Anti-Shia protests in Karachi, Pakistan

Shia Rights Watch expresses immense concern in regards to recent anti-Shia protests in Karachi, Pakistan.

Within the rally, affiliates of Sipah-e-Sahaba and Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan waved flags and shout derogatory slurs against Shia Muslims, calling them “infidels” and damaging not only identified Shia property but also the city’s public infrastructures.

Shia Muslims in Pakistan exist as a minority population. For years, the group has faced uncontrolled violence in the hands of extremists who consider them outside of the faith of Islam. Labels such as “infidels” and “rejecters” are frequently used to ostracize Shia Muslims and justify killing them.

The most recent justifications of anti-Shiism included the Coronavirus, which some have labeled the “Shia Virus,” scapegoating the population for the countries pandemic. While it would be expected that the presence of deadly disease would overpower biases, incidents of religious discrimination highlight the extent of dehumanization that fuels cultural violence in Pakistan. In Islamabad, anti-Shiism in a layperson was deep enough to justify watching a countryman die as he retracted willingness to donate blood when he discovered the recipient to be Shia Muslim.

Pakistan has seen a stark increase in violence against Shia Muslims starting at the beginning of the Arabic month of Muharram.

Shia Muslims face heightened rates of human rights violations in this month as their open and visible rituals make them targets for anti-Shiism. None-the-less, the recent incidents of anti-Shia rallies in Pakistan are unprecedented.

Since then numerous Shia Muslims have reported that their homes and businesses were vandalized with derogatory labels, making them visible targets of violence. Shia congregations are met with mobs and their congregation halls are damaged by rocks and pellets. The killing of Shia Muslim individuals in Karachi occurs in broad daylight with little to no intervention by authorities.

Among the most recent acts of violence is the brutal death of Qaiser Imran in Kohat, an attack on a procession in Okara, and the desecration of an Imambargah in the Lines Area.

In response to the attacks, Shia Pakistani’s have taken to Twitter to share their experiences as Shia Muslims in the country.

Sara B. Haider (@Bohotsaara) responded to the inquirer @ghazi_taimoor, “I was 12 when a bunch of girls in our class started calling me and another Shia classmate “kafir,” “ganday log,” and other things. I never mentioned anything about my faith, my name said it all. Told our teacher, she said: “You all should treat ‘non-Muslims’ kindly.”

Khadija Zaidi-Rashid (@Khadija_zaidi) wrote, “I was 8 when classmates told me you get a house in Paradise for each Shia you kill.”

Wasif (@wasifmoin) stated, “It started in 6th grade. So as time went by I just hid the fact I was one but those who openly expressed that they were Shia were often humiliated and I had to sit quietly and watch my fellows get the same treatment. A never-ending cycle of pain.”

Shia Muslims in Pakistan spend their days in the margins of the country they help build. They feel endangered, so much so that many choose to practice their faith in secret.

Shia Rights Watch urges Pakistani authorities to institute justice for Shia Muslims in the country. We denounce the most recent rallies against Shia Muslims along with the complete lack of regard from the local and national authorities.

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