- The Loyal Shiite Elite after 14 February Uprising in Bahrain
- 2.The Resignation of the King’s Adviser of the Legislative Affairs
- 3.The Resignation of Ministers Al Alawi and Al Bahrana
- 4.The Shiite’s Rejection of the King
- 5.The Regime’s Conclusions
In March 2011, and after the Saudi military intervention in Bahrain, and the onslaught on the Pearl Roundabout, the Bahraini royal palace was take in surprise by the mass resignations of the Shiite elite, especially the religious one who were habitually known as loyalists to the regime.
1.The Resignation of the Dean of Al Asfoor clan
Sheikh Ahmed Al Asfoor (approximately aged 100 years old) declared his resignation as an adviser to the Supreme Judicial Council, where he clearly condemned in this unprecedented resignation the regime’s repression of protestors at the Pearl Roundabout, signing the resignation letter as being the “Dean of Al Asfoor family inside and outside Bahrain”.
Interestingly, Al Asfoor called in his letter upon “Al Asfoor family members who serve in official positions to resign from their posts due to the country’s circumstances”, so not to be obliged in any means by holding senior positions and extensions in the eastern region in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
In his letter, Al Asfoor condemned the “violations and the increasing frequency of violence against our unarmed people, as well as the killings following a huge campaign of inciting sectarianism by the official media, which led to the escalation of events until it is now spreading fear and panic among the peaceful villages”. That very same language did not vary from the language of condemnation used by the opposition. Whereas, traditionally, and since the nineties, Al Asfoor was seen as a regime loyalist, so he was expected by the regime itself to warmly welcome the practiced violence under the pretext of “policing and law enforcement”, exactly like what Al Fatih groups did.
Moreover, what seemed more intense on the regime was when Al Asfoor called to “respond to the legitimate demands of the Bahraini people”, and “stir quickly to save the country, and ensure stability and civil peace”, meaning that Al Asfoor did not “only” condemn, but also sided in favor of the public demanding reform.
2.The Resignation of the King’s Adviser of the Legislative Affairs
Besides Al Asfoor, and in the same period (mid March 2011), the advisor of the King in the Legislative Affairs and the Vice-President of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed Ali Mansoor Al Sitri announced “stop functioning in all his official tasks in protest to the security approach taken to deal with the political and security crisis as well as the brutal assault on the citizens and the bloodshed”.
Traditionally, Al Sitri was highlighted as a regime loyalist more than Al Asfoor was, where he –Al Sitri- was also more expressive in rejecting the opposition options. Al Sitri along with Sheikh Tahir bin Sulaiman Al Madani are seen as two loyal pillars to the regime, known as Al Madani stream, in relation to the late Sheikh Suleiman Al Madani and his political facade Al Rabetah Society , which has a weak influence in the political scene.
This stream (AlRabeteh/ AlMadani) consist of religious-oriented figures, affiliated usually with the government, who are basically supporters of the lates Sheikh Suleiman Al Madani and Sheikh Mansoor Al Sitri. Both (Al Sitry, the father, and Al Madani, the father), along with Sheikh Ahmed Al Asfoor, used to enjoy public respect, but that fame and status have deteriorated in the nineties of the last century, when they sided in favor to the regime against the popular movements, led by the late Sheikh Abdul Ameer Al Jamri, demanding the return of the 1973 constitution.
It is true that AlAsfoor-AlMadani stream did not take complete part in the unprecedented 14 February 2011 event, but it showed obvious sympathy toward the legitimate demands. As their condemnation was unambiguous toward the horrific violations launched by the regime in mid-February 2011, and taking an absolutely bloody turn in mid-March 2011, hours after the Saudi military intervention in Bahrain.
The resignation of Al Asfoor, and Al Sitri’s suspension for his work, were a call to those affiliated with them, to resign from their jobs. This is what already happened, when seven of the Shura Council members have also resigned, including “Nada Haffadh, Mohammad Hassan Baqir Radhi, Sayed Dheya Al Mosawi, Mohammad Hadi Al Halwachi, Sayed Habib Makki Hashim, Ali Abduredha Al Asfoor, Nasser Al Mubarak”. Furthermore, 12 judges in the Sharia courts and members of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs also resigned, most of them who are already affiliated with the Al Madani and Al Asfoor streams.
