Iran slams Bahrain’s Shia opposition ban, calls for armed resistance

Iran slams Bahrain's Shia opposition ban, calls for armed resistance
Al-Wefaq's political leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, was sentenced to nine years in prison at the end of May [Reuters]Al-Wefaq's political leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, was sentenced to nine years in prison at the end of May

Iran has criticized as “unconstructive” a Bahraini court’s decision to dissolve and seize the funds of the country’s main Shia opposition group, calling the Shia citizens to hold arms against Bahraini regime.

The order — which can be appealed — came on Sunday despite international criticism of the Gulf kingdom’s intensified crackdown on dissent.

Al-Wefaq was shut down last month under an emergency court order after the Justice Ministry accused it of undermining the state, spreading sectarianism, and having connections to “terrorist” activities.

The official Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said the court ruled that Al-Wefaq had taken aim at the “respect for the rule of law and the foundations of citizenship based on coexistence, tolerance and respect for others; provided an atmosphere for the incubation of terrorism, extremism and violence and for foreign interference in national affairs”.

Its funds would be claimed by the state treasury, BNA said.

“Such actions by the Bahraini government prove that they don’t seek to resolve the existing crises,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said in a statement late on Sunday.

Bahrain has long accused Iran of fomenting unrest among the island’s Shia civilians, as Iran has always backed opposition movements in Bahrain and called for demonstrations against current Bahraini regime.

Iran also backs Shia groups that spread violence and unrest in the area, such as Houthi militia in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Read more: Bahrain strips citizenship from top Shia cleric

Read more: Iran vows collapse of Bahraini regime after stripping a cleric citizenship

Ghasemi called on Bahrain to replace “escalated security and police approaches with trust-building measures,” setting the stage for “serious, constructive and converging dialogue”.

Authorities have stripped at least 261 people of their citizenship since 2012, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, including the country’s Shia spiritual leader Sheikh Isa Qassem.

Dissolving “moderate groups” and stripping political and religious leaders of their citizenship are “not in line with the regime’s interest,” Ghasemi said.

Last month, Iran voiced concern over Bahrain’s decision to strip Qassem of his nationality.

Iran finally urged Bahraini people to hold arms against the current regime.

“Surely they know that the aggression against Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassem is a red line… that will leave no option for the people but to resort to armed resistance,” said Qassem Suleimani, head of the elite Revolutionary Guards’ overseas operations arm, the Quds Force.