Anti-Shiism remains prominent and thriving in the first half of 2019. Anti-Shiism, or the deliberate targeting of Shia Muslims with aims of suppressing representation and expression, can be found in a variety of techniques and practices such as executions, abductions, denial of basic rights (right to property, to vote, to citizenship, etc.), and wrongful imprisonment.
Shia Muslims make up a significant portion of the world’s population. Due to the severe marginalization they face, it is difficult to collect exact data on the regional population of Shia Muslims. Researchers at Shia Rights Watch place the Shia population at 50% of the global Muslims population. Shia Rights Watch highlights a need to address violence against this population and continues to delve into extensive research into the Shia population.
This bi-annual report encapsulates known cases of anti-Shiism throughout the months of January to June 2019 all over the world. These cases are varied, ranging from killings, injuries, removal of Shia TV channels, and the razing of mosques to denial of entry into a country, denial of rights to property ownership, and hunger strikes in grievance of maltreatment and poor prison conditions.
These cases include:
- 375 total imprisonments;
- 190 de-naturalizations;
- 275 killings/executions;
- 77 life sentences relating to activism;
- 143 injuries.
This report is not all-inclusive, and only includes incidents that have been made aware to the SRW. This does not mean that all other cases which have not been documented and reported aren’t valid and there should be in no way, shape, or form dismissal of these undocumented cases, for they too are composed of injustices against the Shia peoples. More information can be found at shiarightswatch.org.
Afghanistan is a hostile and potentially fatal environment for Shia Muslims. There were three explosions reported in the Shia populated areas of Kabul, resulting in more than 36 dead and an unknown number of injuries.
An attack in March left six people dead and 23 severely injured. The explosion occurred in preparation for Nowruz celebrations that marked the advent of spring. The blasts reportedly occurred near Kabul University and the Kart-e Sakhi shrine.
The second attack in June occurred as in two-part explosion. The first explosion was on a bus carrying university students. The initial explosion caused the death of 25 Shias. The second detonation was initiated when Afghan security forces began to gather around the site.
The attacks in June left more than 30 killed and many injured in the city of Kabul. Members of ISIS/ISIL claim responsibility for the attacks.
Attacks are mainly designed to target large gatherings. The attacks against civilians have resulted in extreme fear and paranoia, preventing Afghan Shia from attending religious and cultural programs. Such violence not only threatens the lives of the people but also harms their overall participation in society. Attacks target those who provide aid or support to Shia as well. The nature of the attacks exemplify the radical extremism that drives violence in the nation. Not only do extremists want to eradicate Shia Muslims, but they wish to also eliminate anyone who empathizes with victims of anti-Shiism.
Shia Rights Watch highlights the need for increased security measures that not only protect Shia Muslims but also to protect non-Shia service providers.
The severity of the attacks on the Shia population in Afghanistan has a historic tendency to be extreme and require a variety of approaches to contain, with these months serving as a quintessential example. Therefore, it is important to advocate for minority rights in the country and to secure Shia populations to ensure their livelihood and development.
Shia Rights recognizes and thanks the Bahraini authorities for the charging of 12 guards with the physical assault of Bahraini detainees. Although the charges mark an inch of progress, there still needs to be miles of reform before progress can be seen.
Bahrain is a country known for its various cases of anti-Shiism, with the preferred method of repression being forced disappearance and imprisonment. Violations against Shia Muslim were highlighted in a lack of due process, subpar prison conditions and subjectified labeling of Shia activists as terrorists.
The month of February marked the anniversary of the uprising in Bahrain in 2011. On February 13th, forces raided many cities and arbitrarily arrested 23 people. On the 14th, protests and sit-ins were held in reaction to suppression- another 13 people were then arrested.
Despite calls for reduced repression by the international community, Shia Muslims continue to live under a discriminatory legal system.
Shia activists are met with lacking due process. Ahmed Al-Mullali and Ali Hakim Al-Arab, two Shia detainees that have sat on death row since January of last year, were executed in May. The two were subject to severe beatings after their conviction and were put to death under the reasoning of “terrorism”. The two were convicted in a mass conviction alongside 58 other defendants.
The detention of Hadeer Abadi, a Bahraini detainee, was extended for the fourth consecutive time on April 13th. She was not charged with a single crime, yet she continues to be held against her will with no contact between her and the outside world.
Nabeel Rajab, a well-known Shia activist, was denied the opportunity to receive “alternative punishment law”. In Bahrain, those convicted have the right to ask for this to possibly change their sentences, but the motion, proposed by Rajab’s lawyer, was denied without even being heard.
Sheikh Salman was also given a life sentencing after the court refused to approve his appeal against it. Salman was initially sentenced to four years for “inciting hatred”, but the sentence was increased to life despite criticism from the United Nations.