It is worth mentioning that both Al Asfoor and Al Madani groups share the Shiite portion in a variety of positions in the judiciary and Endowment (Al Awqaf) bodies. Al Awqaf tend to have more of Al Madani stream, where Al Asfoor presence seems heavier in the judiciary. Another significant share of positions and Shiite representation goes to some other loyal families and some immersed figures. However, this should not hide the fact that the judiciary and Al Awqaf are fully under the control of the regime just like other various government, business and media institutions do in Bahrain.
3.The Resignation of Ministers Al Alawi and Al Bahrana
Additionally, former oppositionist Dr. Majeed Al Alawi announced his suspension of attending the meetings of the Cabinet Council as a Minister of Housing in protest to the regime’s violence. Whereas Dr. Nezar Al Bahrana resigned from his post as Minister of Health only hours after the military occupation of the Salmaniya Hospital, when he was unable to protect the medical staff from shameful attacks.
Al Alawi, Al Baharna, Al Asfoor and Al Sitri are models of an elite that the regime was looking to attract, along with others like former Minister Mansoor Bin Rajab (who alone needs an entire article to cover his character and roles).
Al Alawi and Al Baharna are categorized as moderates, as the first was a leader in Bahrain Freedom Movement, which had an outstretched hand in the managing the uprising in the nineties, before he sided in favor to the government two years before voting on the National Action Charter. Al Baharna was also a management member in Al Wefaq before he responded to a royal Invitation to become a Minister in December 2006. Al Wefaq declared, Al Baharna did not represent us by being part of our executive management, because he did not consult us about this invitation, whereas Bahrain Freedom Movement considered Al Alawi no longer part of its stream.
Al Alawi descends from a middle-class family from Al Qadam village (North Manama), before he emerges as an opponent in London, where he spent nearly twenty years. While Al Baharna descends from a well-known family working in trade, his father is a former head of the Jaafari Awqaf, and his uncle, Mohammed Hussein Al Baharna was a former Minister of Legal Affairs for more than 25 years (1975-1995), when he used to harshly criticize the regime in the last decade.
On February 14, 2011 eve, Al Alawi was the Minister of Labor, and Al Baharna, a Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, when King Hamad and his hardline approach, re-formed the government after about ten days of the outbreak of the Bahraini spring, appointing Al Alawi as a Minister of Housing, and Al Baharna as a Minister of Health, both of Two ministries had given so much in the way of lucid discrimination and poor services.
This step of re-formation of the government, which is difficult to say was new, did not defuse the growing pace of protests then, even though the most prominent character in the implementation of the Bandar report Ahmad Atiyatallah was sacked from his post as Minister for Cabinet Affairs. Atiyatallah was re-appointed after a few weeks from that as a Minister for the follow-up in the Royal Court, an additional confirmation that the Bandar report is a constant royal plan, supported and looked after very carefully.
Within the mass resignations in March 2011, the prestigious lawyer Hassan Radhi resigned from the board of directors of the Bahrain Chamber of Disputes. Radhi is seen as the spiritual father of the opponent lawyers in Bahrain, who also led the constitutionalists lobby against the 2002 constitution.
The resignations of those loyal characters followed the loud resignation of Al Wefaq parliamentary (18 deputies) in February 2011, which increased the pace of the growing popular movement at the time.
4.The Shiite’s Rejection of the King
These Shiite resignations appeared like an entire rejection of King Hamad, carried out with the resignation of all MPs, some ministers, judges and Shiite Shura Council members. It was seen as a total abandonment of the King even though a significant number of these resignations did not last long, with the return of the Shura crew and judges to serve the regime in their previous posts. Al Wefaq still does not know how to evaluate its resignation experience from the Parliament, with some muffled voices sometimes talking that the resignations rendered the uprising a parliamentary voice, which may have helped in a way. Whereas I think this resignation saved the main opposition society from parliamentary pressures, such as what happened to Al Wefaq elected municipal Mps who has been sacked within retaliatory hectic steps.
The King did not and shall not forget the pain caused by these resignations, especially from those loyal, and he will continue to work to punish the figures showed their disgrace toward the security approach, through segregating them one after another from their posts.
Perhaps I would like here to call on all Shiites Loyalists, who resigned from their posts or openly expressed their resentment of violence against opponents, to be ready for a new Khalifi retaliatory step, if they did not got their share of that, yet.
I would also want to draw the attention of those who are aspirants in a rational governmental approach, such as member of the Shura Council Abdulredha Al Asfoor, who showed more than any other character his hope of national reconciliation, to be cautious, as King Hamad does not please a partner!
