Bahrain's "Jocks for Justice" Crackdown
The Bahraini regime has reportedly suspended over 200 athletes for taking part in anti-government protests that threaten the Gulf kingdom's ruling family.
Several leading basketball, volleyball, futbol (soccer) and handball players are among those suspended, which disqualifies them from playing on the country's national teams.
The move could leave Bahrain in breach of international rules separating politics and sport. All the athletes suspended are Shia Muslims. At least 28 people have died and hundreds have been injured in the Sunni regime's efforts to suppress the pro-democracy movement spearheaded by the country's Shia majority.
According to the Times of London, Bahrain's state news program has focused on A'ala and Mohammed Hubail, two stars of the national soccer team who were arrested during training with their club after broadcast footage showed the brothers attending a pro-democracy rally in Pearl Square, in Manama.
A'ala Hubail (in red). Image by Hussain Isa via Flickr.
The Bahrain Football Association met yesterday to discuss the crisis but officials admit that they are in uncharted territory. "The suspension falls under misconduct, and the breaching of the rules and regulations of sporting clubs . . . not to engage in any political affairs," the association said in a statement.
Bahrain declared emergency rule last month and cracked down on protesters since the public started a popular revolution against the monarchy, which has been ruling the tiny Persian Gulf island for more than 200 years.
Dragging sport into the kingdom's sectarian conflict will only deepen the growing divide in Bahraini society. Bahrain's leading opposition group, Al-Wefaq, says over 450 opposition activists, including 14 women, have been arrested since the uprising began in the tiny Persian Gulf state in mid-February.
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