Later in June, a court in the Kingdom of Bahrain handed 167 prison sentences against pro-democracy Shia protesters; 56 of the defendants received ten years in jail and were accused of “attacking police officers” and the remaining received one-year terms.
The oppressive practices in Bahrain seem to target all manners of Shia individuals, regardless of class, sex, or innocence. These practices have led to some of the most dehumanizing conditions one could imagine for any group of people, which only goes on to breed fear and insecurity in the Bahraini Shia community. This prevents cohesion between members of a nation and furthers friction and feelings of discontent between the government and those it governs.
Many are detained under unsupported allegations. A cleric was held on trial for “allegedly” insulting the Rashidun Caliphate. Another Shia cleric was also interrogated by Bahraini security forces after being summoned for questioning and spending a month in detention. The reasons for the interrogation were not released. Sheikh Yassin al-Jamri, a Shia cleric, was put back into detention after being questioned by the Manama regime on May 29th. There was no explanation given to his arrest, nor was there a date given to a court hearing.
Bahraini authorities use unjustified harshness that unilaterally limit Shia Muslims. Random assaults and violent searches of cells by guards have also left a myriad of detainees injured.
Naji Fateel, a prisoner since November 2018, was thrown back into solitary confinement on the basis of a conversation between him and a human rights campaigner.
On April 16th, there was a mass trial held where 139 people were de-naturalized and sentenced to jail; 69 of them received life sentences, 39 received a 10-year sentence, and 23 received 7-year sentences. The rest received 5-year sentences.
Harsh sentencing for Shias in Bahrain continued in February, with Shia detainee Zakiya Issa Al-Barboury receiving a five-year prison sentence as well as being de-naturalized. Back in May of 2018, she was accused of “terrorism”.
Prisoners are often denied the right to contact the family. Amira Al-Qashaami, alongside two other detainees, Fatima, and Iman Ali Abdullah, are examples of said denial of rights during the month of March.
Moreover, those detained are held under lacking prison conditions and inhumane negligence. Many cases of medical negligence in the Jaw Prison of Bahrain were reported by a Baharani rights campaigners. Among the reports, there are cases where treatment was delayed and it was also reported that more than 20 detainees were suffering from sickle cell anemia and are receiving no treatment. A detainee has developed amnesia due to being denied treatment alongside a host of other disorders.
Conditions of the prisons in Bahrain deteriorate, and the lack of medical treatment continues to be an issue as the families of Hassan Mushaima and Hajer Mansoor Hassan report that medical care for the two has been repeatedly and deliberately denied.
Due to the lack of medical treatment, detainees decided to go on a hunger strike over the extreme situation in Jaw Prison. Ali Al-Hajji and Mohamed Mirza, started hunger strikes in opposition during the month of April.
April also marks the commencement of the 156th consecutive week that Shias were denied the right to engage in congregation prayers in their own mosques.
The Bahrain Court also de-naturalized 11 Shia citizens and sentenced 7 of them to life in prison for their involvement with anti-regime, pro-democracy movements.
Bahrain also targets various Shia figures in its community through the act of citizenship revocation. The Manama regime de-naturalized 40 citizens throughout the month of January on the basis of their expressions against the government.
Ebrahim Sharif was sentenced to six months in Bahraini prison over a critical tweet he wrote about the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir. He was let out on bail and later denied the charges placed against him (“insulting the head of a foreign state”), stating that his tweets fall under freedom of expression.
A Baharani journalist was also summoned for questioning by Manama’s security services for criticizing the kingdom’s interior ministry on social media after the ministry threatened social media users with legal action.
Minors are no exception to violence in Bahraini legal system. Three minors, Hussein Radhi, Ebtisam Al-Saegh and Ali Hussein Abdulwahab, were also put into detention this month alongside having their homes raided by Bahraini security forces in the northern village of Al Musalla. The teenagers were put into detention over charges of an “illegal gathering”, which is typically a code-word used by the government for a peaceful protest. The minors are also being denied the right to contact their parents.
As a repressive measure, actions internationally recognized as actions of self-expression are criminalized in the Kingdom. During the commemoration of Fatima Zahra, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), Bahraini security forces razed several Shia mosques and gathering spaces alongside removing all black flags and banners meant for commemoration.
The deplorability of Shia treatment in Bahrain has been a recurring theme in the country’s politics for years now and it has long been time to stop it, as these past few months have evidenced. So, given the multiplicity and variety of the violations forced upon Shia Muslims in Bahrain, the most optimal course of action would be to continue advocating for their rights and perhaps collaborate with other governmental entities to work in conjunction against the discriminatory tactics carried out by the Manama regime.
Anti-Shiism is not an issue bound to a region and often takes root in other subversive forms in countries foreign to the Middle East, such as France.