The Royal Reaction toward that Rejection
Indeed, in March 25, 2011, the King announced the dismissal of Majeed Al Alawi, and accepted the resignation of Nezar Al Baharna, for showing a clear rejection of violence against the unarmed civilians. The security approach continues to take the country to a state of terror and McCarthyism, causing the deaths of dozens, the dismissals of more than four thousand Shiite people from their jobs, and the arrest of thousands.
A few days after ending the state of emergency in the country (March 15 – 30 May 2011), the royal retaliatory steps escalated against the Shiite loyal religious stream. As on June 12, 2011, the King replaced the board of directors of Jaafari Awqaf by other loyalists, from outside Al Madani stream, which was mandated by the Department of Awqaf in the last decade.
This royal reprisals came due to the resentment clearly shown by the Board of Directors of Al Awqaf, chaired by former loyal MP Ahmed Hussein (affiliated with AlRabetah/AlMadani stream), for the encroachment of the military and security apparatus and its militias in cooperation with the Ministry of Municipalities on houses of worship, where they demolished about 35 mosques, and dozens of other Shiite religious facilities, as if it is required from Al Awqaf to welcome the desecration of Islamic Shiite sanctities.
The appointment of Mohsen Al Asfoor in the presidency of Al Awqaf on August 24 last year, came in the context of the continuing search for more expressive regime-orientated faces. Al Asfoor was sacked as a judge in the Jaafari courts in 2004, seen as dangerous risk that was welcomed at the time. I still think the Shiite elite should consider Shiite Awqaf and Law as well as the Shiite family law a Shiite specialty that the state may not interfere in.
5.The Regime’s Conclusions
The regime did not come out of the experience of February 14 understanding the importance of national reconciliation, effective reform, and stopping the obvious discrimination against Shiites. However, it did end up to the following conclusions (with regard to the subject of the article):
1-The Shiite body is almost united in its desire to get rid of or reduce the grip of the Khalifi rule, and that the Shiite loyalty seems incomplete and deficient! The regime came to this conclusion even though the loyal Shiite body fell quickly out of the resignations, even when the killings were at the highest application of the emergency law. Perhaps some of those loyalists and due to their excessive fear want now to repent for their mistakes toward the royal family!
2-Some members of the Shiite well-known families: Al Jishi, Al Saleh, Al Orayedh, and others, seemed more committed, from the loyal religious Shiites, no matter what the regime blew before him against its opponents. Even supposing it is shallow to talk about an entire family as a whole!
3 3-The most important royal conclusion is the need to move at full speed to implement the remainder of the Bandar report, and take action to demolish all Shiite centers of influence at all levels to include this time the re-formation of the Shiite elite to make them a pure Khalifi elite, under the slogan: either with us or against us!
Thus, the appointment of Al Asfoor on top of Al Awqaf body is not aimed at the religious and non-religious Shiite opposition, where they are before now targeted in many other open and unannounced ways, and part of that is undoubtedly excluding them from the official organ as followers. So, Al Asfoor appointment says it out loud to all Shiite loyalists: we shall take revenge without any hesitation!
It is worth drawing attention to is that it is not possible for the regime, even though so steeped in discrimination, not to be in absolute need to Shiite loyalists, where it often and despite the difficulties is very capable to produce them. However, this production is getting in the political gutter day after day. When Sheikh AbdulMohsen Al Asfoor and Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al Magabi are the two facets of the regime, then one can percept the difficulties King Hamad is facing in building a credible loyal Shiite elite. These two, certainly cannot be put as substitutes for Sheikh Ahmed Al Asfoor who is remembered by the generations as a famous Shiite preacher, and also Sheikh Mohammed Al Sitri who make a living on the glory of his father, and was, and I think not anymore, the regime’s messenger to the religious Body in Najaf.
In here, King Hamad faces a serious challenge, as on one hand he sees Shiites as a strategic threat on his thrown, and on the other hand, his rule cannot be stabilized without the legitimacy conferred by this “danger”!
The discrimination will continue, and accompanying it with building a loyal elite shall probably remain fragile. once again I am encouraged to repeat the “Shiite Issue in Bahrain,” without abandoning the main issue: the democratic challenge, where these two issues are present in front of the opposition.
The other challenge, is not to give up on the typical loyal Shiites, like Al Asfoor and Al Madani streams, and the need to communicate with them, and hold them responsible in front of their narrow audiences. I have already mentioned that in my article: “the Blood, Holy Sites, and honor are calling for Al Madani and Al Asfoor”, published since June 2011. As the issue of gaining more of Sunnis, the opposition is in position of despair of, at least for now, and for that we shall stand upon