Sheikh Hasan Sultan: From Initiative Pioneer to Terrorist List Including “Somali Jihadists”!

2018-01-17 - 1:54 p

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Sheikh Hasan Sultan was among the pioneers of the initiative who drafted a roadmap out of the political crisis that hit the country in the 1990s, and one of the most prominent faces of Al-Wefaq Society, who decided to engage in public political action.

Sheikh Hasan Sultan, member of the General Secretariat of the Bahraini opposition group the National Islamic Al-Wefaq Society, without prior introductions found his name added to a terrorist list among a group that included a number of people accused of being affiliated to ISIS, Nusra Front, and the Somali Al-Shabab jihadist militant movement, which was announced by the coalition quartet on November 22, 2017.

So, who is Sheikh Hasan Sultan? And why now?

He was arrested on charges of participating in leading the 1990s uprising, a popular movement that erupted to demand the reinstatement of the country's constitution, put an end to the state security law and courts and bringing the parliament back to life after it had been dissolved for nearly 20 years.

On April 24, 1995, the opposition leadership announced an initiative from inside prison that included a comprehensive vision for ending the political crisis in a way that would spare the country further tension, following negotiations with the Minister of Interior. Sultan was one of those initiators along with the late Sheikh Abdul-Amir Al-Jamri, Mr. Abdul Wahab Hussein (prisoner), Mr. Hassan Mushaima (prisoner) and Sheikh Khalil Sultan.

The initiators committed themselves to calm the streets down after their release, but the government refrained from committing to its end of the deal to release all detainees and implement political reforms. Six months after the initiative, the five men (October 20, 1995) declared its failure before they were arrested again.

Bahrain waited until 1999 to see the first signs of a breakthrough in the crisis, during which scores of people were killed by security forces' fire and torture. After taking over and succeeding his father, who died in March of the same year, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa promised political reforms.

The new ruler ordered clearing prisons from political detainees and Sheikh Hasan Sultan was among those released. Hamad bin Isa promised to open a new page with the opposition and restore the dissolved parliament, yet this did not take place as agreed.

The atmosphere that accompanied the vote on the Charter on February 14, 2001 allowed the establishment of political societies (parties). Sheikh Sultan was one of the founders of the National Islamic Al-Wefaq Society, which played a major political role in boycotting the first legislative elections after Hamad bin Isa did not fulfill the promises he made himself.

After a four-year boycott, Al-Wefaq decided to engage in parliamentary activity as a goodwill gesture. Sheikh Sultan ran for the ninth constituency in the northern governorate and won the confidence of 7,278 voters out of 9,405 who voted, i.e. 77%.

In addition to his parliamentary work, Sultan was a member of the General Secretariat of Al-Wefaq and responsible for its electoral activities. He headed the National Committee against Political Naturalization, which was and still is one of the reasons for the tensions in the country.

The Committee, which emerged from the coalition of opposition societies (Al-Wefaq, Wa'ad, Al-Ikhaa, Amal and the Progressive Platform) and was led by Sultan, organized a number of protests, including a popular petition and marches attended by tens of thousands of people.

Sultan was re-elected as a representative of the constituency in 2010 after garnering 8,814 out of 10,078 votes, i.e. 90%.

Months after the start of the third legislative round, the government confronted by force an uprising that broke out on February 14, 2011, which was inspired by the Arab Spring, and killed a number of citizens in a surprise attack on the peaceful protesters at the Pearl Roundabout in the early hours of Thursday (February 17th).

On February 18, the Al-Wefaq parliamentary bloc, which comprised 17 MPs including Sultan, decided to withdraw from parliament permanently, in protest against the use of lethal force against protesters at the roundabout.

By virtue of his membership in the parliament and the General Secretariat of Al-Wefaq Society, Sheikh Hasan Sultan played a role in negotiating a political settlement that would take the country out of the most dangerous phase it has experienced. However, attempts by the ruling family to circumvent the fair and legitimate demands of the masses stood in the way.

The ruling family summoned on March 14 forces from the Saudi National Guard to crush the protesters camping at the roundabout once again, and King Hamad bin Isa declared the State Security Law (State of National Safety).

In large-scale security operations launched across the island kingdom, the troops killed a large number of protesters and arrested thousands of others, including opposition figures and popular protest leaders.

Sheikh Sultan was forced to leave the country for Lebanon, and from there he played new roles, most of which were media activities and communications with Arab parties to reveal and speak of the reality of the situation in Bahrain and the demands of the opposition.

The government did not raise any charges against Sheikh Sultan for practicing political activities abroad for more than six years.

Surprisingly on June 5, 2017, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced severing relations with Qatar. As part of a concerted campaign targeting Doha, Bahrain TV broadcast on June 17 a phone call recording between Sheikh Sultan and a Qatari advisor that goes back to 2011.

The recording showed that Sultan was calling on Qatari advisor Hamad Al-Attiyah to avoid having his country take part in the Peninsula Shield forces as Kuwait did. Both sides spoke of Qatar's assumed role in resolving the crisis (announced by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)) and agreed on Al-Jazeera's coverage of the security incidents and violations experienced by the Gulf country since the entry of the Peninsula Shield forces.

On June 22, 2017, as part of its campaign to recruit activists and their relatives to work for it, the National Security Agency summoned Mohammad Sultan, former Al-Wefaq MP Sheikh Hasan Sultan's son, who was subjected to torture by officer Mohammad Hazeem.

A month after the recordings were aired, the Public Prosecution announced that they had filed a lawsuit against Al-Wefaq Secretary-General Sheikh Ali Salman and Sheikh Hasan Sultan, based on the recordings. On November 13, 2017, the Prosecution announced that they would be tried for spying for Qatar, in which Sultan has never set foot.

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