Sheikh Ali Salman: A Leader Who Does Not Lose Sight Of His People
By Latifa Al-Husseini
Life imprisonment is only fueling the resolve of the Secretary General of Bahrain’s opposition Al-Wefaq movement Sheikh Ali Salman. Being confined to a cell hasn’t changed his convictions. He remains steadfast, and unshaken by the many years behind bars.
Sheikh Salman knows the cost of standing up to the Bahraini authorities. Since the 1990s, he has worked to have the voice of the people reach the ears of the rulers.
Whoever communicates with His Eminence today sees exceptional determination that no political prisoner had exhibited before. His persistence is apparent and so is the strength of logic and adherence to certain positions. His experience is something that the free people and comrades of the movement learn from at all stages.
The popularity of the leader, as the Bahrainis call him, did not decline, but rather increased. Despite his unjust punishment, Sheikh Salman proceeds resolutely and valiantly, armed with certainty that shades his jihad, turning into a solid fortress from which the sons of the country derive steadfastness on principles and valor in adversity.
How is Sheikh Salman spending his days? How can he be reassured about the conditions of his family, friends, and comrades? What about the affairs of the country? Can he keep up with them? What’s his advice?
Eight years after his arrest, the wife of Al-Wefaq's Secretary General, Ms. Alia Radhi, talks to Al-Ahed News about his obsessions and interests and how he goes about his days.
The Freedom of the Detainees Is His Freedom
Radhi tells Al-Ahed, "Since the first day of his arrest, I have seen nothing but steadfastness and insistence on his position to support his people and work to achieve their demands. I have felt his satisfaction and happiness because he is experiencing the ordeal of being imprisoned as the sons of the country. Being incarcerated, he is sharing their pain, concerns, and plight. He often confided in me about his pain and sadness because he was free and the brothers, including [key] figures, are in detention.”
She notes that His Eminence “recommends from his detention to prioritize the demand to release all detainees over his release in every movement and gathering because he is one of them and his freedom is their freedom.”
A Teacher of Patience
Radhi describes Sheikh Salman as "a teacher of patience, steadfastness, and resoluteness."
She talks about the morale that he spreads among his companions and points out that "he is the one who instills patience in everything that happens to us and erases our pain with his smile and confident and faithful words."
"He paints with his steadfastness the highest meanings and implications of freedom while behind rusty bars. That narrow space does not bother him, as his heart is spacious and accommodates everyone."
Communication Continues Despite Being Behind Bars
In February 2020, family visits to His Eminence were forbidden under the pretext of Corona, according to his wife, but audio and video communications are still ongoing. However, Sheikh Salman and his companions [other opposition figures] refrained from receiving visitors before this date because visitations were held through a glass barrier.
Prison conditions are not ideal. According to Radhi, Sheikh Salman is being subjected to harassment, but he absorbs it with patience, reassuring his family and friends during calls.
He Dedicate Himself to the People
The way Sheikh Salman goes about his days in prison indicate his toughness. In this context, Radhi points out that she never felt his frustration or remorse for the sacrifice and imprisonment throughout this period.
"He dedicated himself to the people, this country, and its just cause and demands," she explains.
"He has made himself accustomed to the consequences of this struggle and jihad for more than 25 years, during which he did not fear blame, imprisonment, or threats, especially as he went through the experience of exile during the crisis in the 1990s. This did not deter him from demanding the right and freedom of this people no matter the costs."
His Time Is Not Wasted
Sheikh Salman’s time is not wasted. Reading various religious texts is his refuge, and this gives him a feeling of reassurance. As for the homeland and its affairs, they are constantly monitored by Sheikh Salman. Radhi explains to Al-Ahed that His Eminence is following up on developments. She also reveals that "his family and friends convey to him the latest developments, situations, statements, the movements of organizations for the cause of Bahrain, and any statements related to Bahrain. He also reads daily newspapers and follows news from certain channels only."
The political Crisis Continues
The positions of Al-Wefaq’s Secretary General towards the situation in Bahrain are clear. Sheikh Salman knows that as long as he is imprisoned, the political crisis will continue. The situation of the sons of the country pains him, and he thinks of them more than he thinks about his condition. He always calls for action to demand their release before he asks for work to be done on his case. He considers the pain and causes of the people his priority and his greatest obsession.
Radhi says that “the main concern for Sheikh Salman is that the people enjoy all their rights, including political rights to freedom, equality, social justice, and a just distribution of wealth, for every detainee and expatriate to return to their homeland, for mothers to sleep peacefully every night without fear of their homes being raided at any moment and their children taken from their arms, and for our children to live in safety, not crying every night longing for their absent fathers.”
Palestine in the mind of the Secretary General
Palestine is always on Sheikh Salman's mind. His wife says that like the majority of the people of Bahrain, “Palestine is in his heart and mind. He stands in solidarity with its people, is against normalization with the ‘Israeli’ enemy, and refuses to desecrate our pure land with the Zionists, especially that there is a history of struggle against normalization. The people took part in solidarity rallies with Palestine despite the oppression and siege. On April 7, 2002, martyr Muhammad Juma al-Shakhouri was killed by the Bahraini regime forces near the American embassy during the demonstrations against the Zionist entity and in defense of Gaza. Before his arrest, he used to mark International Quds Day every year by participating in events, speeches, and marches in solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
Ayatollah Qassem Is His Role Model
The Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassem is Sheikh Salman’s role model. His wife says that he "feels great pain because of the injustice that has befallen His Eminence, and he always prays for the cleric’s return to his land, the land of his ancestors, and his hometown in Bahrain, because he has the right to be on his land and among his family and people who long for him."