Incidents of Anti-Shiism in May 2018

At 412 cases of violence against Shia Muslims, anti-Shiism continues to thrive in May. In the nations of Bahrain, Iraq and South Africa in particular, Shia Muslims face violence by their religious identity.  

The month of May coincides with the holy month of Ramadan. Given trends of anti-Shiism in the past five years, Shia Muslims face great danger in the month of Ramadan as extremist organizations find fertile opportunities for targeting mass numbers of Shia individuals.

Incidents of anti-Shiism in May shed light on existing cultural discrimination and ostracization of Shia Muslims in different regions of the world, namely, the nations of Bahrain and South Africa.

 

Bahrain

In May, Taiba Darwish and Zainab Makki were released from detainment. Darwish was released after three years in Bahraini prison on charges of opposition. Makki’s release comes after ten months- her case continues to be processed in the court system.

Despite the recent releases, the ever-prospering cultural and systematic discrimination that thrives in the Kingdom of Bahrain has caused an outcry in the Shia Muslim community. Seven years following the inception of the pro-democracy movement, sources report worsening living conditions for nationals. Both the conditions of activists and the conditions of civilians deteriorate in the wake of increased government anti-Shiism.

Ratification of new laws proves harsh sentencing for crimes only Shia Muslims are accused of. Late in the month, the Bahraini Cabinet approved the change of punishment for possession and use of “flammable containers for threatening…” The punishment was increased to imprisonment for ten years. Shia Rights Watch notes a trend in increased harshness in punishment for charges mainly used against Shia Muslims, charges by which Bahraini officials have no evidence of. 

Another restrictive measure taken in May is the approval of a bill preventing members of opposition groups from participating in elections by the Bahraini parliament. The bill awaits ratification by King Hammad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

Recruitment of foreign workers despite existing Bahraini workforce has not only changed the nation’s demographics, but it has also augmented unemployment rates. Late this month, the Ministry of Health announced employment of 70 medical doctors, a mere 18% of the total number of unemployed doctors reported by the ministry itself. It is important to note that unemployment rates among Shia Muslims are quadruple that among non-Shia Bahraini nationals.

Educated Bahraini elites report a severe lacking in job opportunities for them in the nation despite existing job positions. Some have settled for underpaid work positions while many have left Bahrain.

Changes in Bahraini immigration patterns and foreign worker enlistment serves not to better the Kingdom but to systematically limit the Shia population in the nation.

Shia Rights Watch raises concerns over growing restrictions that limit Shia Muslims from being active members in their homeland. Almost a decade after the strive for increased rights, life in Bahrain has yet to improve. Shia Rights Watch calls for increased international involvement in Bahrain can be found at ShiaRightsWatch.org.

Nigeria

Protests continue in response to the lack of justice for Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, one of Nigeria’s most prominent Shia figures. Shia Muslims in Nigeria gathered meters away from the National Assembly outside the National Secretariat Complex to raise awareness for the arrest of Sheikh Zakzaky and the failing state of Shia in Nigeria. However, contrary to their peaceful demeanor, protestors were met with utmost violence as police forces arrested 60 individuals, injuring 20 others by using excessive force.

Those arrested face harsh conditions of Nigerian detainment centers. They are further met with discrimination, and unjustified limitations in rights as the nation are home to extreme anti-Shia sentiment.

Detainment of Sheikh Zakzaky continues. His arraignment has been adjourned to June 21.

South Africa

On the tenth of May, two individuals attacked Imam Hussain Mosque close to Durban, South Africa with a machete killing the religious leader of the mosque and injuring two others.  Four days later, a bomb was found underneath the religious speaker’s chair. The device was a phone attached to a “capsule via two cables.” The device was neutralized before its detonation. Sources report the attackers spent days surveying the mosque as they posed as a member of the community.

Shia Muslims make up 3% of the South African population. With over 200 non-Shia Muslims religious centers in the area,  the targeting of the only Shia center and the extent of the violence used by the assailants note extreme anti-Shiism.

South African Shia note that anti-Shia sentiment in the area is not new but is exhibited prevalently. Local sources report entities announcing to boycott Shia lead businesses. Postings such as “If you kill a Shia you go straight to heaven” are put on Facebook accounts and aired on local radio talk shows.  

Threats to Imam Hussain Mosque awakened outcry of Shia and non-Shia communities. Amid fears of sectarian violence, non-Shia entities in South Africa took to disown a media posting in circulation that encouraged targeting of Shia Muslims. The post began: “When walking in the street, or in public places, it’s becoming increasingly important to become vigilant as to who may be a Shi’ah, and who may be not. Here are some general guidelines…”

Acknowledgment of anti-Shia posts points to the fact that non-Shia entities in the area were aware of propagation of hatred against the Shia community and yet they did not act to prevent escalation of anti-Shia sentiment into direct violence.

Recent events in South Africa point to a lack of preventative measures for anti-Shiism. Hate-driven sentiment such that of media posting calling for the identification of Shia Muslims creates fertile grounds for direct violence against this community. Given the mass reaction to attacks to Imam Hussain Mosque, Shia Rights Watch notes that anti-Shiism in this region has been recognized by all, yet no action to promote peace has been taken by community leaders.

Shia Rights Watch calls upon local South African leaders to initiate dialogue and peace – management opportunities in their area with aims of eliminating anti-Shiism.

Iraq

May coincided with the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Trends of violence in Iraq continue as they have in previous years in that extremist organizations continue to target Shia Muslims. On May 23rd, a bomber detonated his explosive device at the entrance of Saqlawiyah park in Baghdad killing seven and injuring 16 others. The park is famous for post-Iftar (breaking of fast) outings. The analysis shows the placement of the bomb was strategically located in an area densely populated with Shia Muslims.

The explosion was similar to that of May 2017 in which as detonation in Karrada Baghdad, mid-Ramadan, in which 80 were killed.

Terror organizations such as ISIS continue to target Shia individuals

Ahmed Haseeb and Noor Behjat- ISIS Footage

traveling to and from Iraq. Ahmed Haseeb and his nephew Noor Behjat, two Swedish nationals of Iraqi ethnicity were beheaded by ISIS extremists in a video published by the group. The pair were kidnapped on their way to the airport in Baghdad in December while on pilgrimage.

 

In comparison to May 2017, Shia death in Iraq has reduced parallel to the overall violence in the nation. While widespread annihilation of Shia populations by extremist groups such as ISIS has diminished, isolated incidents of violence point to existing anti-Shia sentiment amongst extremist organizations active in the nation.

 

Conclusion

The first five months of 2018 stood witness to 2,573 cases of anti-Shiism. Incidents include death, detention, discrimination, and denial of freedoms systematically or culturally. Anti-Shiism is a conflict at an international scale, affecting both political and grassroots dynamics. Further, the lack of justice for victims of violence have created opportunities for even more targeting of Shia Muslims. Shia Rights Watch calls upon grassroots organizations to work within local communities to battle hate-driven sentiment against all minority groups and invites international efforts to eliminate anti-Shiism worldwide.

 




Incidents of Anti-Shiism in April, 2018

 

With 673 incidents of anti-Shiism during the month of April, Shia repression is on the rise. The reduction in February and March from January’s equivalent 673 incidents was too good to be true, as this month concluded with 128 deaths, 180 injuries, 236 arrests, 114 sentencing, and 18 other anti-Shia actions such as denial of healthcare, as well as violent and legal attacks on basic human freedoms and rights. The amount of Shia civilians killed this month around the world increased by 100% from what we’ve previously seen in recent months, jumping from an average of 60 deaths per month to 123, and showing a new wave of violence and aggression directed at Shia Muslims. With violence at a recent high, open discussions about minority rights are more important than ever.

Afghanistan

The mayhem in Afghanistan continued to increase this month with continual attacks on the Shia population carried out by extremist groups in the region. The Hazara Shia community in Afghanistan is regularly a target of terrorist groups, leading to 77 deaths and 132 injuries this month.

The assaults this month began on April 9th, with the detonation of an IED which was attached to a motorcycle in Herat province. The blast killed eight people immediately, four of which were children, and wounded nine other minors.   

In the 48 hours between April 17th and 18th, six Shia Muslims were killed and four others were wounded in two separate attacks on vehicles. The first incident took place as four Shia Muslims were traveling near Faroz Koh. All passengers were injured, but no casualties were reported. The second attack came as six Shia civilians were traveling from Herat to Ghor. Their car came under attack by extremists, and all six of the passengers were killed.

The end of the month brought a mass killing of Hazara Shia in Kabul, as the civilians were attempting to register to vote in the upcoming October elections. According to reports, a Daesh-affiliated suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in the doorway of the voter registration center, killing 57 Shia Muslims and injuring 119. Of those killed were 21 women and five children. On the same day, six other Shia civilians from the same family were killed in their vehicle by a roadside bomb in Baghlan’s Pul-e-Khumri city near another voting facility.

The ruthless attacks against innocent Shia civilians, with merciless disregard for age or gender, shows the animosity of the extremist ideologies which lead people to target the Shia Muslim populations around the world. The decreased presence of extremist groups such as ISIS in Iraq and Syria has resulted in a migration of these militants to Afghanistan, where their anti-Shia motives are wreaking havoc on the Shia population.

Nigeria

Nigerian Shia continues to face a backlash from their government and punishment for peacefully protesting the detainment of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, Nigeria’s most prominent Shia scholar, who has been detained without charges since December 2015. Protests calling for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky spread from Nigeria to Turkey, Indonesia, and Pakistan this month, expressing the importance of the cleric to the Shia population internationally.

The continuation of Nigerian Shia population’s “Free Sheikh Zakzaky” protests were met with extreme police force this month, as law enforcement clashed with protesters for three consecutive days during the middle of the month. Police used tear gas and gunfire in an attempt to disperse protesters from the congregation. The brutality resulted in three deaths, two injuries, and 230 arrests, and came a week after the daughter of Sheikh Zakzaky declared that Nigerian officials were continuing to deny her father necessary medical treatment for his deteriorating glaucoma. Police have continually attempted to stop Nigeria’s Shia population from protesting the arbitrary detainment of their religious movement’s leader. Forces occupied the Unity Fountain early in the month to prevent protests from taking place. The resilience of the Shia population in Nigeria to continue advocating for their own justice did not allow for the police occupation to defeat them, and instead, they moved their peaceful protest to the entrance of the National assembly.

A week later, just after the funeral of the one man, Ahmad Rufai Abubakar, who had been shot and killed in the clashes at the protests, the funeral party staged a protest in front of the National Human Rights Commission in Abuja. During the protests against the human rights violations of the Nigerian police, the police forces opened fire once again on the crowd, taking the lives of two more Nigerian Shia, and injuring an unknown number of people.

Nigerian officials continually attempt to suppress the Shia Islamic movement in Nigeria by trying to silence to protests which stand up against injustice. The Shia population continues to fight for their freedoms and has shown unwavering determination to secure fair treatment for its population. Meeting police force with peaceful demonstrations sets an example for all Shia Muslims in how to overcome government repression.

Bahrain

 

Bahrain experienced a 53% decrease on individual attacks this month, dropping from 238 in March, to 133 in April. This decrease, however, is only superficial, and the attacks on the Shia population in Bahrain this month revealed themselves in different forms. This month, Bahrain saw two injuries, four arrests, 114 sentencing, and 13 other anti-Shia actions such as denial of medical treatment, unwarranted house raids, and the passing of a bill that is intended to prevent Shia Muslims from participating in elections.

The month began with an eight-day siege of the Shia village of Ma’Amir by security forces. The forces placed cement barriers and checkpoints around the village and searched every person who entered and exited the village. It is not known what the purpose of this siege was, but it is common practice for Bahraini officials to place Shia villages under occupation in an attempt to restrict movement of the majority population. Most notable was the nearly year-long seizure of Diraz, the home of Bahrain’s prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim.

The government’s unwarranted routine invasions did not end at the Ma’Amir village though, as the homes of Maytham Mohammed, Sayed Qassim Sayed Khalil, Sayed Mahmoud Sayed Adel, and Hassan al-Bahrani, four Bahraini youth who were killed at sea in February, were raided and intrusive searches were conducted without any given reason.

Bahrain continued its practice of arbitrary arrests with the detainment of Ahmad Abd Al-Ali Al-Aali, from the town of Aali on April 13th. Al-Aali was taken to an undisclosed location, and the reason for his arrest is unknown. Similarly, Mohammad Al-Karani from Karana village was arrested for unknown reasons and transported to an undisclosed location this month. Just days before Al-Karani’s arrest, massive peaceful protests broke out leading up to the Formula One Grand Prix in Manama, and Shia civilians were met with tear gas and water cannons administered by security personnel.

