Letter to Embassies for Muharram 2016: “Make Brotherhood and Non-Violence your New Year’s Resolutions”

As Muharram is approaching, Shia Rights Watch writes to embassies to ask for protection of Shia Muslims during their Ashura gatherings. Muharram is the first month of Islamic year when many celebrate New Year and many others postpone their celebrations in order to commemorate the death of a peacekeeper, Husain.

The letter is as follows:


Dear Honorable Ambassador,

On the occasion of the Hijra New Year, it’s our honor to extend to you our greetings and sincere wishes. We at Shia Rights Watch hope for this year to be prosperous for you and the people of your country.

As you are celebrating the New Year, Shia Muslims in your community are commemorating the death of a man who stood for justice and the rights of others, Husain. Husain ibn Ali is the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. During this important time, it is important to model the spirit of acceptance and respect by taking actions to prevent any violations and hatred towards this minority. During past years, Shia minority faced forms of violation and pressure during the month of Muharram, and it would add to the sincerity of the government to protect Shia Muslims this year, so they perform their rituals under the safety provided by their government.

We encourage you to make respect, brotherhood and non-violence part of your New Year’s resolutions.

At SRW we believe that respect and protection of religious freedom are the keys to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect. We call upon all governments to respect the rights of their citizens and protect their lives and property. Please keep in mind that Muharram rituals are not the political movement, but rather religious and spiritual gathering that advocate for peace and brotherhood.


Mustafa Akhwand

Director of SRW

SRW’s “Thank you” Statement to Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani

Shia Rights Watch, June 15th, 2016 SRW would like to issue an official thank you to Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, the National Director of the Pakistani Catholic Bishop’s National Commission for Justice and Peace, for his statements regarding religious freedom for Shia Muslims. According to UCA news, Mani stated that the Pakistani government “must take notice of Shia killings” and that “Nobody has the right to force their beliefs upon others.” Father Emmanuel also urged leaders to speak out and say Pakistan “is meant for all sects.” Shia Rights Watch stands with his sentiments and desires a Pakistan with religious freedom not only for its Shia Muslims but for Christians as well.

The Shia community currently makes up 20 percent of the Muslim community in Pakistan and should be allowed to peaceful practice their religion. Shia Rights Watch reaffirms Mr. Emmanuel Yousaf Mani’s statement that “The state must protect all religious minorities.”


Letter to President Obama to advocate for human rights in his meeting with leaders of Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia

Letter to President Obama to advocate for human rights in his meeting with leaders of Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia

Mr. Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama;

On behalf of the Shia Rights Watch (SRW), we respectfully urge you to use your upcoming meeting with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh on April 21, 2016 to emphasize on the importance of improvement on human rights in mentioned countries.

As you are aware, Gulf leaders use the national security as a mean to oppress pro-democracy activists, minorities, journalist and human rights defenders. Saudi Arabia’s Terrorism Law Template, for example, defines terrorist as a person who “insults the reputation, of the state or its position”. Based on this definition anyone who critiques the corruption or violation carried by the government is punished as terrorist. As the result human rights defenders face judicial harassment and other reprisals for their domestic human rights advocacy, engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, or engagement with the international human rights community. Also, similar law enabled all six Golf states to harass, detain, put on trial, and imprison political activists and human rights defenders.

Beside human rights defenders, minority groups, such as Shia Muslims, face serious threat by their governments in Gulf area. Destruction of historical Shia sites and imprisonment of Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia, deportation of this minority from Kuwait and United Arab Emirates, and ongoing Shia oppression including minor imprisonment in Bahrain, targeted killings in Syria and Yemen are only some examples of the human rights violations in GCC countries.

Compared to other GCC counties Saudi Arabia as the most human rights violations. Execution of the most influential Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nime, sentencing his nephew, Ali Nimr, beheading of at least 151 people in 2015 leaving their children and women unprotected, ongoing support of terrorists, extreme ban on Shia religious practices and,  are issues that we urge you to  keep in mind when visiting this country.
We urge you to advocate for the freedom of the prisoners who are detained because of expressing their religion, rights or opinion.

As American citizens and human rights defenders, we hope to see more freedom of religion and expression in Gulf countries after your meeting on April 21, 2016.

You putting human rights at the heart of your agenda at your meeting with the leaders of the GCC will send powerful message to all leaders and presents our American values.

