Bahrain’s political scene has never been defined by the presence of a robust opposition. But the dissolution last Wednesday of Waad, a major secular opposition group, took an ongoing crackdown to new heights.
Waad was hardly the first opposition movement to be targeted; one year ago, for example, the government suspended the activities of al-Wefaq, at the time Bahrain’s main Shiite political party. But Waad will likely be the last opposition group to endure the government’s wrath for a while, by virtue of the fact that it was the only one left.
Waad was a fixture of the pro-democracy protests that erupted in 2011 and were quickly quashed by government security forces, with the help of the Bahraini monarchy’s allies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Bahrain’s social and political fault lines resemble those in neighboring Saudi Arabia, with the major difference that its Sunni ruling family governs over a majority-Shiite population.* In keeping with the region’s highly sectarian geopolitics, the Bahraini royal family routinely decries opposition forces as Iran-backed terrorists.