Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The campaign against the Salam Ya Mahdi (Greetings O Mahdi) religious Shiite song was not the first sectarian campaign launched by the government against Shiites in the country. It is a path that started with the demolition of Shiite mosques in 2011 as a kind of collective punishment for the Shia leading the 14 February uprising that called for putting an end to the Al Khalifa family monopoly over power.
The message for the Shiite sect was: "The margin of religious freedom you enjoy will trigger one of the government's security reactions." Indeed, a massive crackdown on Shiite religious activities and Jaafari endowments has since begun.
Security authorities had escalated their campaigns against mourning processions after the imposition of the National Safety Law and attacked mourners in different villages of Bahrain with toxic gas and rubber bullets, injuring dozens at the time. However, they failed to prevent the staging of these processions.
Things didn't stop at this level, during the Ashura seasons following the 2011 uprising, hundreds of preachers, eulogy reciters and mourners were summoned for interrogation, and many were sentenced for insulting Yazid Bin Maaouiya, a Sunni historical figure.
These punitive measures extended to closing the Al-Tawiya Society in 2014, putting restrictions on the collection and spending of Al-Khums money (Shiite alms) and preventing prayers at the Al-Diraz Mosque, where the largest Shiite Friday prayers are held.
These policies continued by preventing the construction of some demolished mosques and the relocation of others, in addition to the Housing Ministry's refusal to allocate any new lands for the construction of Shiite mosques, especially in newly planned areas.
Sectarian policies also included restricting the registration of new Shiite endowments, prompting former Waqf head Sheikh Mohsen Al-Asfour to address the king to complain about the policies of Justice Minister Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa.
Al-Asfour asked the king to put an end to the policies of the minister who was preventing the endowments registration for new obsequies and mosques, and the endowments registration for existing Shiite institutions.
As a result, the king dismissed the head of the Jaffaria endowments and his response was considered in support of the Justice Minister's approach of denying Shiites their rights to register endowments, as well as the government's desire of continued dominance over decision-making of the Jaafaria endowments.
The King issued in June 2019 a decree forming the Board of Directors of the Jaafaria Endowments headed by Yousef Al-Saleh, who was used by the government to restrict Shiite gatherings under the pretext of countering the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the government eased pandemic restrictions by allowing events and festivals that were attended by an unlimited number of people, the medical team directed the prevention of Ashura events under the pretext of controlling the pandemic outbreak.
Therefore, it can be said that the government's campaign today against "Salam Ya Mahdi" is part of a broader campaign against Shiite beliefs, which will not stop as long as Shiites demand political reforms that will end the Al Khalifa family's monopoly over power.