Dozens of Shiite Mosques Destroyed as Bahrain Crackdown Continues
Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim rulers, anxious to put an end to the kind of popular unrest that has rocked authoritarian regimes from Tunis to Tehran, have rolled out the bulldozers. McClatchy Newspapers reports that dozens of Shiite mosques– Shiite Muslims outnumber the Sunnis by nearly 4-1 in Bahrain but face widespread discrimination and disenfranchisement– have been destroyed, some of them centuries old.
Such was the case with the Amir Mohammed Braighi mosque in the ancient village of Aali. Known as one of the most beautiful Shiite mosques in Bahrain, it had stood proudly in Aali for more than 400 years. Until, that is, forces loyal to longtime dictator Sheikh Khalid ibn Salman al Khalifa bulldozed it to the ground.
“Why did they destroy this mosque,” an incredulous local resident who calls himself Abu Hadi asked a McClatchy reporter. “Muslims have prayed there for decades.”
At least 26 other mosques have been destroyed.
The situation in Bahrain has been bleak since anti-government demonstrators took to the streets in February as a wave of popular revolt swept the Middle East and North Africa. Emboldened and inspired by the successful ouster of long-ruling authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrainis– mostly Shiites– rose up. The ruling regime responded by sentencing protesters to death, arresting opposition figures, journalists, students and teachers, jailing doctors and nurses who treated wounded protesters, shutting down the only opposition newspaper, firing a thousand Shiite professionals and canceling their pensions, and attacking demonstrators with deadly results.
Still, the destruction of the Shiite mosques may be the most bitter pill to swallow for many Bahrainis.
The government defended its actions, claiming all the destroyed mosques were illegally and recently built without proper permission. But McClatchy Newspapers says this is a blatant lie. For example: years ago, a planned highway running through Aali was re-routed around the Amir Mohammed Braighi mosque.
The United States, a close ally of the Bahrain regime, has stationed the US Navy 5th Fleet in the tiny authoritarian emirate. The Obama regime has been careful not to criticize al-Khalifa’s very undemocratic and very brutal crackdown too loudly, even as it excoriates (and bombs) Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi for committing similar crimes. The US State Department has said only that it was “concerned by the destruction of religious sites.”
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