Skip to main content

Bahrainis' shrinking political space

The Bahraini government is sending a message about loyalty to its population by removing the organizations representing its Shiite and secular opposition from the political arena.
TOPSHOT - A Bahraini protester holds a placard depicting a portrait of Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Shiite opposition movement al-Wefaq, during clashes with riot police following a protest against Salman's arrest in the village of Sitra, south of the capital Manama, on January 29, 2016. / AFP / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH        (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)

Political space is narrowing in Bahrain as the government steps up its efforts to combat terrorism and weaken the Shiite opposition, which receives, at minimum, moral and ideological support from Iran.

Eleven months ago, Bahrain’s judiciary found the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the country’s dominant Shiite opposition group, guilty of fostering terrorism and dissolved it. In 2015, it had convicted its secretary-general, Sheikh Ali Salman, of “inciting hatred and disobedience and insulting public institutions.” Meanwhile, Bahrain’s prominent Shiite cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, whose citizenship authorities annulled, may face deportation. Almost three months after a Bahraini firing squad executed three Shiite men convicted earlier this year on terrorism charges, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa approved a constitutional amendment that permits military courts to try civilians, a move that Bahraini officials maintain will enhance the counterterrorism efforts of the security apparatus.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.