The Land of Two Seas & Two Faiths

By S. Reza

Names of places are not only for the purpose of identification but also narrate the historical, cultural, and geo-social reality. The land of the two seas or Bahrain as it is called by its natives is a tiny island located in the Persian Gulf, off the coast of Hejaz (so called Saudi Arabia) and Qatar. Like any other Middle Eastern nation state, it has its own woes. In this case, its political model is similar to pre U.S occupied Iraq where a regime related to a minority segment rules over a divided segment of the society that hails from a certain sect, and forms a significant majority of about seventy percent.

Without going into historical details, the Twelver Shiasim in this region is a by product of Sunni rule over the Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and the region of Qatif in Hejaz (all known as the region of Bahrain from 10th to 16th century A.D). The Ismaili kingdom in Bahrain was brought down by the khulafa and it was in the best interest to replace pre-reformed Ismali belief that necessitated a state for its Imam with a quieter Twelver Shiasim.

Beyond which successive occupiers maintained their rule over Bahrain by allowing Twelver Shias to spread while maintaining tribal ruler ship of minority. Eventually, the British in an effort to form one nation of federation of Arab Emirates gave the current khalifah family authority to negotiate with U.A.E and Qatar. The federation broke apart and Bahrain formed a new tiny nation state.

Since the early times, Bahrain as a nation state has guaranteed its stability by hosting British and American bases coupled with its oil reserves and a Shia majority that has often been deceived and pacified by false promises of reformed monarchist and democratic constitution. However, after the Islamic revolution, the awakened masses started agitating against government actions. The frustration grew even more when realisation came that the oil boom and banking inflow, did not translate into economic benefits for the shia.

The government was forced to call its first parliamentary elections in 2006 which were boycotted by the Shias and then a section joined in for the cabinet in 2008. The foreign stakeholders of Bahrain did not appreciate this Shia participation. Hence, to play with numbers, the big brother in the region, Saudi Arabia offered Saudi Wahabi elements to Bahrain together with Pakistani and other foreign nationals for free Bahraini citizenship so that the Shia majority could be bogged down.

Such actions have lead to activism in the Shia community, and recently the representative of Ayatullah Sistani, has been under house arrest and many more ulemas are being tortured in Bahraini and Saudi prisons by American trained intelligence agencies.

Strikingly, it can be seen that all of these actions have been to discredit Iran as a regional player by associating Shia activism as mischief backed by Iranian spying agencies. The pattern can be established by a recent similar incident in Kuwait where Eight Shias accused of being Iranian spies were stripped off their nationality.

It is time for the Bahraini khalifah, to decide between his people or foreign stakeholders. Shias in Bahrain have historically supported their rulers and fought colonialists side by side, as long as their rights are guaranteed and Islam is implemented.  Fear of Iran is an imported phenomenon that did not do any good to Saddam Hussain, or western backed Lebanese politicians and as another dictator (Muammar Qaddafi) said in a summit of dictators (Arab League), “As the noose on him (Saddam Hussein) was being tightened, you should have all felt that the same noose will be on your necks too.