Bahrain ‘provocations’ to impact ties with US, UK: HRW

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Manama regime should reverse its “arbitrary decision” to revoke the citizenship of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim.

“Bahrain’s government and ruling family are slamming shut the door on political reform, while simultaneously stoking dissent,” said HRW Deputy Middle East Director Joe Stork on Wednesday.

On Monday, Bahrain revoked the nationality of the clergyman, with Bahrain’s Interior Ministry accusing him of seeking the “creation of a sectarian environment” through his connections with foreign powers. 

The move has raised fears of further unrest in the tiny Persian Gulf country, which is already the scene of regular anti-regime demonstrations.

“Bahrain’s allies in Washington and London should be unequivocal and public in their condemnation and make it clear that these provocations will have an impact on military assistance and strategic relations,” Stork added.

Meanwhile, the US Statement Department announced that Bahrain has not carried out recommendations towards protecting the freedom of expression, which includes nonviolent dissent.

Also on Wednesday, Bahraini authorities blocked all entrances to Sheikh Qassim’s home town of Diraz with barbed wire in an attempt to stop his followers joining the ongoing anti-government protests outside the cleric’s home.  

Protests are also being held in various locations in the country to express solidarity with the cleric.

The latest move by the Al Khalifah regime against Sheikh Qassim came less than a week after the Bahraini Justice Ministry suspended all activities of the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the main opposition group in the country.

The kingdom also dissolved two other opposition groups, namely the 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. 

London has also been a staunch ally of the Al Khalifah regime. The UK government has approved more than 45 million pounds worth of arms sales to Manama since the 2011.

The Al Khalifah regime is engaged in a harsh crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country’s Shia majority. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the island state.

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