A Shia eulogy reade, Haj Hassan Khamis Al-Nuami was arrested at the end of the month for participating in the celebrations of Imam Hussein’s birthday, and for singing a popular Shia song with lyrics that say “I have become sick of sitting in Bahrain, O’ mother…Bring my passport so I could travel to Karbala to visit Al-Hussain”.  He is currently being detained while an investigation takes place. Given Bahrain’s pattern of criminalizing innocent Shia on fabricated charges of terrorism, it is likely that Al-Nuami will face trial for the incident.

The final arrest for the month came at the expense of Mansour Hussein, a Bahraini Shia youth who was arrested in a string of home raids carried out by Bahraini security forces. The reason for his arrest is unknown, in line with Bahrain’s practice of arbitrary arrests. He was forcibly removed from the village of Buri on April 27th, and transported to an unknown location.

Bahrain saw 114 civilians sentenced to prison this month, 26 of which were also stripped of their Bahraini citizenships. The first sentencings were on the charges of “illegal assembly”, in which two Shia were sentenced to one year in prison, and four others were sentenced to two years. This case exemplifies Bahrain’s crackdown on its Shia population’s basic human rights, such as the right to peaceful assembly, and shows the desire and preference of Bahraini authorities to repress its Shia population and to put them behind bars.

This month, 18 more Shia civilians were referred to trial two days later, on false allegations of forming a terrorist group. The claim made by the Bahraini authorities is entirely unfounded, as several of those accused in the formation of the group are already serving time in prison for other fabricated charges, and therefore could not take part in the formation of a group outside of the strict prison walls. Referring these 18 Shia civilians to trial furthers the reality that Bahraini authorities want to put and keep, as many Shia Muslims in prison as possible, to suppress their desire for political justice and instill fear in those who speak out about the Regime’s human rights violations.

Further falsified allegations of terrorism led to the sentencing of four Bahraini Shia, three of which received five years in prison, and one of which received three years on April 17th.

In the 48 hours between April 19th and April 20th, 66 Shia Muslims in Bahrain were sentenced to prison by the Fourth High Criminal Court, and 26 were stripped of their nationalities in four separate cases. In the first case, 32 people were charged with fabricated allegations of terrorism. Of the 32, 25 were handed down seven-year prison sentences, and the remaining seven were sentenced to three years each. The second case came on related charges and resulted in three Shia citizens being sentenced to life in prison, and two of the three being revoked of their citizenships. This revocation pushed the number of Shia in Bahrain who has had their citizenship stripped by the government since 2011 to reach over 600, shedding light on the brutal government crackdown against the majority Shia population.

The third case resulted in the sentencing of 10 Shia to life imprisonment, 10 others to 10 years in prison, three defendants to five years’ imprisonment, and a final person to three years. All 24 of the defendants had their citizenships stripped as part of the ruling. The charges brought this group of 24 Shia civilians were allegedly ‘forming a terrorist group’, and affiliating with Iraq and Iran, a pattern that holds true to the majority of sentencings against Shia in Bahrain, which routinely uses false allegations of terrorism as an excuse to repress.

Lastly, seven Shia youths were sentenced to two years in prison each, on allegations similar to the 59 sentenced before them.

The Military Court of Cassation also upheld the death sentence of seven men, Adel Mubarak Muhanna, Fadel Sayyed Abbas Hassan Radhi, Sayyed Alawi Hussein Alawi Hussain, Mohamed Abdulhassen Ahmed al-Matghawi, Mohammed Abdul Hussain Saleh al-Shihabi, Mohammed Abdul Wahid Mohammed Al-Najjar and Hussein Mohammed Ahmed Shihab, on April 25th for an alleged act of terrorism.

In a string of trials held between April 28th and 29th, 13 Shia Muslims were sentenced to prison in four separate cases. As an outcome of the first of these trials, the 15-year prison sentences against 5 Bahraini Shia, arbitrarily arrested and accused of committing a crime, were upheld by the partisan court system.

The second trial sentenced a single defendant in absentia to five years in prison on allegations of a terrorist crime. The reasons for the defendant’s absence is unknown, however, the sentence de-legitimizes the Bahraini criminal court, as sentencing a citizen to prison without allowing for him/her to defend him/herself is an unjust practice and shows that the court is not concerned about bringing justice, but rather oppressing its Shia population.

The third sentencing in the two-day crackdown resulted in the imprisonment of four Shia citizens for two years each on similar accusations to the rest of April’s sentencing.

The final sentencing for the month of April came as three defendants were handed down three-year prison sentences for accusations of affiliating themselves with the court-dissolved Al-Wafaa Shia political party. The sentences come as another effort by the Bahraini government to silence those who speak out in favor of justice and against human rights offenses, calling for government reform.

Bahrain’s efforts to scare the Shia population into submission is well executed, as the standard of living in prison is bad enough to deter citizens from doing anything that would result in a sentence. Bahrain’s prisons are unsanitary and often result in health deterioration of their prisoners. However, Bahrain regularly denies healthcare to the ill in prison, leaving them to suffer immensely. This month, Mohammad Fathi, who is currently serving 14 years in prison, suffered from a cancerous tumor in his head and was denied medical treatment repeatedly. The tumor continued to grow until it was apparent that he needed immediate medical care, to which he was operated on in an extremely dangerous procedure, which would typically require a long stay in the hospital for recovery purposes. However, in line with Bahrain’s maltreatment of its prisoners, Fathi was immediately transferred back to prison after he awoke from his anesthesia, with no chance to heal before being thrown back into the unsanitary conditions.

Another prisoner suffering from cancer and in an already-weakened state. Elias Al-Mullah, fractured his leg after falling in the prison field this month. The prison administration refused his request to transfer to the hospital for treatment, and he remains in bad health with no access to the medical attention he needs.

The government of Bahrain would prefer not to publicize the brutal conditions of its detainment facilities to the world, and made that clear this month when they denied a Danish member of parliament access to the country, where he had plans to visit and advocate for Danish-Bahraini citizen Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a human rights activist sentenced to life in Bahrain over political charges and his participation in the 2011 mass protests. The refusal to allow a Danish lawmaker access to a Danish citizen detained in Bahrain is a statement made by the Bahraini government which exemplifies its human rights malpractice.

The malpractice goes far beyond actions carried out by the government but is instilled in the laws of the country. This month, the Bahraini government passed a bill that bans people who were sentenced to criminal offenses or imprisonment in premeditated crimes, for any amount of time beyond six months, from running in a political election. Given the common practice of imprisoning human rights activists and innocent Shia Muslims in Bahrain, the bill singles out the Shia population by restricting a large number of political and religious leaders from ever participating in the politics of the country, making the repression, not just short term, but permanent. Not only does it ban those imprisoned from running in an election, but it restricts those who were and are members of political societies that were permanently dissolved in a judicial verdict from running in an election. On February 20th, 2018, the Manama Courts upheld a 2016 decision to dissolve the Al-Wefaq party, the major Shia political party in Bahrain. This new bill is essentially an enforcement of that decision, and any others that were similar, and bars the Shia political leaders from holding any office within the government, in an attempt to further silence Bahrain’s Shia.

Lastly, Bahraini security forces exhibited a blatant act of anti-Shiism at the end of the month when they bulldozed the Imam al-Askari Shia mosque in Hamad without prior warning. This blunt act of religious discrimination is not the first, but the second time that they have demolished this Shia place of worship; The first destruction took place in 2011 during the uprising, in an attempt to batter and bruise the Shia population at the basis of their faith.

April’s statistics make it clear that Bahrain is continuing to increase its efforts to repress its majority Shia population, with nearly double the amount of sentencings of March and a new law to restrict those who have been imprisoned from ever being the political change that Bahraini Shia seek. The offenses against the population in Bahrain are not only recurring but institutionalized, with the entire legal system revolving around the repression of Shia Muslims. Bahrain must embrace its majority population and cater to the needs of all of its people, rather than treating the largest portion of its people, Shia Muslims, as second-class citizens, and not citizens at all.

Iraq

 

Iraq continued to see a decrease in extremist attacks this April, totaling 64 incidents of Anti-Shiism, to last month’s 74 incidents, and just ⅓ of April 2017’s 188. The attacks, however, killed more than double the amount of Shia Muslims than March, showing that the ruthlessness of the takfiri terrorist groups has not decreased.

The beginning of this month’s attacks against Shia Muslims started on April 2nd when a sticky explosive device that was placed under the wheel of a car was detonated in Bayaa area of Baghdad. Daesh immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and said that they injured five Shia Muslims.

Two days later in the area of Dujail, south of Salah al-Din, an IED was detonated in the village of Sjla. Reports say that the explosion injured three people. No deaths were reported.

On April 6th, one Shia was killed by Daesh with an IED in the Khazaaliya area of Baghdad, and three others were injured in a separate incident when unknown gunmen opened fire with machine guns at a popular cafe in the Palestine Street area of the city, injuring three civilians and causing physical damage to the cafe.

Just short of one week later on April 12th, four more Shia Muslims were killed while traveling through Baquba city when an IED placed by Daesh exploded, destroying their vehicle and killing all of the passengers.

April 13th once again exemplified the inhumane nature of takfiri extremist groups when a bombing took the lives of 25 Shia Muslims and injured 18 more, all of whom were attending a funeral for Shia paramilitary fighters who had been killed the day prior by Daesh. Although no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, it can be assumed that Daesh wanted to continue their rampage by killing the families and loved ones of the paramilitary fighters as well, and are responsible for the carnage.

While much effort has been exerted and has succeeded in driving extremists out of Iraq, the threat that the remaining militants pose to the Shia population continues to hold strong, as the takfiri ideology present in the minds of these groups motivates their murderous actions. Iraq appears to be traveling down a positive path towards significantly reducing, and defeating the presence of anti-Shia sentiment in the country, and must continue to expel the extremist groups that are causing the violence to linger.

Pakistan

 

Pakistan’s anti-Shiism remained steady this month with the ongoing pattern of targeted extremist attacks. Wreaking havoc in Pakistan among the Shia population is the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) group, a Deobandi group which considers those of the Shia sect to be non-Muslim heretics. This month in Pakistan, extremists were responsible for the deaths of 13 Shia and the injury of 15.

On April 1st, Daesh-affiliated ASWJ terrorists opened fire on a vehicle in Quetta’s Kandahari Bazaar area. Two passengers, both Shia, were wounded by the bullets, which ultimately killed one and left the other in critical condition.

Two days later on April 3rd,  the body of a Shia student who disappeared on February 7th this year was discovered in an empty train car in Karachi’s City Railway Colony. A police investigation concluded that the murder was motivated by sectarian sentiments after the Shia family received a text demanding ransom money in exchange for their son’s life.

Later in the month, in a tactic not typically seen in Pakistan, an explosive device was used to target security personnel in the Shia-dominated city of Quetta. The device did not cause any casualties but injured five security officers who were nearby at the time of detonation.

Another man, Mohammad Asif, son of Mohammad Nasir Qandahari, was shot and killed this month when gunmen assumedly affiliated with the ASWJ group opened fire while riding by on motorcycles. Mohammad Asif was a shopkeeper within the Hazara Shia community in Quetta, a city in Pakistan regularly targeted by extremist groups.

Again in Quetta, two men, identified as Muhammad Ali and Muhammad Zaman, were killed in a terrorist attack. The two men were members of the Balochistan Shia Conference, as well as a part of the Hazara Shia community. A third man was injured as a result of the attack, however, his injuries are not critical.

Towards the end of April, six Shia were killed and another eight were injured in three separate suicide bombings in Quetta. The first bombing took place as a man drove his explosives-laden motorcycle into a van filled with security personnel while they were traveling to the airport. The explosion killed all six of the traveling passengers. The second and third bombings occurred as suicide bombers detonated their devices at security checkpoints just outside of the city, injuring 8.

Closing out the anti-Shia violence in the month of April, two Shia members of the Hazara community in Quetta were killed when extremists opened fire at an electronics shop on April 28th. The two victims were identified as Jafarullah Ghulam Ali and Mohammad Ali Wali Khan Ali, and both were pronounced dead after being transported to the nearest hospital. The shooters fled the scene as soon as they finished firing, and are unidentified in both identity and extremist affiliation.

A delegation from the Shia Hazara community met with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar this month in Quetta. They spoke with him about the problems they have been facing due to extremism in Quetta, and thanked him for the strides he had been making to protect their rights and safety. The chief justice said that he would continue to work to solve their harassment through legal means and incorporate the law to bring those who have acted illegally to justice.  

While the death toll in Pakistan is not as high as countries such as Iraq, or Afghanistan, the threat of extremism against Shia Muslims should not be overlooked. An attack on the Shia community, whether large or small, is an attack nonetheless, and representative of an anti-Shia ideology that is present and active in the region which must be solved through unity and religious tolerance.

 

Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabia’s anti-Shiism comes in the form of religious intolerance via government policies. Often times Shia in Saudi are repressed through arbitrary arrests and unwarranted home raids carried out by security forces, rather than violent attacks orchestrated by extremist groups. While most of Saudi Arabia’s judicial actions are undisclosed, and therefore the exact number of anti-Shia actions is not known, there were four reported arbitrary arrests of Shia Muslims in the country this month in a series of attacks against the Shia-majority Eastern region.