Although France has not had many violations concerning the Shia population historically, recent events revealed that a possible trend could develop in the country. It is imperative that preventative measures be taken to avoid this becoming a reality.
During the month of March, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner closed down four Shia centers under the guise of them being backed by Iran, a baseless claim that leads to the prolonged marginalization of the Shia people.
Shia Muslims have long expressed independence from any political entity. The minister’s failure to recognize Shia Muslims as an independent religious group is a show of ignorance.
Shia Rights Watch calls on Castener to acknowledge wrongdoing in the closure of the religious center and to hold accountable acts of anti-Shiism in the country.
Iraq has a majority Shia population, but the violations in Iraq continue to happen with startling frequency in the first six months of 2019; 137 civilians were killed, over 40 were wounded, and mosques, buses, and markets were destroyed.
January signaled the beginning of a violent year with an explosion in the markets of al-Qaim, leaving three civilians dead and more than 20 injured. Later on, Iraqi forces found two bodies in different areas of Baghdad. Five other incidents left five dead.
In February, a bus explosion took place in Samarra, leaving 13 people dead.
ISIS also attacked a Turkaman tribe in March, killing 20 people. Shortly after this, Iraqi security forces discovered a mass grave with 65 bodies occupying it. According to authorities, 7 people were also killed during several assassinations by masked men throughout the month.
At least 15 different people were killed in a series of individual killings throughout the month of April. The assassinations are known to be credited to masked assailants in the city of Baghdad.
June sees the streak of excessive violence continued with a suicide bombing occurring at a mosque in eastern Baghdad on the 21st, killing 7 and injuring 20 Shia Muslims. The attacks target Shia civilians in everyday settings.
Iraq suffers from a deficit in resources as well as a continued regional instability. As a result, individual assassinations and roadside explosions have become a norm of daily life, a norm which is faced with a lack of accurate reporting.
SRW believes that normalization of human rights violations is a dangerous form of apathy and must be fought against. Iraqis, like all other people, have the right to peace and security. Therefore, the violations they face must be covered by the media, coupled with regional governments and international committees taking initiative to ensure proper awareness of incidents of anti-Shiism.
On June 26th, a Shia couple was denied the right to rent property in the town of Hadat under the rationale of it being a “Christian” community.
The property owner told the couple that the law was established by Hadat’s legislation, prohibiting Muslims from renting or buying Christian properties. It is important to note that Hadat is on the edge of an area known as Dahiyeh, which has a high concentration of Shia Muslims.
Lebanon has been established as a nation of multi-religious identities. Incidents such as those described above can threaten peaceful coexistence and can serve as grounds for the growth of intolerance.
Violations against the Shia population in Nigeria has been on the rise. The recent events in 2019 exemplifying this. Local authorities in Kaduna during the month of May were reported to have attacked Shia protesters on the 31st, leading to several injuries.
Shia religious figures have been subjected to deplorable treatment. The Shia, Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife were wrongly imprisoned four years ago and had no access to medical treatment whatsoever. Zakzaky had his charges acquitted long ago but continues to sit in custody.
A lack of medical treatment resulted in the loss of this eye and the deterioration of his pre-existing cardiac condition. In June, according to members of the Islamic Movement, Zakzaky was poisoned and in an investigation, it was revealed that high concentrations of lead and cadmium were found in his blood.
The trend in Nigeria has clearly been against the wellbeing of its Shia population, and it seems to be primarily targeting its leaders as well as those who decide to voice their discrepancies with this treatment. SRW calls on regional recognition of the Nigerian Shia condition and cooperation on the same level to work towards a more equitable environment.
Pakistan has been a hazardous place for the Shia population, with many reports of disappearances, killings, and explosions. During the first six months of 2019, many people were reported missing, over 30 were killed, many were injured, and three were arrested unlawfully.
Mohammad Ali Shah, vice chairman of the Shia Council and known activist, was shot and killed in the city of Karachi during the first few days of January. The Shia population in Pakistan has implored the government to take action against this violence, but the apathy exercised towards the situation only ensures its continued occurrence.
On January 29th, families of missing Shia Muslims organized a hunger strike outside the Karachi Press Club in unified protest against the enforced disappearances of their loved ones. Protesters proclaimed that several members of their community have been a victim to this oppressive tactic and demanded justice.
During the month of March, the Superintendent of the Balochistan University Sayyed Hussein Shah was shot and killed in the city of Quetta. The killing of Shah is consistent with trends of anti-Shiism in Pakistan aimed at removing Shia individuals from positions of power.
On April 12th, the Hazarganji’s district of Quetta was attacked, an area which is home to a large Hazara community. The attack took 20 lives and wounded at least 48 others. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they “targeted the Hazara community”. On the following month, an explosion near a Shia mosque in Quetta killed four and wounded ten others.