Mustafa Akhwand
Director of Shia Rights Watch

Letter to President Francois Hollande

President Francois Hollande

Palais de L’Élysée

55 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré

75008 Paris, France


Dear President Hollande,

We at Shia Rights Watch are writing you to urge you to use your attendance at the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting to address human rights abuses committed by the Saudi government. Your attendance at this meeting marks a significant moment in France’s relations with the Gulf. The growing security and economic cooperation between your country and the GCC is making France a major player in the Middle East. With this comes responsibility and Shia Rights Watch hopes that you use this influence to serve as a voice for the millions of people whose lives are affected by the Human Rights abuses committed by the Saudi government.

The Saudi- led Operation Decisive Story and Operation Restore Hope have created a humanitarian crisis within Yemen. Saudi airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians and have left millions without food and electricity. A Saudi blockade of Yemen’s ports, and subsequent attacks on vehicles delivering aid have stopped the delivery of essential goods to those who need them most in Yemen.

In addition to Saudi Arabia’s foreign involvement, domestically, Saudi Arabia has displayed repressive actions against its own citizens. Shia Muslims in Saudi’s eastern province have been systematically denied adequate social services and has faced widespread employment discrimination. Attempts by Shia who are affected by this to speak up are met with violence by Saudi security forces. Sheikh Nimr, a prominent peaceful advocate of Saudi’s Shia population, was arrested and sentenced to death under unsubstantiated charges of inciting violence. A country with such a long list of human rights abuses cannot be an effective partner in either security or economic matters.

Your attendance at this GCC meeting is of enormous importance, but it is how you use your attendance that will make the greatest difference. Your voice can be yet another voice that supports the status quo, or your voice can aid those who have been rendered helpless through years of continued violence and discrimination. Shia Rights Watch urges you to choose the latter and we hope to hear from you soon.


Shia Rights Watch

The Honorable Mr. Serdar Kılıç

No: 903

Date: September 11, 2014

The Honorable Mr. Serdar Kılıç

Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey

2525 Massachusetts Ave NW,

Washington, DC 20008

Dear Honorable Ambassador Kılıç,

We here at Shia Rights Watch are writing to you today to draw your attention to the Shia rights violations taking place in Turkey. The Shia population worldwide has fallen victim to sectarian discrimination and repression by governments and armed groups. With the rise of the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the security problem of the Shia Muslims has become worse in the region. We would like to inform you that there have been three Shia mosque attacks since June 2014 in different regions of Istanbul and would like to ask your cooperation with regards to protecting the Shia Muslim population of Turkey.

On June 9, 2014 a Ja’fari mosque, Allahu Ekber Ehlibeyt, in Esenyurt district of Istanbul was set to fire. On July 9, 2014 Muhammediye mosque in Esenyurt was attacked by strangers who are thought to be the members of ISIS. The Imam, Hamza Aydin, stated that 10 days prior to the attack, he was verbally threatened and his congregation was accused of “worshipping to the stones and crying to the shrines.” Despite the fact that Aydin informed the police about the threat, he said the police failed to take precautions against any further jeopardy. The library section of the mosque was set on fire 10 days after the verbal threats against. The two attackers were reported to say “we will not allow you to recite the ezan here in this mosque” during their attack. On September 3, 2014 the under-construction Imam Ali mosque was attacked by a group of 20-30 people who shouted that they did not want a Shia mosque in their neighborhood.

Shia Rights Watch sees these actions as a violation of Article 2 and Article 18 of Declaration of Human Rights.   These attacks are not only violations of religious and identity freedom, but a threat to the unity of Turkish people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, as well. As ISIS is the major threat to the freedom of the minority groups, including the Shia people in the region, we, as Shia Rights Watch, kindly ask the Turkish Embassy of Washington, DC to work with us on the issue of protecting the rights of the Turkish Shias.

With Respect,

Mustafa Akhwand

Director of Shia Rights Watch



President Obama: Violations in Saudi Arabia

Human Rights Violations in Saudi Arabia

No: 899

 Date: March 21, 2014



Mr. Barack Obama,

President of the United States of America

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama;

On behalf of the Shia Rights Watch (SRW), we respectfully urge you to use your upcoming meeting to press Saudi Arabia’s King, King Abdullah, to do more to protect the human rights of every Saudi, including the right to religious freedom regardless of religion or sect.
As you know, Arabia implements the most restricted laws against religious minorities, with the frequency and scope human rights violations increasing and therefore threatening people’s safety and freedom, particularly the majority Shia Muslims population, as well as its smallest religious minority communities, including Christians. 