Saudi forces launched a raid on the Husayniyat al-Kuwaikib in Qatif during the second week of April, arresting the three men who were inside the Husseiniya at the time. The forces also surrounded multiple neighborhoods in Qatif, setting up checkpoints and restricting Shia from entering or leaving the areas. Reports said that in a separate incident on the same day, a unit of Saudi forces fired an explosive at a house in Kuwaikib without providing a reason for their actions. No casualties were reported.

A female activist was also arrested by Saudi forces this month in Qatif after an investigation into her online posts and pro-Shia activism; 19-year-old Nour Said al-Musallam was taken into custody by Saudi security forces after her Twitter posts from as far back as 2015 were deemed unacceptable due to her unfavorable opinions on local and regional developments, likely about Saudi Arabia’s oppression of Shia Muslims. She is also an avid defender of local Shia mosques and congregation sites against potential threats to her places of worship and people of her faith. Saudi Arabia’s detention of a Shia activist due to her political beliefs and peaceful acts of religious protest shows a flaw in their justice system, as all citizens should be allowed both the freedom to an opinion and a freedom of religion.

Saudi Arabia’s religious government allows for abuses against those who do not follow the same school of thought as the country’s political and religious leaders. The Shia in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province continually experience human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, harsh sentences, and prison torture, and are restricted from freedom of religion, speech, congregation, movement, and their right to medical care and education. Saudi Arabia’s harsh policies and practices against the Shia minority in the country must end. As such a prominent Islamic country in the Middle East, home to both Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia’s government should practice peace and acceptance towards all sects of Islam, and all Muslims, setting an example for the rest of the Islamic world.

Conclusion

The first quarter of 2018 brought with it a surge of anti-Shiism, resulting in the deaths of 293 people, and wounding 670 others. 555 Shia were arbitrarily arrested, 573 were sentenced to prison, and a number of other anti-Shia incidents took place which denied basic human rights and freedoms to Shia Muslims. So far this year has stood witness to 2,163 occurrences of anti-Shiism in total, averaging 18 incidents per day. In perspective, imagine 18 of your friends, family members, colleagues, or acquaintances were assaulted, killed, or arrested every day this year since January 1st. Anti-Shia sentiment is a serious problem that is affecting millions of people worldwide every day. Shia Rights Watch condemns those who jeopardize the safety and rights of Shia Muslims around the world and invites all people to join in advocating for and defending their freedoms.




Incidents of Anti-Shiism in March, 2018

Incidents of Anti-Shiism in March 2018

February’s lower turnout of anti-Shiism did not last long, as March totaled an additional 113 incidents of anti-Shiism to last month’s 359, amounting to 472. The spike in occurrences can be attributed mainly to a mass number of arrests in Bahrain and a sharp increase in Shia casualties in Afghanistan due to a rise of extremist cells in the country. The month of March resulted in 60 deaths and 154 injuries, averaging 7 people critically injured or murdered every day this month. 197 Shia Muslims were arbitrarily arrested this month, and 40 people were sentenced to prison on the basis of fabricated allegations, averaging 8 incarcerations each day as well. 19 other anti-Shia related incidents occurred this month including but not limited to, vandalization of mosques, attacks on freedom of speech and expression, prison punishment, coerced confessions, and denial of citizenship or nationality. Overall, the number of anti-Shia incidents averaged around 15 every day, shedding light on the severity of the wrongful persecution with which the Shia population is burdened.

Bahrain

This month in Bahrain, the Shia population saw more than two times the amount of anti-Shiism than it experienced last month in February. Bahrain saw a total of 234 anti-Shia incidents this month, more than 3 times that of February. With an astounding spike of 176 arbitrary arrests, 40 unlawful prison sentencings and a number of reported cases of prisoner abuse and attempts by the regime to thwart freedom of speech and expression, Bahrain’s Shia population was directly faced with a stark reality that their hopes of living freely without discrimination remain not quite yet in reach. 

March began with the sentencing of 2 individuals on false allegations of traveling to Iran and receiving training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Each were sentenced to 7 years in prison, and their Bahraini citizenship was stripped, adding to the issue of Shia statelessness so prominent in Bahrain due to the Regime’s efforts to retain power through a corrupt political system. Iran denied the allegations and claimed that they were fabricated.

A day later, 116 Bahraini Shia was arrested on the same false accusations of terrorism and traveling to Iran to receive training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, however, sentences have yet to be imposed.

March 7th saw the sentencing of 17 more Bahraini Shia in 3 separate cases of unfounded terrorism charges, revoking the citizenship of 14 and leaving them stateless. Of the 17, 1 was given the death penalty, 9 were sentenced to life imprisonment, 5 were handed 15 year sentences, 1 was given 10 years, and another faces 6 months in prison on the charge of “illegal gathering”, a punishable crime that the government of Bahrain uses to prohibit its Shia population from participating in both religious gatherings and protests against the injustices they face.

Within a week, 10 more Bahraini citizens had been sentenced to prison on similarly groundless allegations of terrorism. 6 of them are facing life imprisonment, and 4 are facing 3 years each.

On March 22nd, Bahraini security forces dressed in civilian clothes raided 18 homes in Diraz, vandalizing and looting the houses before arresting a total of 10 people. Those who were taken into custody are Hussein Mohammed Saleh, Sayed Ahmed Sayed Majid, Hassan Mulla Ali Jassem, Mohammed Fadel Abdul Rahim, Hassan Abdul Khaleq Jassim, Hassan Isa Al Fatlawi and Qasim Aqeel Fadl, and notably Ali Abdullah Qassim, the son-in-law of top Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim, who has been under de-facto house arrest since the revocation of his citizenship in June 2016.

A day later, in the 24 hours between March 23rd and 24th, 32 more Bahraini Shia were arrested in separate raids carried out by security forces. Two raids took place in Diraz, detaining 17 and 15 people respectively, and 1 raid occurred in the Northern village of Buri that involved the looting of a house, before ultimately arresting two brothers, Abdullah and Mohammed Saleh Mahdi. The raids took place without any police warrants, and the 32 Shia Muslims were detained without any charges being brought upon them.

In the early hours of March 26th, security forces raided dozens of homes in the villages of Diraz, al-Daih, al-Musalla, and Jidhafs, forcibly kidnapping 17 citizens and transporting them to an unknown location, where it is feared that they will be tortured into false confessions; a practice routinely carried out by the government. Of those kidnapped are: Ahmad Saleh, Yousif Saleh, Jaafar Hani, Hussein Hani, Mohammad Shaker, Amjad Abdullah, Sultan Isa, Hussein Al-Khair, Montazar Al-Khair, Sayed Mohammad Sayed Hussein, Ali Bader Al-Jaziri, and Rouh Alla Abduzahraa, Hussein Mushaima, Ali Al-Shamloul, Abdullah Jaafar Al-Samoum, Ahmad Samir ,and Rida Mohammad Ali Zainuldeen.

Two days later, 9 more Bahraini citizens were sentenced to prison on fabricated charges of terrorism. 8 men received 7 years in prison each, and one minor was sentenced to 3 years in prison. On the same day, award-winning photojournalist Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi had his 10-year sentence upheld, and his citizenship revoked. Mousawi was arrested in 2014 after documenting a series of protests that year, and convicted in 2015 on terrorism charges.

In a report published on March 29th, a 15-year-old arrested by the Bahraini regime came forward to say that he had been tortured and forced into signing a confession that said he was guilty of arson, although he was not. This exemplifies the illegitimacy of Bahrain’s criminal charges and allegations brought upon its Shia citizens, as when evidence is lacking, a coerced confession allows a trial and sentencing.

The Bahraini Regime continues to arbitrarily arrest its Shia citizens under the claim of ‘national security’, without any reasonable evidence to back the allegations they claim. The false allegations and charges of ties to Iran due to its majority Shia population are unfounded and exemplify the corruption and discrimination against the Shia population in the country as institutionalized anti-Shia issues that affect the everyday lives of Bahrain’s majority population.

In a continuation of Bahrain’s effort to decrease the majority of Shia citizens in the country and strip their rights to fair trial, medical attention, education, employment, and housing, Bahraini officials have refused to grant citizenship to the daughter of a prominent Shia leader and activist, Sheikh Ali Salman, even though she has all of the necessary legal documentation. Her father has been serving a 9-year prison sentence since 2014 after being arrested on charges of “insulting government officials” and “inciting unrest” after peacefully protesting for government reform.

On March 9th, Shia citizens in the northern villages of Abu Saiba and Shakhora, which are west of the capital city of Manama, took to the streets to protest, calling for government reform and a political system that represents all Bahrainis, including Shia. The protests did not end there, however, as even behind bars in a Bahraini prison, 49 year old Hajer Mansoor, who was sentenced alongside her 18-month old son last October both on terrorism charges, began her second hunger strike to protest against the treatment of prisoners in Bahrain, and was admitted to the hospital on March 9th.

Her protests are not unfounded, as this month, Issa al-Mutawa, a prisoner in Bahrain’s Jaw prison is being punished for his decision to observe a Shia religious occasion last month. He is, for the next two months, prohibited from purchasing any basic goods or necessities that are provided at the detention facility, which will impact his health and well being in the already unsanitary conditions.

Shortly after a Twitter campaign by activists demanding his immediate release, blind Bahraini prisoner Jaafar Maatouk was moved to solitary confinement. Maatouk is currently serving a life sentence on politically motivated charges and was stripped of his citizenship in 2014. In the days following, the Interior Minister of Bahrain stated that he was looking into a new law that would “deal with unprecedented chaos by disruptive social media accounts”, essentially threatening to punish online activists for exercising their freedom of speech.

Bahrain’s Shia population continues to suffer under the backlash of oppressive Regime force. The astounding number of Shia citizens arbitrarily arrested every day, and the lack of fair trial for their population makes living in the Gulf country a nightmare for Shia Muslims, and does not take the weight off of living elsewhere, as the regime continually strips the citizenship of those traveling outside of Bahrain’s borders so that they are unable to return.

Bahrain’s human rights situation is in need of immediate attention as the government’s daily offenses against the majority of its civilian population need to end.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan saw its first sharp rise in anti-Shiism this year with an increase in the targeting of Shia mosques and neighborhoods. The rising presence of radical extremism in Afghanistan can be held accountable for the increase in attacks against the Shia population in the country. This month, Afghanistan saw 41 deaths and 96 injuries among the casualties of targeted attacks against Shia Muslims.

On March 10th, a bomb was placed and detonated outside of a Shia mosque in Kabul, as civilians of the Shia faith had gathered in remembrance of Abdul Ali Mazari, an ethnic Hazara political leader who was killed by the Taliban in 1995. The blast took a total of 9 lives and left 18 others critically injured.

Just over a week later, 5 Shia university students were critically injured by a grenade blast in their Shia-dominated neighborhood. The attacker disguised himself by wearing a school uniform into the academic campus, and detonated the grenade on a suicide mission, with the goal of killing the Shia students that he targeted. While no group claimed responsibility for the attack, the takfiri motives resemble that of a number of extremist groups that continually target the minority Shia population because of their beliefs.

On March 22nd, terrorists affiliated with Daesh detonated a bomb outside of a Shia shrine in the Karte Sakhi are of Kabul, where a large number of civilians were gathered to celebrate Nowruz, the start of the Persian New Year. The blast, clearly targeting the Shia population, took the lives of 31 people and injured an additional 65.

Three days after this bombing, another targeted suicide attack killed 1 person and critically injured another 8. The bombing took place outside of a Shia place of worship, similarly to the tactics of most anti-Shia attacks this month. Two suicide bombers attempted to enter the mosque but were met by security forces. One of the bombers was killed before he could detonate his device, but the other detonated his causing the civilian casualties.

The Shia population in Afghanistan faces persecution from extremist groups who take refuge there due to the political instability of the country. Groups such as ISIS regularly attack Shia population because of their religious belief. The death and injury toll among Shia Muslims was much higher this month than the first two months of this year, and it is important to note that the high number of casualties resulted from just 4 events, targeted at places of worship and schools. The number of events and the locations they take place are a clear indication of anti-Shiism in that the groups that carry out these attacks are not only obviously targeting the Shia population, but also targeting the Shia population in mass numbers, with a purpose to kill indiscriminately. These events are not isolated but are the end-product of a string of radical ideologies across the country that look down upon the Shia population and seek to abolish them.

Pakistan

Pakistan’s Shia Muslims, similarly to Afghanistan’s, face the constant threat of terrorist attacks, and a lack of serious government intervention to stop extremist groups from acting on their anti-Shia sentiments, which allows for radical ideologies to flourish. The ASWJ (Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama)  terrorist group is responsible for the majority of attacks against Pakistani Shia. The first three months of 2018 have shown to be much calmer in Pakistan than the same time period last year, however, the continued targeting of Shia Muslims whether in mass numbers or minute, exemplifies that the anti-Shia sentiments are still present in the minds of many.  This month, the ASWJ group killed 4 Shia civilians, injured 3, and brought 20 others upon fabricated blasphemy charges through a connection to Pakistan’s JUI (Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam), a religious and political party.

