Bahrainis to defy ban on Friday prayers in Diraz for second week in a row
Bahrain's ruling authorities banned Friday prayers at the main mosque in Diraz in 2016, a move criticized for silencing political dissent from the pulpits of mosques
By News Desk - May 26 2022

The first Friday prayer to be held in the Imam al-Sadiq Mosque in Diraz, Bahrain on 20 May 2022, in peaceful defiance of a government ban issued in 2016. (Photo credit: LuaLuaTV)

On 27 May, the residents of Diraz in Bahrain plan on holding their second Friday prayer in the city’s Imam al-Sadiq Mosque, in a peaceful show of defiance against a government ban on Friday prayers issued in 2016.

The first Friday prayer in six years was held on 20 May.

Diraz was home to Bahraini spiritual leader Ayatollah Isa Qassem, who was stripped of his citizenship in 2016, on allegations of actions that were contrary to state loyalty. Friday prayers at the Diraz mosque were banned by the government at the same time.

The spiritual leader often gave sermons from the Imam al-Sadiq Mosque and spoke about the curtailment of the basic rights of Bahraini citizens – both Sunni and Shia – by the government. Additionally, he guided the Bahraini popular uprisings to guarantee and uphold their peaceful nature.

“The pulpit of Bahrain’s oppressed and deprived people, both Sunnis and Shias, for decades firmly appealed for stolen rights, reforms, rapprochement, and reconciliation, and called for a comprehensive, sound, and a realistic approach to the political and rights reality,” wrote journalist Sondoss al-Asaad in an analysis for Al Mayadeen following the resumption of the Friday prayers.

The ban was criticized as a means of collective punishment against Bahrain’s Shia Muslim population as well as a silencing of political dissent.

As Ayatollah Qassem lives in exile due to medical issues and risk of political persecution, the Friday prayers will be led by Sheikh Ali al-Sadadi, according to the Bahrain Mirror.

It is unclear if the authorities will crack down on this act of civil disobedience at the second Friday prayer, given Manama’s history of using lethal force against unarmed protesters.

After the citizenship of Ayatollah Qassem was revoked, a peaceful sit-in took place outside the house of the Bahraini spiritual leader. On 26 December 2016, security forces fired live ammunition at the unarmed protestors, killing 17-year-old Mustafa Hamdan.

A few months later, on 23 May 2017, security forces again used live ammunition on the unarmed protestors, resulting in five deaths and hundreds of arrests.

Ayatollah Qassem issued a statement on 25 May on the upcoming general elections in November, warning that if the elections do not serve as a platform to reflect the popular will of all Bahraini citizens, regardless of sect, then such elections “reinforce dictatorship under the guise of democracy,” and the citizens should boycott the vote.

Former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim gave an interview earlier this year, where he confirmed that Bahraini authorities intentionally lock up political dissidents under false pretexts.

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