In an article posted February 17, 2017 on the Middle East Online website, Kuwaiti Shi'ite journalist Khalil 'Ali Haidar wrote that many Shi'ites in Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia feel that Iranian policy in the Middle East and Iran's interference in the affairs of Arab countries not only does not represent them, but actually harms them, and yet they do not openly oppose it. In the article, titled "Shi'ites of Kuwait, Iran Is Not [Our] Safe Haven," Haidar called on the Shi'ites living in Arab countries to openly oppose Iranian policy and thereby avoid the hatred and hostility of their Sunni compatriots. He said that "the Shi'ites have already paid a steep price in their reputation, their security, their wellbeing, and the future of their children, due to their extended silence" in the face of Iranian policy, and that the time has come for them to make their voices heard.
The following are excerpts from the article:[i]
Khalil 'Ali Haidar (image: Al-Qabas, Saudi Arabia)
"How did political Shi'ism, Hizbullah, and [Iran's] Islamic Revolution so easily conquer public opinion and the emotions of the Shi'ites in the Gulf region and the Arab areas? Why don't we hear the Shi'ites outside Iran opposing Iranian foreign policy, and specifically the [Iranian] positions for which they pay the price… so that everyone will understand that the Iranian policy does not represent the opinion of all Shi'ites in the Arab world? Numerous Shi'ites in Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia believe that Iranian policy in general does not represent the opinions of [all] Shi'ites. [In fact, they believe] that since 1979 Iranian policy has endangered the political interests of the Shi'ites in the countries where they live in the Arab world and elsewhere, and caused their isolation in the community, and perhaps even threats and vengeful acts against them. This is evident in the incident of the husseiniyya in Saudi Arabia; [ii] in the destruction of Shi'ite mosques in Pakistan;[iii] in what we read and see on television, on the Internet, and in the newspapers, as well as in the terror attacks in Beirut.[iv]
"However, [despite the preceding,] we hardly ever hear [Shi'ites] who oppose or have reservations [about the Iranian policy utter] a peep of protest, opposition or criticism, or even a warning to the general Shi'ite public about those who are leading [it] toward dangerous sectarian fanaticism.
"As is well known, among this group [Shi'ites], and specifically among the [Shi'ite] religious, political, economic, social and cultural elite, there are thousands of doctors, engineers, singers, academics, business people, clerics, politicians, cultural figures, authors, and media people. However, they do not raise their voices and do not express opposition or criticism of Iranian policy, except on rare occasions, and it doesn't matter how much this policy damages their interests, their political image, or their relationship with the other citizens or sects, as can be seen in the Gulf region, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, and in Bahrain in the past 20 years or more.
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"Who can defend Iran's main error – the establishment of an 'armed Shi'ite party' in Lebanon [i.e., Hizbullah] against the will of the Lebanese government and people, which today controls Lebanon's stability and destiny, and this after it involved Lebanon in a war against Israel that harmed the interests of all the Lebanese? Who [can] find justification in the Shi'ite jurisprudence for support of the Ba'th regime [in Syria] that has been ruling over the [Syrian] people for decades, murdering it, mercilessly destroying its cities, and scattering its women, children and elderly to refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan? And if Iran established Hizbullah in Lebanon to stand against Israel, then why did it force it to operate as an Iranian military power in Syria, against the interests of the Syrian and the Lebanese people, and in a manner that embarrassed the rest of the Shi'ites in the Arab world, in light of dozens of questions that have no answers, and in a manner that led to sectarian hostility and hatred for the Shi'ites, who will be paying the price for years to come[?]...
"Who among the Iranians, or all the Shi'ites who support the destructive Iranian policy, would be pleased if the Sunnis [in Iran] – among them the Kurds, the Baluchis, or some of the residents of southern Iran – were to establish an armed political party in Iran, like Hizbullah in Lebanon, with heavy [military] gear, armored vehicles, tanks and missiles, that would receive instructions and funding from Turkey, for example, or from Gulf States and the Arab world?
"The Shi'ites have already paid a heavy price in their reputation, their security, their wellbeing and the future of their children due to their extended silence [in the face of Iranian policy]. Their rivals [the Sunnis] accuse them of everything and anything, and treat them as a group that has no clear position and no concern for the interests of the countries in which it lives. Is anyone aware of the dangers inherent in such accusations?