In the first week of the month, there were 3 separate targeted attacks on Shia Muslims. The first, which took place in Kohat, resulted in the death of a primary school headmaster. The attacker was not identified as he fled the scene immediately. The following two shootings occurred in Quetta, and resulted in the death of a Shia Muslim youth, Sajid Ali, and a policeman protecting fruit sellers of the Shia Hazara community. Another policeman was also injured in the attack. 

A fourth shooting took place in Karachi on March 22nd, taking the life of Ameer Ali as he was driving in his car near Memon Hospital. Members of the ASWJ group open fire into his car killing him immediately and injuring two-year-old Ali Asghar, son of Ali Imran, and 30-year old Ali Raza, who were passengers at the time.

On March 17th, terrorists from the aforementioned ASWJ group made their way into a Husseineyah (an Islamic center) in Dera Ismail Khan, and ransacked the place of worship before destroying and defacing the holy symbols of Shia Islam. This attack reminds us that although most attacks in Pakistan are individual shootings, the ideology behind the action involves a deeper level of anti-Shia sentiment, and brings to light that the targets are not random civilians, but specifically Shia Muslims.

This is further exemplified 3 days later, when Abdullah Sindhi, a member of the ASWJ terrorist group, used his connections within the JUI to bring a case of blasphemy upon 20 Shia Muslims who were chanting religious slogans praising their Imam in Sind, Pakistan. The case was brought up in an attempt to defame Shia Islam and to regard those who follow it as blasphemous and punishable by law, in an attempt to make the religious discrimination in Pakistan political, rather than just extremist.

The issue of terrorism is prominent in Pakistan and must be addressed, as not only are the killings of Shia Muslims wreaking havoc on the daily lives and security of those living in the country, but it is beginning to infiltrate into the political system as exemplified through the blasphemy case. If the ideologies of these extremist groups are able to gather momentum and influence in the politics of Pakistan, the continual abuse of Shia Muslims could become institutionalized and systematic, which would escalate and justify violence, and deteriorate the standard of living for Shia Muslims in the country.

Iraq

Iraq faced another month of turmoil in March with the continuation of ruthless bombings by what is assumed to be the takfiri tactics of Daesh. The country saw a total of 20 violent incidents this month, the majority of which came in the form of roadside bombings. Iraqi Shia lives through the threat every day of being targeted by extremist groups, as most days entail multiple different bombings from the time of sunrise to sunset. In March, a total of 14 Shia Muslims were killed, and an additional 60 were wounded due to targeted attacks on followers of Shia Islam. 

On the first day of the month, a total of 2 people were killed and 4 people were wounded in two separate attacks. The first event took place outside of a popular Baghdad market, at which an explosive device was detonated killing 1 and injuring 4. The second attack on March 1st occurred in Baghdad as well and killed 1 man when a sticky explosive device placed under the wheel of his car was detonated.

No less than 24 hours later, another roadside bomb exploded west of Baghdad, killing 1 and critically injuring 2 others. This attack was followed closely by another on March 3rd, where the bodies of two Shia men were found in the southeast of Baghdad. In a turn away from the typical method of bombing bringing terror to Iraqi Shia, these two men were deemed to have gunshot and stabbing wounds, suggesting that the aggressor was physically attacking them at the time of their deaths.

March 4th and 5th brought 7 more people to the hospital with critical injuries from three separate bombing attacks in the east and south of Baghdad. 2 people were injured by a roadside bomb, and the other 5 were injured by explosive devices at popular markets in the city.

The 6th through the 8th of the month injured a total of 13 Shia, and killed 1. All of these casualties were the result of explosive devices detonated in the typical Daesh areas such as on a roadside or at a popular market in or around Baghdad. The first week of March alone saw a total of 26 injuries and 6 deaths among the Shia population, averaging 4 casualties each day. The ability for takfiri groups in Iraq to continually target the Shia population needs to be put to an end, and Shia Rights Watch condemns the continual allowance of targeted attacks against Shia Muslims in Iraq.

The attacks did not stop there, however, as the next 5 days brought more chaos with the death of 8 more civilians and the injury of 25. The majority of these attacks were a string of roadside bombings in and around Baghdad, killing a total of 5 and wounding 24. 3 deaths came as a result of a shooting, in which a member of Daesh broke into a home and shot and killed a doctor and two women. In a separate event, 1 person was injured when extremists threw a grenade into a cafe as they drove by on motorcycles.

Lastly, on March 26th, 3 more civilians were injured when an explosive device was detonated in their Baghdad neighborhood.

The Shia population in Iraq is constantly terrorized by the animosity of extremist groups that seek to abolish people that follow Shia Islam as it differs from their own beliefs. Religious tolerance must be discussed openly and implemented through legal means in order to work towards ending the chaos in Iraq and put an end to the abuse that extremist groups exercise.

 

Iran

Iran, although a Shia majority country, Many Shia scholars, and activist are under pressure. Historically the government of Iran does not tolerate political critiques or calls for reform, therefore, although one may be Shia, openly sharing views and perspectives that go against government policies or actions can lead to persecution in the country and did this month.

Early on March 6th, Ayatollah Sayed Hussain al-Shirazi, prominent Shia cleric and Executive Director of the Shirazi Foundation, was stopped by Iranian security forces on his way home from his morning lectures with his father, Grand Ayatollah Shirazi. He was forcibly pulled out of his car and thrown to the ground, where the security forces removed his turban, degrading him in public. He was then detained and transported to an undisclosed location.

The act is a continuation of previous years’ crackdowns on relatives and supporters of the Grand Ayatollah Shirazi, whose organization is both non-political and non-profit, and works to promote the social welfare of Muslims and all people through education, research, think tanks, and media. The foundation also acts as a link to inquiries about the Shia faith and Islamic Law.

The organization and its affiliates are under constant pressure by the Iranian government, due to their non-government affiliated critiques of Iran’s governance, and Iran attempts to repress their freedom of speech and freedom of expression through arbitrary arrests and use of force against the supporters and family members of Grand Ayatollah Shirazi.

This event brings concerns of an emergence of anti-Shiism in Iran, which regards itself as an Islamic republic, as those who express their religious views and critique how the Islamic republic should operate based off of the same religious views it was founded upon are punished by arrest and imprisonment. Iran must allow its citizens the freedom of expression to speak openly about both their religious views and their political views, otherwise, they are denying a fundamental right to their Shia people; a right that they condemn other countries for taking away from the same population.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a repeat oppressor of Shia Muslims, as the very school of religious thought that their kingdom is founded upon disagrees with the belief system that Shia Islam follows. While much of the abuse in Saudi Arabia goes unreported by the government, it is known that often Saudi Shia are convicted on false allegations of “blasphemy” and “terrorism” for exercising their religious freedoms, and imprisoned with harsh sentences including, but not limited to, death. 

Two men from Saudi Arabia’s Shia-majority Eastern province were each sentenced to 20 years in prison in Saudi Arabia this month. They were convicted on the fabricated allegations of having ties to Iran, a common theme in the oppression of Shia Muslims, and for intent to create political unrest and disrupt the unity of Saudi Arabia. These charges act as a facade to the systematic repression and discrimination against Shia people in the country.

While death may be the harshest punishment, the prisoners in Saudi Arabia also suffer incessant torture and abuses in prison, which resulted in two casualties this month. One prisoner, Ahmed Attia was tortured so brutally in Saudi prisons after being deported from Bahrain that he lost his memory entirely, and another prisoner, 61-year-old Haj Ali Jassim Nazia, was tortured to death in Saudi Arabian prison on March 13th.

The brutal force used by the Saudi regime to eradicate religious freedom from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a breeding ground for extremist sentiment and fosters the very thoughts that spread around the world and lead to the widespread abuses against the Shia population.

Conclusion

The month of March saw over 100 more incidents of anti-Shiism than the month of February, making a statement in numbers and in lost loved ones that the Shia population is continuing to face a multitude of abuses around the world. From extremist groups bombing masses of people, to targeted shootings, to systematic oppression through government policy and military force, the Shia population fears for their lives and families every day, and action is taken by governments and the international community to put a stop the ruthless repression. Shia Muslims deserve to be treated with dignity rather than as second-class citizens, and their assailants, whether they be extremists or government officials, must be brought to justice.

 




Incidents of Anti-Shiism in February, 2018

February proved itself to be a much less violent month than January, with sources reporting  343 incidents of Anti-Shiism, half of last month’s 673. However, the crackdowns on freedom of expression and incessant discrimination against the Shia population led to 52 deaths, 226 injuries, 71 arrests and harsh sentencing, and seven related anti-Shia actions, including but not limited to, sectarian slander, police brutality, and vandalism.

Anti-Shia incidents were witnessed in countries including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, and Canada, while peaceful protests and essential meetings on religious tolerance were held in the United States, United Kingdom, and Italy.

Saudi Arabia

 

The government of Saudi Arabia continues to crack down on the Shia minority through both passive and active means. The country stood witness to 3 arrests, and two corrupt trials resulting in harsh sentencing on Shia civilians.

This month, Saudi Arabian officials were caught creating and using some fake social media accounts which produced thousands of posts per day to propagate anti-Shia and sectarian sentiments. The statements are also used to drown out dissent on social media by spamming popular hashtags and media feeds.

In addition to social media attacks, three young men were taken into custody by Saudi regime forces on February 11th, after their home was raided without warning. Two brothers, Hani and Ali al-Faraj, and one minor Hussain al-Zanadi were arrested as Saudi forces continue their attacks on the Shia-majority Eastern Province.

On the same day, a Shia civilian was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by the Saudi court in Riyadh for alleged terrorism, and February 21st saw the death sentence handed down to another on ‘security threat’ charges.

 

Bahrain

In the month marking the 7th anniversary of the 2011 uprising, Bahraini Shia saw yet another month consumed by regime crackdown. The government continues to hold responsibility for the mistreatment experienced by its citizens through means of violence and systematic oppression. Bahrain has seen a slight turn away from violent Regime attacks, but has witnessed an increase of the Regime’s brute force against the Shia population through a more hidden personification of oppression in the form of court sentences handed down to “security threats.” The country saw 66 Shia Muslims jailed or sentenced in court, 25 of which had their citizenship stripped leaving them stateless; 2 were documented as injured from prison torture, and activists were met with police brutality in an attempt to silence human rights advocates.

Beginning on February 1st with the sentencing of 32 individuals in Bahrain’s High Criminal Court, 1 defendant, Moosa Abdallah Moosa was sentenced to death as the alleged responsible party for a crime that occured 3 years ago in 2015, while 13 defendants were handed down life sentences, 8 defendants were sentenced to 15-years imprisonment, 4 defendants received 3 to 5 years’ imprisonment, and 6 individuals were acquitted; 25 of the 32 defendants were also stripped of their citizenship.

On the 1st of the month, 4 Bahraini citizens were also deported after the upholding of a 2012 sentencing that revoked their citizenship on the count of “damaging state security,” however, they were not informed as to what damage they imposed. Of the four deported were three brothers, Mohammed Ali, Abdul Amir, Abdulnabi Al-Mosawi and his wife, Maryam Redha. This deportation comes as the second half of 8 Bahraini citizens, 4 of which were deported two days prior on January 30th. This string of deportations shows an increasing abuse of power from the regime, as the generalization of what it means to be a “threat to state security” is unclear and leaves room for a significant amount of unfounded arrests and harsh sentences.

Ten others were sentenced by the court on February 6th and charged as anti-regime activists, guilty of multiple unfounded charges with, “forming “unlawful” gatherings of more than 5 people” among the few. 5 of the defendants were sentenced to 10 years in prison, and five were handed down five-year sentences.

President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, was sentenced to an additional five years in prison over tweets that condemned the Saudi-led war in Yemen and Manama’s treatment of prisoners. He was arrested in 2016 and is currently serving a two-year sentence for “spreading rumors and false information” about the government in television interviews. His sentencing came after weeks of international condemnation of his imprisonment and calls for his release. The Manama court’s actions have been slammed by human rights organizations as a “mockery of justice.”

On February 21st, five family members, Amal, Iman and Fatima Ali, and two of their husbands, Mohsen Al-A’li and Ali Al-Shagal, were sentenced to 3 years in prison, each on politically motivated charges of “covering up for a wanted person.” Madina Ali was also sentenced to three years on the same charges. Death sentences were issued against three more civilians, and several other citizens were sentenced to 15 years in jail after coerced confessions.

A 7-year jail sentence was upheld for a 22-year-old citizen accused of participating in the February 14th Coalition, and the al-Wafi Islamic Party; both of which are groups that publicly oppose the Regime’s exclusive and discriminatory policies.

