the stability of Bahrain both for the time being and in the future.
The Lebanese resistance group also called on Bahraini people to express their anger and outrage over the case.
Hezbollah had earlier condemned the suspension of al-Wefaq in Bahrain, saying that the move was a manifestation of the regime’s repressive policy against peaceful dissent.
Sheikh Qassim is Bahrain’s most respected Shia cleric and Shia Muslims give donations to him based on their religious principles.
Reports said the Bahraini government had issued a decree approving the move to revoke the citizenship of Sheikh Qassim.
The decision comes less than a week after the Bahraini Justice Ministry suspended all activities of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the main opposition group in the country.
Wefaq’s Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman has been in prison since December 2014.
Manama has also dissolved al-Tawiya and al-Risala Islamic associations.
Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has seen a wave of anti-government protests since mid-February 2011. The tiny sheikdom’s heavy-handed crackdown on peaceful demonstrations with the help of Saudi Arabia has left dozens of people dead and hundreds more injured.