TEHRAN – Head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim lashed out at the Bahraini regime for stripping that country’s senior Shiite cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, of his citizenship, and called for intervention of the international and regional organizations.
“I urge the United Nations, the Arab League and other regional and international organizations to stop this oppressive move of stripping Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim of his nationality,” Hakim said.
“No one is entitled to strip others of their citizenship right; what sort of peaceful existence and dialogue could there be in Bahrain and the entire region in light of these oppressive measures,” he added.
Hakim pointed to the case of Secretary General of Bahrain’s Al-Wefaq Islamic Society Sheikh Ali Salman, and said, “Al-Wefaq society is the symbol of moderation and Sheikh Ali Salman is among Bahrain’s moderate personalities whose appeal against his jail term resulted in increasing his sentence.”
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry announced in an statement on Monday the country’s top Shiite cleric was stripped of his citizenship.
“Isa Ahmed Qassim has been stripped of his Bahraini citizenship,” Bahrain state news agency cited the ministry’s statement, referring to the country’s most senior Shiite Muslim cleric in Bahrain.
The latest move by the Bahrain regime against the country’s main opposition figures came as the Al-Khalifah regime is exerting mounting pressure on the opposition.
Opposition members feel the government is willing to accelerate its crackdown on dissent because it believes it will only face minimal censure through statements of concern in the US and Europe. Both the US and UK have large naval bases in Bahrain.
Last week, the government suspended the main Shia opposition party, al-Wefaq, accusing it of having links to foreign terrorists and inciting hatred. Sheikh Ali Salman, al-Wefaq’s secretary-general, was arrested in 2014 on charges of inciting violence. His sentence was doubled to nine years on appeal last month.
The cabinet decided to revoke the citizenship of Sheikh Isa — an indigenous Bahraini who applied for nationality to get a passport in the 1960s — after a presentation by the interior ministry. The lack of judicial oversight raised concerns among rights groups.
Stripping the nationality of dissidents has become a popular tool for Persian Gulf Arab littoral states battling domestic dissent, such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, where nationality is perceived by many as a privilege not a right.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says more than 250 Bahrainis have been stripped of their nationality for alleged disloyalty.
The move by the Manama regime has also caused anger in Iran and across the world.