Bahrain saw a total of 7 arrests this month. Three citizens were arrested in the early hours of February 3rd after a security raid took place orchestrated by the Ministry of the Interior. The arrests were made on the basis of political accusations, exemplifying the Kingdom’s policies that thwart free speech and whistleblowers of human rights violations. Of those arrested in the raids were Ali Mohammad Hassan and Abbas Jassim Bu Hamid from al-Malikiya village, and Mohammad Al-A’am from A’ali.

On February 25th, four more men were arrested after their homes were raided by security forces. The reason for their arrests has still not been disclosed.

Sheikh Isa al-Moemen, Shia cleric and Imam of al-Kheif Mosque in al-Dair village, was also placed under arrest this month and sentenced to 3 months in jail after being accused of inciting hatred against the regime in a sermon he delivered on July 29th, 2016. Moemen has already served a sentence from the same accusation verdict over an address he gave on August 5th, 2016, having experienced the Regime’s unruly policies multiple times.

Behind bars, reports surfaced this month that citizens in Bahraini prisons are being abused, beaten to false confessions, and fed through containers that previously held cleaning supplies, exploiting a massive human rights concern and furthering the mistreatment of the imprisoned Shia majority.

On the days before, and the days following the protests that marked the 7th anniversary of the 2011 uprising, many demonstrations took place, and protesters were met with the brutal police force, used in an attempt to disperse those gathered to commemorate the ongoing battle for political justice and change. Police used tear gas to break up crowds resulting in injuries. However, the extent of these injuries is not known. Due to the lack of freely available medical attention to the Shia population, as well as the fear of Regime backlash, injured Shia protesters often go without medical care, allowing for the number of activists injured to remain unknown. Breaking up the peaceful protests to halt all public dissent against the regime is another way in which Shia Muslims are continually marginalized in Bahrain and denied their right to freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression was also halted this month in Bahrain as the ban on Friday prayer at the Imam Al Sadiq Mosque in Diraz, the largest Shia congregation, continued for the 85th consecutive week. Armored vehicles created a blockade outside of the building, along with concrete barricades and security checkpoints throughout the city.

A total of 72 Anti-Shia incidents occurred this month in Bahrain alone, adding to the sum of 569 this year so far. As activists continue to stand up for their rights and their beliefs, the government crackdowns continue to get more vicious. Freedom of speech or expression, when used to speak against injustices carried out by the Regime, is seen as a terrorist activity, “threat to national security,” and slander. Shia in Bahrain are continuously unable to speak out and advocate for their rights due to the threat of jail, deportations, and death.

Pakistan

Pakistan’s Shia Muslims are routinely the victims of anti-Shia extremist groups, which are met with a lack of government action, turning the situation into a free-for-all allowing anti-Shiism to flourish.

This pattern held true in February with two shootings; both carried out by takfiri terrorists belonging to the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ; formerly Sipah-e-Sahaba) group, which resulted in the deaths of 2 civilians in the Dera Ismail region of Pakistan. Of the two men murdered were Iftikhar Hussain, and Motiullah, the custodian of Mohallah Shaheen Imam Bargah, a Shia place of congregation and ceremony.

The lack of government action to pursue and prosecute the terrorists involved in the attacks led to some massive, but peaceful, protests in the Dera Ismail region to draw attention to the injustices done by allowing the extremist cells to continue operating and targeting Shia Muslims without repercussion.

Nigeria

 

Nigeria entered its second month of daily protests calling for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky, the head of Nigeria’s Islamic movement who was arrested in 2015 and has been detained at an unknown location without charges since.

While the protests took place in a peaceful manner, some were still met with backlash and brutality leading to the arrest of some Shia protesters. Beyond arrests came the death of Sheikh Qaseem Umar Sokoto, who was shot by Nigerian Police while peacefully protesting for the release of Sheikh Zakzaky. Sokoto died two weeks later due to complications from his wound.

Iraq

Iraq has seen a sudden jump in terror activity and strategic attacks in Shia-majority regions this year, stemming from a previously steady rise in civilian casualties and injuries as the efforts to push these groups out of the country grow stronger. Iraqi Shia were victims to some roadside bombings and other various attacks carried out by extremist groups this month, which caused 45 deaths and 198 injuries, averaging nine incidents per day.

Many bombings in Iraq target areas around the Shia-majority regions of Baghdad and the city of Ramadi, with militant groups typically targeting unsuspecting civilians at famous souqs or markets. This month, detonations of IED devices took the lives of 17 Shia Muslims and left an additional 73 severely wounded and hospitalized. Gunmen claimed the lives of 8, wounding 6, and targeted poisoning left 17 dead and 140 taken ill.

The poisoning took place on February 13th, after members of an anti-Daesh, Shia PMF coalition ate at a restaurant in the Shia area of al-Khalis in the province of Diyala. All members were rushed to the local hospital, with the more critical cases being transferred to centralized medical centers in Baghdad. The details of the poisoning itself currently remain under investigation, as mayor of al-Khalis, Adi Alkhaddran, called for an in-depth analysis of what is anticipated to be deemed an intentional attack.

In addition to bombings, extremist groups like Daesh also take part in the kidnapping and murder of civilian Shia Muslims. In a series of kidnappings this month, two Shia men fell victim to takfiri tactics and were found dead a day after they were kidnapped by the group.

One of the more hopeful events of February took place in Iraq as well, as the college of Jurisprudence at the University of Kufa organized a symposium to discuss rapprochement of the Shia and non-Shia sects of Islam. Dean of the college, Dr. Waleed Farajallah hoped to seek effective inter-faith dialogue to create unity and clarify the image of Shia Muslims. The occurrence of this seminar is a positive step for the advocacy of

Shia rights and non-discrimination in Iraq.

USA/UK

In the United States and the United Kingdom, protesters gathered outside of the Bahrain Embassy on February 14th to stand in solidarity with Bahrain’s Shia Muslims and to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the 2011 uprising.

Additionally, on February 6th in the UK, a group of activists protested outside of the Bahrain Embassy in London to demand the release of activist Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence over his role in pro-democracy protests in 2011.

Protests outside of Bahrain’s borders draw international attention and recognition to the human rights violations at hand carried out against Shia Muslims. Raising awareness for the injustices Shia Muslims have, and continue to face on the mainstream media of Western countries gives an amplified voice to the Shia in Bahrain, among other countries, whose voices are met with the threat of persecution and left unheard.

Italy

Various religious leaders, academics, and policymakers met with Pope Francis after a seminar titled, “Violence in the Name of Religion,” which was organized by the UK-based Wilton Park Institute in cooperation with Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue at the Vatican.

Al-Khoei stated “The Seminary in Najaf and the Supreme Religious Authority have played an essential role in disseminating tolerance and moderation while focusing on social justice, human rights and dignity regardless of religion, sect, and nationalism,” in his speech directed towards academics and religious leaders from around the world.

International religious recognition of Shia rights, and an understanding and aim to secure and protect those rights in the religious community provides oppressed Shia with a world-renowned community of support and advocacy for their freedom from persecution. The increasing amount of global acknowledgment to the prejudice faced by Shia creates an increasing pressure on government and religious authorities to reconcile their beliefs and policies with Shia Muslims both in their countries and abroad.

Canada

Canada experienced an unusual case of anti-Shiism this month when prayer stones in University of Toronto praying room were vandalized and a letter was left stating:

 

“To the Shia’s: No such thing as following Imam Ali.

And no such thing as using a stone for praying.

– Kind Regards.”

Aside from the hopeful international recognition of Shia Muslims, the public condemnations such as this are a constant reminder that there is much left to be done. While policies can be installed to lessen the suffering of Shia at the hands of government, and many governments do engage in non-discriminatory practices, ideology proves to be a much more difficult issue to tackle. Without a stress on religious tolerance, the mindsets that foster the poisonous thoughts of anti-Shia sentiments will continue to flourish. The problem of anti-Shia discrimination can not be solved unless the conversation of inexclusive peace and acceptance is taught without fail in religious communities.

Conclusion

The first two months of 2018 have seen a new spark in Anti-Shiism, seeing more incidents in January and February than the final two months of 2017, which were part of a steady decline of Anti-Shia episodes. This February, while significantly calmer than January, was riddled with twice as many injuries, and a similar number of deaths, giving way to the realities of repression and persecution that Shia Muslims experience on a daily basis. However, resiliently pursuing through the hardships, Anti-Shia targeted acts were met by activists with peaceful protests against the injustices they face, using their voices and rising amid the threats of detainment and death.

This new emergence of Anti-Shiism in 2018 exemplifies and emphasizes that there is still much work to be done to correct the systematic repression imposed by government institutions, as well as to correct the discriminatory mindsets and ideologies that inspire extremists to conduct attacks against Shia Muslims.

Freedom of expression is a key to lessen the suffering and discrimination endured by Shia Muslims, as silence creates complicity and complicity masks the issues at hand. Shia Rights Watch will continue to give a voice to those without, until every Shia Muslim has access to basic human rights and fair treatment.

 




Incidents of Anti-Shiism in January, 2018

Shia Rights watch continues its research and advocacy for the 7th consecutive year. The year 2018 began with the release of the SRW Annual Report, highlighting minority rights violations and the persecution of Shia Muslims. The 18-page report analyzed the state of the Shia Minority in relation to international events and presented a set of recommendations to reduce human rights violations as well as increase dialogue among conflicting parties.

In January, 667 cases of anti-Shiism were reported. Incidents of anti-Shiism were reported in  Bahrain, Iraq,  Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. The majority of Shia deaths occurred in Iraq, while arrests and sentencing were predominant in Bahrain. Incidents of Anti-Shiism were mainly single incidents with high numbers of casualty.

 

Bahrain

In a single day, Bahrain stood witness to the arrest of 49 people; 290 others had charges filed against them. Two days later, on the 23rd of January, 18 others were arrested in peaceful protests against unlawful detainment of Shia Muslims in the towns of A’ali, Barbar, Maqabah, Samaheej, and Al Daih. The 31st of January marked the largest single event of anti-Shiism as 58 were sentenced; 19 were given life sentences, and the 37 others were handed a total of 400 years in prison.

Figure 3. is a display of non-arrest acts of violence against Shia Muslims in Bahrain.

 

 

Throughout the month, Bahrain was home to 106 arrests. Those arrested report incidents of torture and malpractice. In mid-January, 171 detainees were called to court- 141 of which were released on 200BD bail. The 24 remaining detainees were scheduled for a hearing in February. Sources report those who were released were initially held on charges of “illegal congregation” while those still in holding had charges of “attacking security men,” “damaging public property.” Sources furthered that those charges are only allegations and that officers have tried time and time again to obtain confession via coercion of torture.  

The alleged charges used to detain Shia Muslims in Bahrain point to a systematic targeting of the group. Shia Islam by nature is a religion with the prominence of rituals that are done in masses. Charges such as “illegal congregation” are displays that any congregation can be deemed illegal given the government’s orders.   

Bahrain displays trends of increased prosecution of religious clerics in the region. In 2017, over 300 incidents of anti-Shism against clerics alone were reported- 90 of which were arrests. Targeting of clerics continued into 2018 with the arrest of numerous prominent clerics active in Bahrain.

Overall, there have been 493 cases of anti-Shiism in Bahrain- 120 of which are arrests and 69 are sentencing. Other forms of anti-Shiism include raids, deportation, denial of medical care, revocation of citizenship and police brutality. Attacks have been reported in the towns of Diraz, Sanabis, Sitra, Dumistan, Karzakan, Abu Saiba, Buri, A’ali, and Shakhura. 

Iraq

As a result of direct anti-Shiism, 48 have lost their lives, and 109 others have been wounded. Baghdad remains one of the most unsafe areas of Iraq. Sources report approximately 70% of Baghdad is of the Shia faith, and in January, Shia populated areas of Baghdad saw an average, the death of 5 people as a result of anti-Shiism. The single most significant attack in Baghdad was a series of suicide bombings in Tayyaran Square where 38 civilians were killed. Attacks in Baghdad are primarily centered in Shia populated commercial areas such as shopping centers and markets.

Detailed reports of Anti-Shiism in other cities of Iraq are limited due to the lack of technological development of said areas. Information in regards to the reduced overall anti-Shiism across Iraq, in consistency with reporting from the United Nations, can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.  

 

Nigeria

 Following the arrest of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky in Kunduna State, Nigeria, protests have erupted all over the world. Zakzaky was arrested along with his wife, Hajia Zainab Zakzaky,  in 2015 as part of the national government’s efforts to thwart the rise of Shia power in the nation. From the United Kingdom to Turkey, Shia Muslims congregate in protest of prosecution of Shia Muslims in Nigeria.