"For generations, the Shi'ites have presented themselves as a besieged minority, bereft of its rights, as representatives of the downtrodden, as defenders of all just causes, and as fighters against any kind of illegitimacy, tyranny and domination. However, Iran's erroneous overall policy and its adventures – which have won widespread Shi'ite sympathy through [Iran's] deception and the exploitation of various [Shi'ite] sentiments and fears – have led to the complete isolation of the Shi'ites in Lebanon, in the Gulf States, in Iraq, in Yemen, and perhaps everywhere.
"Further, all neutral [elements] believe that Iran's foreign policy is the opposite of its domestic policy, and that it interferes in Arab and Gulf affairs that are none of its business. [It also] proclaims slogans according to its whims wherever it chooses, from Lebanon to Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere, regardless of the interests of the Shi'ite minorities [who live there] and without taking into account the political balance and the sectarian dangers, and that there is no benefit in this to the Iranian people themselves.
"Why can't Iran, or its supporters in Kuwait, in Lebanon, in Yemen, and in Bahrain, for instance, explain to us what interest the Shi'ites in these countries have in supporting Hamas in Gaza, in shouting 'Death to America' at every possible opportunity, or in demanding the overthrow of several of the Gulf regimes? Why doesn't Iran choose a balanced foreign policy and stop all this interference and sloganeering that first and foremost harm the supreme interests of Iran, of its people, and of its economy...[?] [They also harm] the cultural standing of its people and its international reputation, and have forced its people to live in poverty for these past 35 years?
"Why doesn't Iran move [to focus on] establishing a thriving society, on raising the income level of its people and on finding solutions to its various development problems, instead of embarking on these expensive military adventures that cost the Iranians and the Shi'ites so dearly, wherever they may be.
"The Shi'ites in Kuwait and in the Gulf states have suffered, especially since 1979, from the policy of exporting the Iranian revolution, from demonstrations [that took place] during the pilgrimage [to Mecca], from the establishment of Hizbullah cells, from the exploitation [by Iran] of the naiveté and good intentions of some of the young people from among the minorities, and also from the exploitation of [the respect for] sectarian liberty and the political openness of the Gulf states. Following this, the second stage began, with the recruitment of Shi'ites to Hizbullah's adventures with the aim of taking advantage of the atmosphere created in Iraq after the fall of the [Ba'th] regime in 2003. Later, supporters of the policy of Hizbullah and Iran deteriorated [morally even further] and held a memorial ceremony in one of their husseniyyas in Kuwait for 'Imad Mughniyeh [Hizbullah's former military chief] despite his infamous past.[v] And then came the clear and open phase of the [Iranian] interference in Syria, and following that the support for the extremist faction in the Bahraini opposition... No one knows now what kind of maze the Houthis are entering in Yemen, and what kind of reconciliation can be affected among the Gulf States and Iran in the wake of the mistakes and this dangerous interference [on the part of Iran. Therefore,] the Shi'ites in Kuwait and other countries, and in particular clerics, economists, celebrities and academics, men and women alike, have no choice but to raise their voices, speak rationally, express criticism [of Iran openly] and consolidate an independent, national position in the face of this extremely dangerous sectarian deterioration."
[i]Middle-east-online.com, February 17, 2017.
[ii] In October, 2015, a member of Islamic State attacked a husseiniyya (a center providing religious, educational, and social services to the Shi'ite community) in the Al-Qatif region in eastern Saudi Arabia, killing five Shi'ites and wounding nine.
[iii] In November, 2013, Sunnis set fire to two Shi'ite mosques in the city of Rawalpindi, near the capital of Islamabad, following violent clashes between Sunnis and Shi'ites. Seven Sunnis were killed and 35 were injured.
[iv] Between 2013 and 2015, several attacks were perpetrated against Shi'ites in the Dahiya, south of Beirut.
[v] In 1988, 'Imad Mughniyeh hijacked a Kuwait Airlines flight to compel the Kuwaiti authorities to release his brother-in-law, senior Hizbullah official Mustafa Badr Al-Din, who had been arrested in 1983 in Kuwait and sentenced to death for the planning of seven terror attacks in the country . In 1990, Badr Al-Din managed to escape prison during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In 2008, after Mughniyeh was killed in Damascus, Shi'ites in Kuwait held a memorial ceremony for him in one of their religious centers.