Saudi Shia Muslims have always been treated as second class citizen without fair access to higher exudation and employment. They cannot practice their religion and honor their rituals even in their own privet properties without the fear of the authority: As an example there not a single Shia Islamic center or mosque in Ryadh despite its Shia population. Shia Muslims’ most historical mosques and graveyard such as Al- Baqi Cemetery have been destroyed and Shia are not allowed to visit the remains of such historical sites. Moreover Shia who visit this country for Hajj rituals face discrimination and degradation in different levels by the kingdom forces and their prayers books and holey stones are disposed at the airports. Clerics such as Sheikh Dr. Ali Al-Rubaie, who are employed by the kingdom, issue hatred statements against this population and even suggested demanding tribute (religious tax) from Shia in the kingdom.

In your meeting with King Abdullah, we hope that you will stress to him the vital importance of human dignity and having respect and tolerance towards all people and also discussing the importance of implementing freedom of religion for all its lawful citizens.  We also hope that you will press him to stop founding and providing safe haven to terrorist groups. Finally, we hope that you will discuss the need for the protection of minority rights and freedom for all.
We hope you agree that discussing the problems of sectarian tensions, violence, and human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia with King Abdulla is essential.  Without addressing these concerns, religious freedom in Arabia will continue to erode and the country will not have the peaceful, democratic future that its people deserve and the United States seeks to encourage.

Thank you for considering our request.


Mustafa Akhwand

Director of Shia Rights Watch

Condemning Terrorist Attack on French

Number: 910

Date: January 7, 2015

The Embassy of France
4101 Reservoir Road Northwest,

Washington, DC 20007

We at Shia Rights Watch are deeply saddened by murderous acts of the three gunmen at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris today. The murder of the 12 people and the wounding of 11 others is an act of terror that has no place in the world we live in. Our prayers are with the people and families of those affected by this shooting.

The content of Charlie Hebdo may not be popular in religious communities but disdain need not have violent manifestations. All people must respect freedom of expression and taking the lives of innocent people is not permitted in any religion.

We at Shia Rights Watch condemn the actions taken by these terrorists. Unfortunately terrorism is something the international community has witnessed a great deal of over the past year. In fact, more Shia Muslims were killed last year in terror attacks than any other demographic group.

Just as violent attacks against Shia communities around the world have not quelled their peaceful calls for justice, the attacks committed today will not spell the end of Charlie Hebdo. We all want to live in a world safe from harm in which we can express ourselves in the greatest extent possible, and we need to honor this tragedy by making sure we live up to our expectations. We thank you for your service to the people of France and we look forward to working with you in the future.


Mustafa Akhwand

Director of Shia Rights Watch

Letter to president Obama asking to provide relief to Syrian cities of Noble and al-Zahra


December, 05 2014


Dear Mr. President,

We at Shia Rights Watch are writing you to request that you provide relief to the 70,000 residents of the Syrian cities of Noble and al-Zahra. Residents of these Shia-majority towns near Aleppo are currently under siege and are without food and water. This siege has been underway for more than a year and the situation in these cities is dire.

What has been witnessed in these two cities is the exploitation of political and security instability by extremists in order to inflict violence upon innocent populations. Due to this siege, men women and children have been unable to leave the towns in search of sustenance or medical treatment. Not much is known about the unfolding situation in these two towns because media outlets have been unable to gain access to these areas due to continuous attacks. Zakaria Sharbu, a surgical assistant who escaped from this area and was able to speak to media outlets said that the condition has deteriorated to the point that now people are eating grass and tree leaves.

Stories of kidnappings by the extremists have been numerous. Last year the extremists captured several children and demanded over $30,000 to secure their release.

The import of medical supplies has been prohibited by the militants. Many people in the city are suffering from incurable diseases, and those with diseases that can be cured are seeing their health deteriorate due to a lack of supplies.

Your administration has overseen relief efforts to minority communities on Mt. Sinjar, and in Kobani. These relief efforts for minority communities were deemed successful but these efforts need to be expanded to include other minority communities. Shia communities have faced some of the worst violence at the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates and ISIS over the past three years and they are in desperate need of relief.

It is in the greatest urgency that we urge you to act as time is not on the side of the victims of these atrocities.