Zakzaky’s daughter reports her parents have deteriorating health. Until early-January, the Zakzaky couple were denied medical care and media correspondence. On the 13th of January, Sheikh Zakzaky was allowed to speak to the press after two years. In his talk, he confirmed that he was allowed to see a medical doctor and that his ailments were being treated. SRW believes Zakzaky was permitted contact with the media after unrest in the nation in response to his maltreatment while detained.

After the couple’s arrest, a panel of investigators set by Nasir el-Rufei, the state governor, concluded that Zakzaky had been arrested on illegal grounds. Later, the Abuja division of Federal High Courts ordered the release of the Zakzaky’s, awarding them 50 million NGN and temporary accommodations as reparations for crimes against them by the state. However, despite the judge’s order, the couple remain in detainment.

        In January 2018 , Femi Falana, the couples lawyer, filed a Contempt of Court proceeding against the Director General of State Security Service, the Nigerian Police Force and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) for failing to obey the judgement of Justice Kolawole of the Federal High Court Abuja with regards to the continued detention of Sheikh Zakzaky.

Figure 2.  breaks down forms of anti-Shiism in addition to the killing, wounding and arresting of this population.

 

 

Pakistan

Anti-Shiism by extremist organizations continue in Pakistan. In Dera Ismail Khan, Sepah-e-Sahaba agents shot Syed Hassan Ali. Ali’s uncle was killed by the same group.

Late in the month, a van carrying Shia Muslims from the Afghan border was targeted by an IED. Eight people were killed, three of which were women and one of which was a seven-year-old boy.

Shia Muslims in Pakistan unite in protest of the lack of prosecution of anti-Shia agents in the nation. All over Pakistan, Shia Muslims have organized protests, marking their intolerance towards extremism against religious and ethnic minorities.

As a result of increased protests, Shia Muslims were included in the Apex Court of Pakistan as minority groups targeted by terrorists in the area. This recognition is considered a milestone in the struggles for rights as Pakistan has displayed systemic discrimination against Shia Muslims in the past. SRW hopes that this identification can be a step towards increased security for this group.

Additionally, January stood witness to the appointment of Agha Syed Mohammad Raza as the nation’s first Shia legislator to be appointed as minister in Balochistan, Pakistan.

 

Saudi Arabia

Despite what seems to be a reduction of violence in the town of Awamiyah in comparison to mid-2017, Shia in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia is still subject to brutality. Passer-by vehicles going to and from Awamiya are at risk of being shot or subject to questioning. One such incident was the case of Abdullah al-Qallaf who was shot driving his car in the town. Al-Qallaf has no history of dissent or political involvement. Sources report al-Qallaf may have been a victim of a mis-target on the part of troops who were targeting political activists.

The main Saudi narrative is that the government is at qualms with the political dissent in the nation- regardless of religion or ethnicity. However, the prominence of non-politically active victims points to the targeting of Shia Muslims based on a stereotype of Shia being foreign agents. Shia Rights Watch condemns any and all acts of violence, noting the degree of damage caused by mis-association of Shia Muslims, particularly in Gulf Nations.   

Also new in January 2018 is the cessation of arms sales to Saudi Arabia by Germany. Once one of the largest arms dealers in the Kingdom, the German government announced it would no longer export arms to nations waging war in Yemen. Saudi Arabian involvement has created one of the most extensive modern-day war crimes- 5,200 civilians killed and 9000 others injured as direct results of Saudi weapons, not the mention the famine and disease that spreads like wildfire as a result of reduced resources in the nation.

Conclusion

Compared to January of 2017, there has been a  computational 6% increase in violence has been seen against Shia Muslims. The rise in violence can be a result of quintupling of anti-Shiism in Bahrain. Despite international efforts, Shia in Bahrain remains prosecuted for their religious beliefs. Time and time again, peaceful protests are met with violence. Further, an increase in arrest and prosecution of Shia clerics are seen in the nation.

Another significant comparison is in the case of Iraq in which a reduction of anti-Shiism can be seen. The same trend can be observed in United Nations reports. Since the beginning of 2017, a slow but steady decrease in violence against Shia Muslims can be found. SRW believes a reduction in local reports of abuse in minor cities accounts for such a trend. Attacks in Baghdad make up a significant portion of the statistical data of Anti-Shiism in Iraq.




Incidents of Anti-Shiism in November, 2017

November Monthly Analysis

The month of November stood witness to the continued restriction of religious expression for Shia Muslims. Anti-Shiism spanned the East and West as Shia Muslims faced attacks for their livelihood.

Shia in Bahrain and Iraq faced the most number of Anti-Shia violations. Algeria is a newly added country with Shia rights violations concerns.  

As we analyze the human rights violations toward Shia population, SRW is deeply concerned over reduced media coverage of this community. Inadequate coverage, in addition to fear and insecurity of Shia activists, has resulted in lack of data on Shia rights violations.

Bahrain

Human rights status of the Shia in Bahrain has not improved. Arrests, pressures, torture, and raids continue in this country as majority Shia struggle for freedom of expression, religion, and assembly.

The Shia population in Diraz remain limited in their religious expression as the al-Sadiq Mosque remains under seizure by army forces. In late November, the ban on Friday prayers and congregation in the mosque enters its 72nd week.

Peaceful protest has been met with extreme violence. Forces used tear gas and pellets to disperse protesters, causing irreparable injury and harm. In the western village of Dumistan, security forces flooded the streets with tear gas as residents rallied in a show of support for Bahrain’s highest religious authority, Sheikh Isa Qassim.

Also, Bahraini security forces reportedly raided the headquarters of the Islamic Awareness Society in the country’s northwestern village of Diraz.

Raids were also reported in Sitra, Bani Jamra, Eker, Sehla, Buri Mahaza, and Damistan.

Across Bahrain, religious leaders and prominent members of the community are arrested and detained, many times without due cause. Activist Majeed Abdulla Hasan and  Hadi Sayed Alawi were detained after raiding to their his houses. Two clerics, Al-Shaala and Sheikh Hani Al-Bazaz, are sentenced to 6-month jail for their pro-democracy activities. Cleric Mohiuddin al-Mishal was sentenced to one year in prison.

Those arrested, such as Maher Al-Khabaz, have reported extreme torture inside the prison.

Activists are also concerned over the health status of  Sheikh Isa Qassim. He has been under home arrest and threatened with deportation after the revocation of his Bahraini citizenship.

Some activists such as  Zainab al-Khamees was prevented from traveling to the Iraqi city of Karbala to take part in the annual Arba’een pilgrimage.

Pakistan

Targeted killings and violations toward Pakistani Shia have always contributed to creating an insecure environment for this population.  In November targeted killing claimed the life of  Aqeel Hussain Naumi and Samar Abbas as they were shot and killed in Dera Ismail Khan by unknown men. In another incident, shooters opened fire on Muhammad Elias, a Shia officer, his wife, and minor child in their car. An attack on a Shia mosque in Islamabad killed Haidar Shah and Ain Zaidi and wounded four others.

Pakistani Shia also has a limited right to movement.  Pakistani pilgrims traveling to Iraq have reportedly been questioned and searched in discriminatory manners. A protest was organized as a response to such actions of the border guards.

India

Indian Shia has faced discrimination in their country.  A Shia cleric, Seyed Hasan, was prevented from traveling due to Indian government’s refusal to renew his passport. It is believed such action was to limit his movement as a Shia cleric.

Nigeria

Nigeria is home to one of the fastest growing Shia communities in Africa and therefore growing Shia rights violations have been reported from that area. Governmental forces have repeatedly raid Shia gatherings during Muharram.

A leader of the Shia Muslim identified as Sunusi Abdulkadir and an unidentified female member of the community, have been killed by mobile policemen in Kano state during Arbaeen rituals.

Lastly, there is no update on the status of Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky and his wife, Hajia Zinah Zakzaky. The couple were arrested on December 14, 2015. Although the local judge ordered their release, they are still under arrest.  

Algeria

More than 400 Shia Algerian pilgrims were investigated at the airport during two weeks window as they returned from Iraq to their country.  Pilgrims reported harsh investigations, long waits, discriminatory treatment by the airport security forces.  Shia returning from Iraq visit stated their Shia specific books, prayer materials, and even attire were seized by the troops and had not be returned to them yet.

Such behavior has not been reported in Algeria in the past and is concerning the human right NGOs.  

Saudi Arabia

Saudi security forces arrested two young Shia in the town of Tarot in Qatif. The detainees Mohammed Saeed Salman al-Abdalal and Mustafa Ali Saleh al-Sabiti were shot while attempting to escape arrest.

A Saudi court sentenced the activist Naima Al-Matarud to six years in prison and a ban on traveling for the same period on charges related to her role in the movement of contractors in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, which began in 2011.

The Saudi authorities have arrested and accused activists of assisting, providing medicines and medical equipment for the treatment of people injured in peaceful marches in Qatif.

Syria

Although lack of security has limited media’s access to affected areas, the targeting of Shia majority areas of Syria continues. At least one civilian was killed and another ten were wounded when rebels attacked the Shia towns of Al-Zahra’a and Nubl in the northwestern countryside of Aleppo.

Egypt

Security authorities detained eight men and four women of Saudi Shia pilgrims and banned their entry to the Egypt. Pilgrims reported being humiliated, insulted and prevented from eating and drinking throughout the detention that lasted for hours.

Iraq

A number of roadside bombs claimed lives of Iraqi Shia in different areas of Iraq: in addition to Tuzkurmatu,  Saba al-Bur, Latifiya, Radwaniyah, Doura, Zoba,  Diyala, Suweib Yusufiya are the most affected areas of Baghdad.

At least 12 roadside explosions were reported in November killing 34 and wounding 91 people.

Iraqi forces foiled two suicide bombings in the Radwaniyah, one in  Alwa Al-Rashid and one near Essaouira bridge.

Conclusion

Shia Muslims continue to live in fear as they are ostracized in their home nations, and arrests of Shia activists and scholars proceed in the Gulf states and the surrounding countries.

Activists and humanitarians who are standing up to the injustice are facing the backlash from governments and other principal actors.

SRW believes the sudden decline in Shia news and violation coverage is another systematic discrimination and must be addressed.

Shia Rights Watch calls for governments across the region to increase protections for Shia and other religious minorities and to reverse and stop all ill-treatment of these populations.




Incidents of Anti-Shiism in October, 2017

The month of October stood witness to the continued restriction of religious expression for Shia Muslims. Anti-Shiism spanned the East and West as Shia Muslims faced attacks to their livelihood.

This month, incidents of anti-Shiism reached 278. The majority of attacks occurred in the Gulf region, specifically in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Over 44% of attacks were in the form of arrests.

Although 27% has reduced death count. This reduction is due to decreased reporting in Iraq and a shift in violence measures in Bahrain. Although deaths counts have been cut, it must be noted that discrimination of Shia Muslims continues all over the world. Shia Muslims are limited in expression and congregation.  

Bahrain

Arrests continue in Bahrain as human rights defenders stay active in the struggle for freedom of expression.

The Shia population in Diraz remain limited in their religious expression as the al-Sadiq Mosque remains under seizure by army forces. In late October, the ban on Friday prayers and congregation in the mosque enters its 67th week. Peaceful protest has been met with extreme violence. Forces used tear gas and pellets to disperse protesters, causing irreparable injury and harm.

Across Bahrain, religious leaders and prominent members of the community are arrested and detained, many times without due cause. Those detained include Sayed Ali al-Mosawi, Ali Abdullah Jomaa, Jassem Abdul Jalil Hassan, Ali Hussain Abdullah, Hussein Ali, Mahmoud Zoheir, Ali Mohammad Jaafar al Motghawi and Mahdi Fattah Mahfouz.

The month of October stood witness to an all-time high in the arrest of minors. Issam Hadi Jassim, 15, was detained in the village of Karrana in the early morning, Although his whereabouts are unknown, sources report he was taken to the criminal investigation building. Six other people were detained with Jassim.

Those arrested face maltreatment on a record extend. Sources report physical, sexual and mental abuse as a result of torture. The deteriorating conditions of the detainment centers led to an outbreak of one of the most significant hunger strikes in modern history. SRW activists report fast failing health of hunger strikers.

Afghanistan

Despite promises to increase security in Shia populated areas of Afghanistan, recent Taliban attacks display a need for the development of substantial security measures. In mid-October, the Valley of Mirza Olang was seized by Taliban forces as Afghan forces withdrew their troops from the region. Mirza Olang was home to attacks in August, which lead to the death of over 50 villagers. It must be noted that Shia populated areas of Afghanistan, including Mirza Olang, are areas that have been, and continue to be, tactically used against foreign intrusion. Further, these are areas are home to abundant natural resources.

Pakistan

Terror organizations target Shia dominant areas of Pakistan. In mid- October, suicide bombs and shooters killed over 25 civilians and injured 37 others. The attacks occurred in the Jhal magsi district of Baluchistan and aimed at Hazara populated areas of the country.

