Al-Wefaq: English summary of a news conference of Sheikh Ali Salman 23 August 2011

On 23 August 2011, Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman presided over an extraordinary news conference taking place against the backdrop of a threatening letter sent by Bahrain’s Justice Minister to Ayatollah Isa Qasem.  The letter accused the most senior Shiite religious figure in Bahrain of abusing the power of the mosque by intervening in political issues, such as calling for boycott of by-polls, and claiming that a certain sect in Bahrain suffers from injustice.  The late September by-polls are designed to seat 18 MPs of Al-Wefaq who have resigned their posts in order to protest government’s use of violence in suppressing political protests.

In effect, the letter of Justice Minister meant to suggest that it was wrong for Sheikh Isa Qasem to describe court proceeding in negative terms.  Also, it was not acceptable to talk about marks of torture on bodies of Abdel Karim Fakhrawi, Ali Asheeri and Ali Saqr, to name a few martyrs.  Equally, it was wrong to mention torture claims made by journalist Naziha Saeed (who works for French Channel France 24 and the Monte Carlo radio) and poet Ayat Qurmazi (a college student).

“Our mission to build a civil state and democracy base in justice between the citizen and respecting other believe,community and culture” (Sh.Ali -press conference 17th Aug 12.00GMT time)

National unity

The letter asks Sheikh Qasem Isa to cease the path of commenting on outstanding issues facing the nation by-polls.  Yet it overlooks the fact that many in Bahrain are prepared to sacrifice their lives on his orders, not for him as a person but for what he represents as a true guidance.

In reality, over a span of 40 years, speeches of Ayatollah Qasem were noted for stressing national unity.  Still, his sermon on 19 August 2011 reiterated calls for peaceful activities.  To be sure, research institutes, international organisations and journalists believe that but for the presence of this person and his balanced and just speeches, violence could have reached significant levels in this country.

Undoubtedly, speeches of Ayatollah Qasem are critical of perceived wrong policies and practices.  Do the authorities expect him to say nothing or describe discrimination and naturalisation of foreign nationals in nice terms?

Threatening letter

By all means, the threatening letter sent to Ayatollah Qasem is offensive to any Shiite person and a just person in this nation.  In reality, the letter fits in line with aggressive behaviour of media sources such as Al Watan newspaper; this letter had developed a practice of openly cursing and insulting assaulting Sheikh Isa Qasem and Sayed Abdullah al-Ghuraifi for no reasons under the watchful eyes of officials.  Nevertheless, but for patience and transcendence from those subjected to unfair treatment, the nation could have experienced calamity.

Sheikh Ali Salman stressed that Sheikh Isa Qasem has always called for peaceful co-existence amongst all subjects on the basis of fairness and non-adoption of injustice.

Pressing the demands

Sheikh Ali used the event to reiterate key demands of the opposition, namely having an elected government, an elected parliament with full authorities dealing with legislating and monitoring, fair electoral districts on the basis of one person, and an impartial judicial authority as well as security for all.

Moreover, Sheikh Ali described as unacceptable the results of a government orchestrated, so-called national consensus dialogue (the month –long dialogue took place in July 2011).  Also, he stressed that the upcoming by-polls merely serve to reinforce the status quo of absence of democracy.  As such, Sheikh Ali called on the people to boycott the mockery by-polls.

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