Alwaght- What do Awwamiyah, Saudia Arabia; Zaria, Nigeria; and Manama, Bahrain have in common? This question is not an introduction to a punch line but rather to the intriguing similarities between these areas as a result of geopolitical hegemony.
To begin with, all three cities are the hubs of their respective countries’ opposition. People have been holding demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province since February 2011. In Zaria, Nigeria’s Shia population has been protesting against the army’s brutal killing of hundreds of their members in December. As for Manama, it is the birthplace of the Bahraini revolution and the center of anti-regime sentiments in the Persian-Gulf state.
The voices in these areas all demand freedom and basic human rights. In Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, protesters are demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to widespread discrimination against people in the oil-rich region. Similarly, Nigerians have been calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to discrimination.
At the same time—while protests mushroom and expand—the governments under which these people live take extensive measures to suppress their movements. The governments in Riyadh, Manama, and Abuja claim that in order to maintain security and order, these protests must be stifled.
Just recently, Saudi regime forces shot dead a Shia citizen after raiding his home in the country’s Eastern Province. According to Saudi media reports, he was wanted over accusations of attacking security forces. But this is just one example of how authorities clamp down on protesters and also the most irreversible one. Other forms include arbitrary arrest, excessive use of force during demonstrations, and attacks on freedom of expression.
Saudi-backed security forces in Bahrain are also infamous for their human rights violations. Their record includes arbitrary arrest, torture, revoking of citizenships, and unjustified killing of protesters.
On the 12th and 13th of December 2015, the Nigerian military opened fire on Shiites in Zaria leaving 300 people dead, others were injured and many more went missing.
To justify these atrocities, the three governments almost always accuse the opposition movements of inciting violence and planning terrorist activities.
It seems to be the pretext in trend for such cases, especially that the international community pays little attention to the plight of these people.
What is also common is these government’s measures against religious activities in the areas where the Shia populations are a majority.
Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and attempting to assassinate him.
In Bahrain, flags put up by mourners during the month of Ashura are taken down and processions are usually attacked with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Additionally, leaders of these movements are targeted. For example, during the attack in Zaria the leader of the Islamic movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, was injured and detained. He remains in custody.
Meanwhile, the main Shia opposition leader in Bahrain, Sheikh Ali Salman has been sentenced to four years in jail for allegedly inciting hatred, promoting disobedience and "insulting" public institutions. Sheikh Salman had been calling for peaceful protests and reforms.
The Saudis have taken a more critical step by arresting, convicting, and executing Sheikh Nimr Nimr earlier this year for being critical of the regime and calling for free elections.
Last but not least, one thread ties the knot firmly around the troika which is the fact that the Saudi regime is behind them all. According to observers, Riyadh pulls the strings directly in Awammiyah while it relies on its petrodollars in Zaria and Manama.