Manama (AsiaNews) – A number of countries have taken diplomatic action against Iran amid a row over Saturday’s execution of a prominent Saudi Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr.
Following the lead of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sudan have severed diplomatic ties with Tehran.
In Bahrain’s case, Media Affairs Minister Isa Al-Hamadi announced that his government was breaking off relations. The small Gulf State had often accused Iran of fomenting tensions between the country’s Shia majority and its ruling Sunni minority.
The United Arab Emirates announced this morning that it was recalling its ambassador from Iran and downgrading diplomatic relations to the level of chargé d’affaires.
In Iran, angry demonstrators yesterday stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and its consulate in Mashhad.
For many observers, Nimr al-Nimr’s death could spark a regional conflict. So far, it has led to demonstrations and clashes with the police in many Islamic countries.
Yesterday police in Bahrain clashed with protesters in several suburbs of the capital Manama, among them Jidhafs, Sitra, Duraz and Bilad al-Qadeem.
Security forces used tear gas against protesters in Duraz who blocked a road and hurled stones at police.
Because many demonstrators were underage, local authorities said that parents might be fined or arrested.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah launched a blistering attack against Saudi Arabia over al-Nimr’s execution, lamenting that “in that land and that kingdom, criticism, objection and debate are prohibited.”
Comparing the Saudi kingdom's rulers to the extremist Islamic State group, Nasrallah said “Daesh (IS) and the House of Saud are advocates of the same school of thought, the same books and the same practices.”
Hezbollah’s chief added that “the signs of the end of this tyrannical, oppressive, criminal and takfiri regime have started to loom in the horizon.”
In Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani branded Nimr’s execution an "unjust aggression".
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed that three Sunni mosques were attacked in the city of Hilla, Babil governorate, on Sunday night, warning Iraqis against sectarian conflict.
In Pakistan, thousands of Shias protested against the Shia cleric’s execution in Quetta, Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, calling for Pakistan to break off diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir, who was scheduled to arrive in Islamabad Sunday evening, postponed his visit to Pakistan, a country already highly polarised between the Sunni majority (80 per cent) and the Shia minority (15%).
In Srinagar, the main city of Indian-administered Kashmir, hundreds of angry Shias clashed with police as they too protested al-Nimr’s execution.
Demonstrators bearing pictures of the dead cleric chanted "down with al-Saud dynasty," referring to Saudi leaders, calling them "stooges of America" as they marched toward the city centre.
Not all reactions were violent. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, whilst condemning the execution, called the attack against the Saudi embassy in Iran "totally unjustifiable".
"I have no doubt that the Saudi government has damaged its image, more than before, among the countries in the world -- in particular (among) Islamic countries -- by this un-Islamic act," he said in a statement.
Yet, the people of Iran "will not allow rogue elements" to use the incident and "carry out illegal actions that damage the dignity of the Islamic republic establishment", he added.
In Saudi Arabia, Mohammed al-Nimr (alnemer), the brother of Nimr al-Nimr, on Monday condemned retaliatory attacks on the kingdom's diplomatic missions in Iran, insisting, "We love our country".
In English, he tweeted, "We appreciate your love towards the martyr #Sheikh_AlNimr who lives in our hearts but we refuse attacks on #Saudi ambassies (sic) in #Iran or others".