THE HAGUE: Bahrain’s crackdown on the main Shia opposition bloc Al-Wefaq was creating a “very dangerous” situation and needs closer international scrutiny, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned on Thursday.
On a one-day visit to the Netherlands to strengthen bilateral ties, Zarif was reacting to Bahrain’s decision to start court proceedings to dissolve Al-Wefaq, bringing the process forward in defiance of UN and US appeals to drop it. The Al-Wefaq bloc was the largest in Bahrain’s parliament before its lawmakers resigned in protest at the crushing of 2011 protests calling for an elected government.
“We believe it’s a very dangerous situation,” Zarif told a press conference when asked about the latest move, which comes in the wake of Monday’s stripping of the kingdom’s top Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim of his nationality. “It requires a great deal of attention from the international community,” he said.
Bahrain said it will on Sunday request bringing a hearing forward before an administrative court, which was due to meet on October 6 to consider the government’s request to dissolve Al-Wefaq. On Tuesday, Iran had warned Bahrain that it was fanning armed rebellion and that it will pay the price after stepping up the crackdown.
Bahrain in return has repeatedly accused Iran of interfering with its affairs and inciting violence among Shias, a claim Tehran denies. As well as the moves against Al-Wefaq and Qassim, the crackdown has also seen a series of arrests and jailings and Al-Wefaq’s political chief Sheikh Ali Salman is serving a nine-year jail term on charges of inciting violence. Tiny but strategic Bahrain lies across the Gulf from Iran and is the home base of the US Fifth Fleet.