Mustafa Akhwand

Director of Shia Rights Watch


شيعة رايتس ووتش تطالب باعتبار قتل الشيعة، ابادة جماعية

No: 905

November,22 2014

في رسالة الى السيد رئيس الوزراء العراقي، شيعة رايتس ووتش تطالب باعتبار قتل الشيعة، ابادة جماعية

بعثت منظمة شيعة رايتس ووتس رسالة خطية الى السيد حيدر العبادي رئيس الوزراء العراقي، سلمت الى سفارة جمهورية العراق في واشنطن. هذا نص الرسالة:

السيد رئيس مجلس وزراء جمهورية العراق الدكتور حيدر العبادي المحترم
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
باهتمام واستغراب اطلعت منظمة شيعة رايتس ووتش على (٨) من قرارات جلسة مجلس الوزراء الاعتيادية العاشرة والمنعقدة في العاصمة بغداد بتاريخ (الثلاثاء الموافق ١٨ تشرين الثاني ٢٠١٤) والتي نصت على ما يلي:
الموافقة على اعتبار ما تعرض له المكونات (الايزيدي والتركماني والمسيحي والشبكي) والمكونات الاخرى على يد عصابات داعش الإرهابية، جريمة إبادة جماعية.
ان منظمة شيعة رايتس ووتش كونها جهة حقوقية مهتمة بتوثيق ومتابعة والدفاع عن حقوق الشيعة في العالم، وما يتعرضون له من انتهاكات خطيرة على يد الارهابيين والانظمة الاستبدادية وعلى مختلف الاصعدة، وبناء على نصوص المواثيق الدولية والقرارات الحقوقية الصادرة لحد الان عن المنظمات الحقوقية الدولية، تؤكد بان ما يتعرض له الشيعة في العراق على يد عصابات الارهابيين التكفيريين والتي تقف على رأسها (داعش) هي إبادة جماعية ولذلك تستغرب المنظمة من عدم ادراج قرار مجلس الوزراء الموما اليه لـ (المكون الشيعي) ضمن (المكونات) المذكورة الاخرى في القرار.
نتمنى عليكم توضيح الامر، لاطلاع الرأي العام وكذلك الجهات الحقوقية المعنية، الدولية والوطنية، على حيثيات القرار المشار اليه.

شكرا لكم
والسلام عليكم

Letter to Embassies Regarding Moharram

Today Shia Rights Watch sent a letter to 177 embassies, to mark the beginning of the month of Muharram. The letter explains the importance of the month to Shia Muslims and need to protect these communities as they commemorate the death of Husayn ibn Ali.


Honorable Ambassador,

We at Shia Rights Watch are dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of Shia Muslims globally. We are writing to bring to your attention the importance of the month of Muharram to the Shia populations in your country as well as the need to protect these communities.

Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is a significant month for Shia Muslims as they commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, in 680 CE in the Battle of Karbala. Muharram rituals are significant to the community as they symbolize Shia opposition to discrimination and oppression. The community honors this month by wearing black attire and attending seminars, lectures and special prayer services.

Sadly the world witnesses the brutal murder of scores of Shia worshippers as the peacefully commemorate this event each year. Shia communities are massacred each year through bombings, assassinations, and other forms of violence. This year we have witnessed intense attacks against Shia in Iraq as ISIS and other affiliated groups have detonated car and suicide bombs in Baghdad and Karbala. Our statistics show that over 7,000 Shia civilians have been killed in Iraq this year alone, with thousands more killed in different countries around the world.

This year our extensive research demonstrates that both Shia centers and spiritual leaders have already received threatening letters in anticipation of the month of Muharram.

SRW believes that respect and protection of religious freedom is the key to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect. We call upon all governments to respect the rights of their citizens and protect their lives and property.

This year, SRW invites and urges all governments and authority figures to:

  • Respect Shia practices during this special month.
  • Implement security plans that enable Shia to participate in their rituals without fear,
  • Remember that Muharram rituals are not political movement, but rather religious and spiritual.

Shia Muslims hail from a multitude of nations, are not dependent on any political group or government, and need to be granted their religious freedom and protection to practice their faith.

May the Muharram of 2014 be a peaceful month in which we all practice living in harmony and mutual respect.

SRW thanks you for your help in keeping all of your citizens safe.


Mustafa Akhwand

Director of SRW