Sadr calls for protests outside Bahraini embassy decrying crackdown on opposition cleric

Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. File photo.

Baghdad ( Influential Iraqi Shia cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr has called for protests Wednesday outside the Bahraini embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Najaf to condemn the arrest of aides of a senior Shia opposition cleric in the Gulf kingdom.

“Junior scholars and clerics should protest outside the Bahraini consulate in Najaf….for two days, hopefully the Bahraini government will be deterred from oppressing its people,” he said in a statement. He urged a parallel, peaceful protest for one day outside the embassy in Baghdad.

Sadr said his call came in response to “repeated violations against the struggling Bahraini people, its figures and religious leaders,” adding that protests will serve to show “connection between oppressed nations across the globe,” as he put it.

News report said earlier Tuesday that Bahraini security forces invaded the home of Shia cleric Ayatollah Eissa Qassem, an influential opposition figure, west of Manama, and arrested everyone inside. It was not clear whether Qassem was among those arrested.

The raid came shortly after Qassem’s fans staged protests in support at his home village of al-Diraz, and two days after a top criminal court sentenced him to one-year in prison and freezed his assets. Qassem was stripped of his citizenship in 2016.

Though ruled by a Sunni Muslim dynasty, Bahrain is home to a Shia majority.

Protests by the majority Shia community in 2011, demanding improved political rights and freedoms, were stifled after intervention by a Gulf Cooperation Council military force.

World freedom groups have regularly criticized Bahrain for persecuting Shia opposition activists.

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