Alwaght- Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, Bahrain’s top Shiite cleric, travelled to London on Monday after his health deteriorated during house arrest the repressive Manama regime.
Sheikh Qassim, who is in his late 70s, is the spiritual leader of Majority Shiite community of the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom and his health has been a point of contention between his supporters and the Bahraini regime.
In 2016, Sheikh Qassim was stripped of his nationality on charges of “serving foreign interests”. The Ayatollah has played a leading role in protests against Bahrain’s Saudi-backed Al Khalifa monarchy.
As his condition worsened in recent months, Qassim’s relatives have repeatedly refused the government’s offer to transfer him to a hospital in the island country, saying they feared he could be detained and deported were he to leave his residence.
Qassim was issued a temporary passport, valid for just a year, to be able to fly from Bahrain’s capital Manama to London.
Since 2011, when protests against the government erupted as part of the Islamic Awakening movement that swept the region, tensions have simmered - and occasionally boiled over – between the Shiite-majority populace and the repressive Al Khalifa monarchy.
The 2011 demonstrations were put down with the help of Saudi Arabia, but other protests have erupted since.
Authorities have jailed dozens of high-profile activists, disbanded both religious and secular opposition groups, and stripped hundreds of people of their citizenship.
The tiny Persian Gulf kingdom is an ally of the US and Britain with the two Western powers having military bases in the country.