Sectarian Transnational Identities Online: Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

Part of the Contemporary Gulf Studies book series (CGS)


Recent developments in the Middle East have contributed to the growth of sectarian identifications in the Middle East. The rise of political tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Civil War in Iraq, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the Arab Spring uprising, among others, have led to this growing antagonism. On the level of the Arabian Gulf, the intervention of the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries in Bahrain and the execution of the sheikh Nimr Al Nimr were a catalyst of sectarian sentiments. The aim of this chapter is to find out how these developments affected the expressions of sectarian loyalties in the two Gulf countries that have significant Shi’a communities, namely Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and how they contribute to creating a transnational Shi’a identity and on what pillars such an identity reposes. Using framing analysis, the chapter analyzes web content written by Shi’a activists, namely Facebook in order to assess the formation and strengthening of a Shi’a transnational community around common sentiment.

We hypothesize that such transnational identity is cemented around the idea of constant suffering, oppression, and martyrdom. On the other hand, the shared sentiment is to seek justice as well as to foster change, which can be achieved through social activism and religious zeal. This resistance identity, which draws from religious narratives of the suffering of Imam Hussein, may stand in opposition to the perceived corruption of Sunni governments. In this case, social media plays a crucial role in creating, stimulating, and sustaining the transnational Shi’a identity.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Qatar UniversityDohaQatar

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