Bahrain's Sunni rulers target Shiite mosques
The Bahraini regime has bulldozed dozens of Shiite mosques or other religious structures in the crackdown on a mainly Shiite opposition movement.
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Justice minister's perspective
Sheikh Khalid, the justice minister, brought Arabic language spreadsheets to a McClatchy interview stating the reasons for destruction as well as a book of records of the demolition program, complete with photographs. But he couldn't locate a reference to or photographs of Nwaidrat's Momen mosque in his briefing book, which listed all structures by number, not name.
He declined to provide a copy of the briefing book or the spreadsheet to McClatchy, saying they were "internal correspondence," and asked that no photograph be taken of him holding the briefing book.
Asked whether tearing down a long-standing, functioning place of worship would be viewed as a criminal offense in Bahrain, Sheikh Khalid appeared taken aback.
"If there is a fault or a mistake and [they] can prove it, the same place will be rebuilt in a much, much better shape," he later said.
And if they were operating under the law, why did the state demolition crews destroy the building after dark, when residents couldn't photograph the action?
"It is very difficult to do it in the morning. It is a kind of respect for people's psychology," Sheikh Khalid replied. "We were trying to put it in a way that it will not hurt he people. At least they do not see it while it is being demolished."
Because the material he was provided didn't list mosques by name, the justice minister also couldn't say for sure whether other religious structures visited by McClatchy were old construction, new construction, legal or illegal, or on private or public land.
He said there had been 41 "procedures" against religious structures in Bahrain's capital, Manama, but in many instances, those taken down were just temporary structures. He could only point to two Sunni religious structures that had been taken down.
Sheikh Khalid himself had earlier stated publicly that Bahrain had approximately 600 religious structures, and only 10 percent had been demolished. But he declined to confirm that figure.
Every foreign resident and most Bahrainis contacted by McClatchy seemed deeply discouraged about the future of communal relations on this once-promising island, but Justice Minister Khalid disagreed.
"I think we've reached the maximum bottom we can reach," he said. "My conviction is that things will not get much worse." One day later, he chaired a press conference where he announced plans for the trial of 47 doctors and other medical personnel.
He was referring to the trials of 21 physicians who took part in the Nazi program to euthanize the mentally ill, retarded, and physically disabled or in medical experiments on patients without their permission.