Ibrahim Sharif, Bahrain
The head of the National Democratic Action Society Wa’ad Party in Bahrain, Ibrahim Sharif played a leading role in the pro-democracy protests last year and was imprisoned for the crime of calling for a change in the island monarchy’s system of government. He’s since been sentenced to five years in jail.
Most supporters of the opposition in Bahrain are members of its disenfranchised Shiite Muslim community. But Sharif is a Sunni, as are many members of his pro-reform political party. His existence, as an opposition leader and political prisoner, undermines the Bahraini government narrative that the crisis in the country is purely sectarian, that the protest movement is part of an Iranian/Hezbollah plot to establish a Shia theocracy, and that the country’s Sunni population is unalterably opposed to compromise. That a prominent Sunni, with some support in the Sunni community, is calling for constitutional monarchy in Bahrain appears to have deeply embarrassed the hardliners around the country’s king. Unfortunately, Sharif’s case has not gotten as much attention as that of other prominent Shiite political prisoners in Bahrain. Last month, a civilian appeals court upheld his sentence, along with 19 others, even though Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry found that the evidence against them consisted of their speeches or confessions extracted through torture.