Hundreds of Shiites took to the streets of Bahrain’s capital Manama Friday, heeding the call of opposition parties to protest the government’s intention of closer political ties with Saudi Arabia.
The opposition procession, titled “at your service, O nation,” corresponded with mass protests in Iran following Friday prayers, condemning the Sunni Al-Khalifa family ruling Bahrain.
Ayatollah Issa Qasem, a Shiite Bahraini cleric, condemned the planned Gulf Union discussed in the Saudi Riyadh earlier this week.
“The question is simple: Which two sides does this unity bring together? Is it a unity of governments? Of people?” Qasem asked in his Friday sermon, published on the Internet page of the Islamic opposition group Wefaq.
“The governments do not represent themselves for the unity to take place between them, and the peoples have nothing to do with it. It is clear that the proposed union is not a union of people. How could it be when the people are completely absent and isolated?”
Shiite protests began in Bahrain in February 2011, demanding civil rights and equality in a country in which they comprise an estimated two-thirds of the population.
In June 2012 Bahraini King Hamad Al-Khalifa established an independent commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against Shiite opposition activists. But the opposition and international NGOs claims the commission’s recommendations were never adequately implemented.