Despite the prevalence of attacks on the Hazara community, little has been done to protest this population. Despite increased international pressures, Pakistan has yet to implement adequate security plans against terrorism in this nation. In addition to the failure of prevention, Pakistan has failed to carry out prosecution of hate-promoting agents.

Malaysia

Raids in the Ulu Titram area of Malaysia has led to the arrest of 21 people. Shia teachings, books, a Moharram banner and Karbala stone, were seized; “they were arrested for an offense under Section 9 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1997 and could face a fine of not more than RM3,000, or imprisonment for up to two years.”

In recent years, anti-Shiism has propagated all over Malaysia. Anti-Shia agents in the government take to target Shia homes and limit their expression and congregation. Items seized in the raid are not political but purely forms of religious expression.

Nigeria

Nigerian police have disrupted Muharram ceremonies in the northern city of Sokoto, arresting at least six of the participants.

Nigeria is home to one of the fastest growing Shia communities in Africa. In early 2016, clashes with the Nigerian army led to the killing of over 300 Shia Muslims. Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky was arrested in the clashes. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Shia in Nigeria continues to be prosecuted for their beliefs. Thier religious expression is limited and prosecuted.  More information about Shia in Nigeria can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org

UK

Outside the Idaara Maarif – e- Islam Mosque Syed Hassan Abbas Bokhari al- Naqvi was stabbed and left for dead. Al-Naqvi, a minor, was left in critical condition and was found my his father who had gone to park the family car. The Birmingham Mail reports, ““It happened on the pavement. By the time the dad parked his car his son was on the floor. There was a young man who was brutally beating the boy with a knife. There was blood everywhere; he was hitting the boy’s neck and head. Then the attacker ran off and got into a car.” Al-Naqvi’s was one of the numerous attacks in the UK.

Syria

Targeting of Shia majority areas of Syria continues. Early this month, two rocket shells were fired in the residential neighborhoods of al-Zahraa. The attack resulted in the material damage of homes and buildings. While no casualties have been reported, the attacks severely reduced public service resources.  

Iraq

As the event of Arabeen approaches, SRW invites increased security measures. Arbaeen has been noted as the second largest peaceful congregation in recent history. In continued commemoration of Hussain, Mohammed’s grandson, Shia Muslims gather in unison. During this ritual, Shia Muslims from all over the world walk on foot towards the city of Karbala, many of them traveling distances as long as Gulf countries.

Sources report a halt in all transportation inside the main city bounds of Karbala with the aims of regulating human traffic. On average, over 10 – 20 million pilgrims travel to Karbala for Arbaeen. In addition to limiting vehicle in the city, SRW proposes increased security checkpoint and implementation of a well planned pedestrian guidance. Further SRW warns pilgrims to be on the lookout for strange behavior and suggests communication methods found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia continues to limit known human rights activists in travel and speech. In mid-October, 22 arrested were over social media postings; another 24 were detained in the ha-il district for “exploiting social networking sites to promote lies and exaggerations” with the goal of provoking “sedition and tribal tensions.” A Qatari citizen was among arrested. Saudi Arabia refuses to acknowledge the ongoing violence and targeting of Shia Muslims by government forces. Demands for rights are seen as means of “tribal tension.”

India

On the 10th day of Moharram, authorities arrested six people. Officers attacked a congregation of mourners with batons, injuring them. The attacks were a means of restricting mourning processions.

Conclusion

Limitations of Shia expression continue all over the world. It must be noted that Shia rights violations are not limited to those presented in this paper. In fear or persecution or social isolation, Shia Muslims do not report incidents of anti-Shiism. More information on Shia Muslims can be found at ShiaRightsWatch.org.  




Incidents of Anti-Shiism in September , 2017

September Monthly Analysis

Shia Muslims all over the world began their commemoration of the holy month of Muharram late September. Shia religious expression is augmented in the beginning in early Moharram thus making them susceptible to targeting by anti-Shia groups. SRW Muharram safety advisory and more information on Shia and Moharram can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.

In Gulf nations such that of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain a fresh wave of arrests and travel bans have been issued. This recent increase in crackdowns correlates with the 2017 United Nations Human Rights Council meeting. The analyst believes restrictions are in an attempt to limit reports of anti-Shiism in the meeting.

Overall, 517 cases of anti-Shiism have been seen in the month of September-100 deaths, 188 injuries, and 229 arrests.Trends of anti-Shiism are nation-specific. Gulf-nations, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain have had Shia arrests, detainments and travel bans. Iraq and Afghanistan are home to the targeting of Shia dominated routes of travels as well as well-known religious sites.

Iraq

Trends in anti-Shiism have been perpetrated by ISIS extremists. However, in addition to targeting Shia populated areas, incidents in September display a shift in targets. Twin blasts in Hajaj, Salahedin province, targeted a restaurant frequented by Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a prominently Shia anti-ISIS group. A third assailant was shot before the detonation of his suicide belt.

Recent attacks target Popular Mobilization force members and their families. Even when not on duty, members of the PMF are followed and killed. While ISIS killings have been, and continue to be bombs that target a large mass, there exists a recent shift towards individual assassinations by firearm.

Shia Rights Watch requests a report on new security measures taken up to meet new shifts in violence.  

 

Bahrain

The prevalence of restrictions on religious expression and congregation in Bahrain sets this report apart from previous reports. Beginning early September, Bahraini officials called upon religious scholars and centers ordering limitations in visibility and restriction of religious expression to inside religious centers. The ministry of interior furthered that failure to meet the new guidelines will result in detention and torture. Days following the threats, security forces raided numerous Shia villages, namely Shahrakan, Jid Ali, Malkiya, Ekr, Abu Saiba, Shakhura, Sitr, and Karzakan, removing visible banners, posters, and flags that mark the commemoration of Muharram. Also, any and all civil services such that of food and drink donations have been placed under scrutiny. Shia Rights Watch sources report forces ripping down Muharram symbols (flags and banners) in different towns, even arresting people who displayed the symbols. Some of those arrested were released after forced agreements to stop displaying Moharram symbols.

In the town of Diraz, in addition to tearing down commemoration signs, forces stopped commemorators from attending Imam al- Sadiq mosque. It must be mentioned that Shia in Diraz remains banned from holding Friday prayers.

Prominent activist like (but not limited to) Farida Ghulam, Jalila al-Salman, Mohammad Issa Al-Tajer, Fatimah al-Halwaji and Hussain Radhi has been placed on travel limitations and summoned for questioning by the Bahraini public prosecutor. In addition to activists themselves, a family of activists has been used as leverage against activists. On numerous account were family members of human rights activists called upon in local and national police stations.

Despite immense attempts by the Bahraini government to limit Shia presentation at the United Nations Human Rights Council held this month, human rights activists were still able to deliver oral statements, reporting discrimination and systemic targeting of the Shia majority in this nation.

Despite the prevalence of arrests and torture, morale remains high among inmates and activist. In mid-September, over 1500 detainees announced hunger-strikes in protests to the ongoing torture and ill-conditions of detainment centers and prisons in Bahrain. The current hunger strike in Bahrain is the biggest mass hunger-strike in recent history.

Saudi Arabia

September in Saudi Arabia has been especially dangerous as fresh waves of arrests have taken place. On the one hand, Shia in this nation continues to be prosecuted based on their religious expression. Government forces restrict religious practices by prohibiting congregation.  

In correlation to the United Nations Human Rights Council dates, activists have been detained and imprisoned. Members of the Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), Abdulaziz al-Shubaily and Issa al-Hamid were arrested late September. Sources report their arrest linked to convictions as recently as early 2016, suggesting the recent arrests as a means of restricting the activists from engaging with activists presenting in the United Nations Human Rights Council in aims to shed light on anti-Shiism in the kingdom.

A 62-page report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) sheds light on the propagation of hate-crime of Saudi clerics. The report notes the labeling of Shia as “rejectionists” and “brothers of Satan,” as well as denouncing of systemic discrimination of this population. Lastly, HRW traces hate-crime by terror organization such that of al-Qaeda to the kingdoms propagation of hate.  

Pakistan

Sources report negligence on the part of regional governments to meet a need for the seasonal increase in activity. Shia Muslims feel their operations have been “impeded” by lack of procedural security measures and basic access to electricity and local management.

Cases of prosecution due to allegedly “blasphemous”  social media posts continue in this nation. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom reports that 40 people are on life-sentences, some on death row, on charges of “blasphemy.” Trends of increased religious and ethnic minorities charged on the grounds of this law show that this law is used as a means of limiting expression and speech in the nation.  

Targeting of minority groups by extremist groups continues to rise. Shia Rights Watch demands a re-evaluation of Pakistan’s anti-terror efforts as they are misdirected and ineffective.

 

Malaysia

Government forces arrested 200 Iraqi Shia residents for attending Muharram commemoration. All arrestees are university students in Kuala Lumpur. They were released after Iraqi government pressured and criticized Malaysian authorities.  Historically Shia in Malaysia has been under pressure by the government as all Shia practices, publications and educational materials are banned in this country.

Afghanistan

An explosion in Kandahar kills six civilians on September 18. The nature of the crime point to Taliban insurgency.  Another explosion killed 10 and wounded 16 on September 29th as Shia prepared for Ashura commemoration in Kabul.

Shia in Afghanistan continue to be treated as second-class citizens as prosecution for anti-Shia groups are yet to take place. Shia frequently reports a systemic discrimination in hate-crime cases.

Shia Rights Watch demands a report on Afghan government’s efforts to reduce anti-Shiism and targeting of religious minorities as they remain ineffective.

India

Shia in India report feeling limited as government resources promised to them has been delayed. SRW sources report feelings of anger as people feel cheated for state services, particularly as they have kept will meet all government requirements and have respected local laws.

Moharram processions are a multicultural and multi-religious activities in India.

Egypt

The Religious Endowment Ministry closed the tomb of Imam Hussein on Saturday, to prevent any Shia Muharram commemorations. This center has been subject to closure before by the authorities in the past. Information on Shia in Egypt and the nation’s history of anti-Shiism can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org

Conclusion

The month of September stood witness to at least 517 cases of anti-Shiism. Shia Muslims continue to live in fear as they are ostracized in their home nations, and arrests of Shia activists and scholars proceed in the Gulf states and the surrounding countries.

Violations are expected to increase in October and November as Shia Muslims participate in Muharram commemorations. Activists and humanitarians who are standing up to the injustice are facing the backlash from governments and other principal actors. Shia Rights Watch calls for governments across the region to increase protections for Shia and other religious minorities and to reverse and stop all ill-treatment of these populations.

 




Incidents of Anti-Shiism in August, 2017

Scores of violations bear witness to the continued systematic targeting of the Shia Muslim population around the world. The breaches of human rights range from arrest and detainment to sexual abuse and torture in prisons, and as seen this month, mass execution.

Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bahrain had the most reported Shia rights violations in the month of August.

Shia Rights Watch (SRW) has compiled a list of the reported attacks that occurred in August, confirmed through extensive research and collaboration with Shia rights activists around the world. This report will detail instances both physical and psychological human rights violations, including deaths, injuries, sentencing, and tortures.

Further attacks and human rights violations may have occurred in other places; however, this list consists of the cases recorded by SRW researchers.

SRW acknowledges incidents often go unreported due high risks and fear of attack and further social discrimination.

Iraq

Iraq continues to be a haven for ISIS extremists, terrorist groups, and radical individuals.  Although less bombings and explosions were reported in August, causalities in this country are still high.

In the past, most causalities were due to explosions. However, that was changed in recent months in Iraq. Mass graves with unknown causes of death, gun men attacking individuals, the death of children due to malnutrition and killings by airstrikes have been increased.

The Iraqi army has pushed ISIS into cities like Tal Afar. The Islamic State is now consolidating power in Tal Afar, and Tal Afar remains the closest ISIS-controlled urban area the so-called caliphate that can be used to launch terror operations back into Mosul.

A mass grave was discovered in Tal Afar containing 80 bodies including children and women. As many as 163 people have been reported killed in this city alone in August.

Shia rights violations in other areas of the Iraq claimed at least 65 lives including the explosion in Sadr city on 28th that killed 14 and wounded 28. Death toll is expected to increase as many are critically injured.

Concerns over the safety of Shia and pilgrims are increasing as the month of Muharram is approaching, and millions will be visiting this country for pilgrimage.

A systemic re-evaluation of security measures must take place, ensuring the safety of travelers into and out of Iraq.

Bahrain

Shia rights violation is Bahrain is an ongoing concern of human rights NGOs. Torture, arrests, denial of basic rights of prisoners, and increased presence of government forces in Shia populated areas has been reported in August.

Abdel-Jabbar and Ahmed Mansoor, two teenagers detained were subjected to electric shocks while in detention at the Dawar 17 police station. Their families have reported seeing the teens in very concerning conditions on August 3rd. The teens were arrested on July 22nd as Bahraini authorities continue to arrest minors in peaceful protest.

Another human rights activist, Ebrahim Sarhan, stated being tortured, punched and kicked during interrogations at the National Security Agency office. He also shared that he was stripped down, and threatened.

