A group of Shia clerics in Bahrain has called for the promotion of equality in the Shia majority Persian Gulf country, which has a Sunni-dominated government.
Nearly 40 Shia clerics said in a statement released on Tuesday that Shia citizens of Bahrain “have always called for citizenship equality… without any discrimination based on ethnicity, color, religion or sect.”
Led by Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, Bahrain’s leading Shia cleric and the spiritual leader of the main opposition movement al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the clerics stated that the people have the right to demand a ruling system on the basis of “a constitution that does not sideline the will of the people.”
The statement said Bahraini people should have “free elections” to elect a parliament that has full powers and is not controlled by “other authorities, and have a say in choosing the government.”
The clerics insisted that their majority community in Bahrain has never sought “a sectarian state… let alone a one-sect state,” while demanding protection for the freedom to practice religious rites.
The Shia majority of Bahrain has long complained of being discriminated against in obtaining jobs and services by the Bahraini regime.
Since February 14, 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations on an almost daily basis in the kingdom, calling for the Al Khalifah family to relinquish power.
In March that year, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were called in to assist the Manama regime in its crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protesters.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the ongoing heavy-handed crackdown on anti-regime rallies.
Amnesty International and other human rights groups have repeatedly censured the Bahraini regime over the “rampant” rights abuses against opposition activists and anti-government protesters.