Police raid the building housing the cleric’s offices, including student residences. For the cleric’s associates, the move is “provocative and offensive”. The authorities threaten to deport him unless he goes into voluntary exile.
Manama (AsiaNews) – Bahraini police raided one of the offices of Ayatollah Isa Qassim, supreme leader of the Shia community in the tiny Gulf state.
Only two days ago, the authorities stripped the cleric of his Bahraini citizenship for allegedly using his position and role to serve the interests of “foreign powers”.
Police forced the doors to the building in Karranah, a village west of the capital Manama. They searched upper floors where students attending the cleric’s courses live.
For Qassim’s associates, the authorities’ actions are “provocative and offensive” and compound the loss of his citizenship.
As one of Shia Islam’s foremost cleric, he has become a target of the state for his opposition to the country’s ruling family.
General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the al-Quds Brigade of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, spoke in defence of the Shia religious leader. For the high-ranking Iranian official, the decision to revoke his citizenship crosses a red line that could inflame the country and the region.
He also attacked Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family and its supporters for their pressures on a peaceful people, which could lead to a bloody uprising.
Born in Duraz (west of Manama) in 1940, Ayatollah Isa Qassim is one of the foremost scholar Shia legal jurisprudence, which he has taught since 1960.
A member of the Constituent Assembly of Bahrain in 1971, he ran for parliament and was elected. However, he could not take his seat because the legislature was dissolved.
Later, he left for advanced studies in Islamic religious sciences in Qom, Iran, where he obtained the title of ayatollah.
He enjoys great popularity among Bahrain’s Shias and is regarded by them as the highest religious official in the country.
In 2011, when Bahrainis began clamouring for political and civil rights and greater democracy, the authorities accused him of plotting to overthrow the government because of his strong criticism of the authorities’ violent crackdown against demonstrators, especially Shias.
On Monday, Bahraini authorities stripped him and his family of Bahraini citizenship, threatening to deport him unless he chose voluntary exile.
This has sparked further unrest and tensions that could lead to more clashes. (PB)