In the beginning of June, two were arrested for killing Shia civilians. The arrests took place in response to Shia demands for security. Following this incident a few days later, two other Shia were killed with many others injured in an explosion in Ziarat. Within the same day and city, another explosion took place and three others were killed.
Later in June, an elderly Shia man returning from a pilgrimage was taken in custody by the police with no justifications.
The violations in Pakistan are mainly due to the government’s lack of protection of the Shia population. It is possible to see that the trend for violations in Pakistan occurs in the forms of abductions and killings, which prominently target Shia community in Pakistan. Shia have reported that they have requested more protection from their local authorities, yet they are not granted any.
Shia Rights Watch suggests more in-depth international media coverage into the situation that Shia Muslims in Pakistan are forced to face, so as to bring greater attention and action against these transgressions.
During the first half of 2019, 43 Shia were killed, many were injured, and two activists were arrested. These incidents highlight the historical tendency Saudi Arabia has with religious persecutions.
In January, the Shia population of Saudi Arabia was once again subject to religious persecution and violence. The village of Umm al-Hamam was the target of an attack on the 8th. The attack left five killed and many injured. Forces entered the village and stormed into a number of houses after surrounding it for 15 hours, likely as a tactic to instill fear. During the same day, known human right activist Mohammad Nabil Al-Jowhar was arrested.
A horrific mass execution occurred in Saudi Arabia in April, breaking the record with 37 executions took place on the 23rd. Saudi forces then proceeded to leave the bodies of two executed men on display, hanging them from poles for several hours. By leaving their bodies on display and by surrounding the city of Qatif, which holds a majority Shia population, the government sought to inspire terror and anguish in the community. Saudi force further prevented mourning ceremonies.
May continued the trend of suppression seen in previous months, with eight people killed under the guise of “counter-terrorism” in al-Qatif. The authorities claimed that they were targeting “terrorist cells”.
June proves to serve no exception to the trend of violations occurring in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, having the execution of the 18-year-old Murtaja Qureiris as the topic of concern. He was charged on various counts of “terrorism”, “anti-governmental” speech, and for attending his brother’s funeral who died in a protest in 2011.
The majority of these allegations occurred when Qureiris was just 10 years old. During his arrest, his interrogators beat him and promised to release him on the grounds that he confessed to the “crimes” he committed. Qureiris’ death sentence was overturned, but the fact that he could have been executed on the basis of activities he “partook” in at just ten years old goes to show the glaring flaws and biases present in Saudi Arabia’s penal system.
The case of activist Nassimah Al-Sadah remains unresolved. Al- Sadah has yet to be charged. Something which is also equally alarming is the fact that by detaining Al-Sadah for this period of time, Saudi Arabia violates its own penal code due to the fact that it dictates that one cannot be held in pre-trial detention for more than six months. Al-Sadah has been detained for nearly nine months and is still lacking access to a fair trial.
These obvious violations of both international and domestic laws as well as the blatant disregard for human rights displayed by Saudi Arabia cannot continue if we wish to foster hope for a more equitable world. The Shia Rights Watch suggests an international outcry for the rights of Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia, alongside the rights of other religious minorities that find themselves victims of these oppressive practices. The international and regional communities must work in solidarity against these violations if any change is to be seen.
Conclusion & Suggestions
Shia Rights Watch urges the international community to recognize violence against Shia Muslims.
Until this justice is wrought, violations will persist throughout the various communities in this report and the plethora of others that weren’t reported. Shia Rights Watch invites all countries to respect the human rights of Shia Muslims as they are as equally deserving of equitable treatment as any other demographic would be.
The Shia Rights Watch proposes a series of suggestions that might better help countries understand how to tackle the issue of Shia marginalization and ensure the preservation of current and future human rights. These suggestions consist of:
- Dialogue between governments and activists. A common interest must be established so that present governmental entities and reform seekers can have a level platform to discuss the state of human rights in their nation.
- Increased activism of Shia Muslims in their communities. Shias must find it within themselves to empower those around them through being exemplary citizens and figures in their communities. Activism must include speaking out against unethical practices which may occur in their daily lives and peaceful methods of ;
- Education on human rights for all minority populations. For one to defend and advocate for their rights, they must first be informed as to what they are. Initiatives should take place to further the education of historically oppressed communities in regards to what international rights they’re entitled to as well as whom they can turn to when these rights are violated;
- Raising accurate media coverage. The media is one of the primary outlets for regional and global exposure, so it can function as an efficient medium to provide unbiased depictions of Shia Muslims as well as functioning as a platform for precise coverage of the events and achievements that pertain to the Shia community.
The Shia Rights Watch encourages the various Shia collectives found throughout the world to stand in solidarity against anti-Shiism by collaborating with the various outlets of exposure in their respective countries to bring awareness to the issues that Shia Muslims find themselves confronting on a daily basis.