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Bahrain's Shiite Leader Announces Move To Iran After Losing Citizenship

BAHRAIN -- Sheik Isa Qassim, speaks during midday prayers Friday, in the village of Diraz, November 21, 2014. File photo
BAHRAIN -- Sheik Isa Qassim, speaks during midday prayers Friday, in the village of Diraz, November 21, 2014. File photo

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps-run news agency, Tasnim, also confirmed the news on Saturday, February 2.

However, the local news outlets have been silent on the details of the move. Iran has not officially announced the move.

Qassim's move to Mashhad comes at a time that Bahrain has repeatedly accused the Islamic Republic of Iran of interfering in its internal affairs. Tehran, for its part, has always dismissed the allegation as unfounded. Nevertheless, Bahrain has arrested and tried dozens of its citizens in recent years charging them with espionage for Tehran.

The 82-year-old cleric was a leader of Arab Spring-inspired 2011 protests in the Sunni-ruled kingdom and was under de facto house arrest since a 2016 court order revoking his citizenship.

He was sentenced to a suspended one-year jail term on the charge of "serving foreign interests".

On 20 June 2016, a week after the government of Bahrain suspended the Shi'a opposition group al-Wefaq, Isa Qassim was stripped of his Bahraini citizenship.

Bahrain's citizenship law allows the kingdom's cabinet to revoke the citizenship of anyone who "causes harm to the interests of the kingdom or behaves in a way inimical with the duty of loyalty to it.

Furthermore, in May 2017, a Bahraini court convicted Sheikh Qassim of illegal collection of funds and money laundering and sentenced him to one year in jail suspended for three years.

The Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the decision as “foolishness” and cautioned that it could provoke violence from Shi'ites, who make up the majority in the Sunni-ruled Persian Gulf kingdom.

“Attacking Sheikh Isa Qassim means removing all obstacles blocking heroic Bahraini youths from attacking the regime,” Khamenei warned.

However, Bahrain has been rather calm, so far.

Sheik Isa Ahmed Qassim, who is suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, was admitted to the Bahrain International hospital in January 2018 and underwent hernia surgery. He was ultimately allowed to leave for London to follow up his medical treatment.

Later, after being discharged from a hospital in London, the Qom-seminary educated Ayatollah moved to Iraq in December 2018.

The Shi'ite majority in Bahrain demand a constitutional monarchy under the current royal dynasty, al Khalifa, managed by an elected prime minister.