On August 5th, another Shia, Al-Jamri, revealed that he was subjected to torture at the National Security Agency.

On August 17th, Bahraini authorities arrested another Shia cleric, Mohieldin Al-Mashaal. Al-Mashaal resides in Kuwait and has been subject to multiple harassments by Bahraini authorities since 2005. He was arrested on King Fahd Causeway, between Kuwait and Bahrain.  There is no update on his case as of August 17th.
Forces also attacked prisoners inside Jaw Prison on Tuesday night, 22nd, as detainees held religious ceremonies inside their cells. Some prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement as punishment.

On August 28th, the family of Hassan Mushaima revealed that Jaw prison’s administration continues to deprive him of his right to receive medical treatment.

The 65 years old English teacher and human rights activist was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison. In 2010, Mushaima was diagnosed and treated for stage four follicular lymphoma in London and had since been on regular medication to prevent relapse of the disease. SRW is concerned for the health of Hassan as depriving him of receiving his medical needs can result in death.

Pro-rights protests continue to be met with violence. In late August, the village of Sanabis was left in toxic smoke in reponse to the villagers demand of updates of the where-about of 11 women arrested in the past month.

Pakistan

At least 14 people have been killed and 26 injured in an explosion in a high-security neighborhood of Quetta on Saturday, August 12th.

Fear generated by attacks like this one has caused some Shia to avoid traveling alone. A group of pilgrims have taken shelter in Taftan near Pakistan/Iran borders since July. They have requested to be escorted by the security forces, but their application has not been granted yet.

Although Shia makes up at least one-third of Pakistani population, Shia face discrimination and live under psychological and physical torment. In the past five years, targeting of Shia individuals in prominent sects of society has increased. Shia Rights Watch predicts an aim of inducing fear in the Shia population in this nation as a means of limiting Shia expression.

 Saudi Arabia

Saudi Shia are undergoing the largest military crackdown in the history of this country. Although Shia has always been discriminated against in Saudi Arabia, recent crackdowns are happening publicly and the world stands witness in silence.

Al-Awamiyah has been under siege for the last couple months. Residence report their access to the internet and other communication means such as phone lines are either limited or under the direct control of the government. Main roads to hospitals and urgent care centers are blocked. Activists, protesters and journalists are repeatedly arrested, and detainees are tortured. Homes and businesses are demolished creating financial burdens and hardship for families. Saudi Shia are among low social economic status in the country despite living in the most oil rich areas of the Kingdom. Saudi activists shared, on social media, videos of government forces calling Shia “dogs” and “infidels” as they demolished Shia mosques.  Several Shia worship centers, including Hussainyat Um-Albanin, were damaged or totally destroyed as part of a military campaign against Shia in this country.

On August 14th, government sources sealed off al-Awamiyah completely. And on 16th they demolished 488 homes in al-Moswara, forcing home owners to leave the area.  Extensive examination of violence in al-Awamiyah can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.

Afghanistan

August was the deadliest month of the year so far as at least 124 Shia killed and hundreds wounded in three major attacks to the Shia and Hazara communities in this country.

Two suicide bombers attacked a Shia mosque in the western Afghan city of Herat on August 1, 2017. The attacks were reported to have killed as many as 29 individuals and wounded up to 64. Officials said there were at least two attackers: a suicide bomber, and a gunman who shot at worshippers as people gathered in Jawadia mosque for evening prayers at around 20:00 local time.

Another major attack killed 70 and wounded an unknown number of individuals in Mirza-Walang. On Friday, August 4, approximately 800 armed men launched a three pronged attack on a village in a remote mountainous region in north-central Afghanistan. Mirza Walang is a large and densely populated area in a strategic district called Sayyad in the province of Sar-e-Pul.  In a joint effort, ISIS and Taliban agents attacked the village at midnight. More than 1800 families were trapped and surrounded by the extremists. According to local activists, 80 people including women are reportedly taken hostage and transported to different regions.

Ethnically, Mirza-Walang is inhabited by Hazara who were very active in the war against the Soviets and the subsequent regimes installed by the Soviets.

The governor of the district, Sharif Aminyar, said. “Despite several demands for air support and special forces, the demands were ignored by central government,” he told the New York Times.On the 15th, three mass graves were discovered in the area containing bodies of more than 40 people including beheaded women and children. Families and friends gathered to honor the victims and bury their bodies the next day.

Afghan Shia were attacked again at Friday prayers on August 25th, by a suicide bombing followed by gunfire as they gathered at a mosque in Kabul. The attack killed at least 28 people and wounded 50. ISIS claimed responsibility.

Concerns for more human and Shia rights violation increased as President Trump announced, on August 21st, his plan to send more troops to Afghanistan. There are 8,400 US soldiers in this country, and another 4000 will join them based on the new plan. Trump said, “a hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan would leave a vacuum for terrorists to fill.” He said his original instinct was to pull US forces out but had instead decided to stay and “fight to win” – avoiding the mistakes made in Iraq.

On 22nd, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said Afghanistan would become a “graveyard” for the US troops. “If America doesn’t withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century,” he said.

The attack on the 25th to Shia community, two attacks on the 27th and 29th in Helmand and Kabul that killed 18 and wounded 27 others could be response to the US new strategies in Afghanistan.

More than 1,700 civilians have been killed in attacks in Afghanistan during first six months of 2017 according to UN, many of which belong to the minority Shia community.

On average, 4 Shia are killed (as of 28th) and tens are wounded on a daily basis in Afghanistan, making this country the most dangerous for Shia community in August.

Conclusion

The month of August stood witness to just over 367 deaths and an unknown number of injuries as a result of anti-Shiism. SRW estimates the mortality rate to increase as many of those injured were in critical condition and treated in areas with limited medical resources.

The increased incidents of anti-Shiism are consistent with those estimated in previous reports. Shia Muslims continue to live in fear as they are ostracized in their home nations. Arrests of Shia activists and scholars proceed in the Gulf states and the surrounding countries.

In Saudi Arabia, the siege in al-Awamiya continues, and hundreds of properties such as homes and businesses are either demolished or damaged.

Afghanistan has witnessed at least four major attacks on Shia mosques and communities killing more than 124 and wounding tens. SRW is concerned more killings, and attacks might take place as US government announced its new strategies including sending more troops to Afghanistan.

Shia Rights Watch calls for governments across the region to increase protections for Shia and other religious minorities and to reverse and stop all ill-treatment of these populations as the month of Muharram is approaching. Historically Shia rights violations increases during this month in all countries as this community mourn in large gatherings.




Incidents of Anti-Shiism in July, 2017

Monthly Analysis: July 2017

The 20 attacks that occurred in July left the Shia population in a position susceptible to human rights violations. Despite the overall decrease in casualties in July from June of 2017, 262 individuals were killed and 53 were wounded. These large numbers bare witness to the continued systematic targeting of the Shia Muslim population around the world. The violations of human rights range from arrest and detainment, to sexual abuse and torture in prisons, and as seen this month, mass execution.

Shia Rights Watch (SRW) has compiled a list of the reported attacks that occurred in July, confirmed through extensive research and collaboration with Shia rights activists around the world. This report will detail the reported instances both physical and psychological, including deaths, injuries, sentencing, and tortures.

The cases detailed have occurred across several countries including: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Further attacks and human rights violations may have occurred in other places, however, this list consists of the cases recorded by SRW researchers. Incidents often go unreported due high risks and fear of attack and/or further social discrimination.

Iraq

Fewer numbers of attacks and casualties have been reported in the month of July in Iraq. However, the casualties are much larger due to isolated massacres conducted by ISIS in small pockets of power such as Tal Afar and Hawija. Tal Afar witnessed a systematic massacre of 200 civilians on July 5th. Such an attack can be explained as a way to reassert ISIS’s dominance after their increasing losses in Mosul.

ISIS first declared Mosul its Islamic Caliphate in 2014, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the city on July 9 after the strenuous three-year battle for control on. The Iraqi army forced the group to retreat from the city, and has pushed ISIS into cities like Tal Afar. The Islamic State is now consolidating power in Tal Afar and it remains the closest ISIS-controlled urban area the so-called caliphate that can be used to launch terror operations back into Mosul.

To the southeast, the capital city of Baghdad witnessed seven attacks in July. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and adhesive explosive devices (AEDs) remain a reality in the city. This is a sharp decline from the twelve attacks in June which specifically targeted busy Shia areas. The cooling down of attack efforts may be attributed to the end of Ramadan, which ISIS claims to be the “holy month of Jihad.”

The end of Ramadan, paired with the drastic decline in Islamic State power, may be the cause of the decreased number of attacks against the Shia population in July. However, the massacre at Tal Afar provides a grim portrayal of how ISIS might continue to operate as it loses control in areas throughout Iraq and maintains its control over its remaining footholds.

Bahrain

The ethnic and religious backgrounds of Bahrain intertwine the political, economic, and social realms of influence. Bahrain is neighbored by the Middle East’s most prominent Muslim nations: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the west, the Islamic Republic of Iran to the north and east, and the State of Qatar to the southeast. The influence from these powerful neighbors, along with the unique history of the region, explicate the ethnic and religious composition of the country. While the exact religious demographics are still unknown and a highly contentious issue, it is estimated that of the Muslim population, roughly 70% are Shia and 30% Sunni. Despite this uneven divide, the government is ruled by a Sunni royal family, and a human rights dilemma has emerged out of this power dynamic. The cases reported in July displayed the continuation of human rights violations against Bahraini Shia Muslims and the relentless government pushback against rising humanitarian concerns.  

Prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab received a two-year sentence on July 10th after being accused of spreading ‘fake news’ about Bahraini authorities. This sentencing caused outrage by several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and came shortly after the release of Torture in Bahrain: A State Behavior & A Systematic Policy, a report condemning the torture of prisoners by five human rights organizations within Bahrain.

Yousef Ali Riza reported sexual harassment by guards in his prison cell on July 3rd, the same day that Ebtisam al-Saegh was detained the second time for government criticism on social media. Al-Saegh was previously held in May where she reported torture and sexual assault. She started an open-ended hunger strike on July 11th, but by the 25th she was reported to have lost eleven kilos. Further diagnosis of her health showed a fracture in her right arm sustained from previous torture.

Continued reports of human rights infractions demonstrate the need for reform in Bahrain’s treatment of prisoners and expose the need for global attention on this issue. The Bahraini authorities arrested Shia cleric Sheikh Hani al-Banaa’ while he was visiting his detained son in Dry Dock Prison on July 3rd. Al-Banaa’ was released after being held in the prison for nine days. Another prisoner, Hussein Mohamed Habib died on July 5th after being arrested and subjected to severe torture and abuse in prison in March 2011.

Unfortunately, mistreatment of Bahraini citizens extends from what has occurred in prisons. On July 20th in the northwestern coastal town of al-Budaiya, state troopers stormed the house of Sheikh Bashar al-Aali and arrested the cleric without providing any reasons. Another situation occurred in July 28th, where Bahraini authorities charged 60 Shia for forming a group against the king. These individuals were accused of “forming a terrorist group,” and show the continued suppression of government opposition.

In addition to the reprehensible treatment of prisoners, many Bahrainis have lost their citizenship. By July 8th, 103 people had citizenship revoked or denied during 2017. On July 22, the wife of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Deqaq lost her citizenship after refusing to spy on her husband. The denial and revoking of citizenship has seemingly become the way in which the Bahraini government suppresses their critics. Loss of citizenship in combination with the growing detention of human rights advocates and their ill-treatment while in prison reinforces the regime’s systematic crackdown on minority populations and Shia Muslims in the country.

Pakistan

Although less casualties have been reported in Pakistan since the end of Ramadan, the Shia minority feel no more secure. More than 2,000 Shia have been killed in Pakistan since 2002, and the incidents in July show this number continuing to rise. Groups like Lashkar-e-Jhagvi, an extremist Sunni militant group, have pledged: “all Shias are worthy of killing and the intention is to make Pakistan their graveyard,” according to an open letter they wrote to the Hazara people in Baluchistan.

           Recently, two Shia brothers were arrested without declared charges, rendering the arrests illegal. There has yet to be a statement, but the two brothers are under “enforced disappearance,” according to local activist.

Also, just 25 miles south of Quetta, in Baluchistan, a group of Hazara Shia were on their way to the port city of Karachi on July 19. A drive-by shooter pulled up and riddled their vehicle with bullets. Three men and one woman were killed.

The fear generated by attacks similar to this one have caused some Shia to avoid traveling alone. Even the government fears that people of the Islamic sect travel at their own peril. This July, around 1,000 Shia on their way back from pilgrimage from holy sites in Iran and Iraq found themselves unable to continue at the border between Iran and Pakistan in the border town of Taftan. The pilgrims found themselves with the option of having to continue through hostile territory that is extremely dangerous for Shia without protection. They refused, and the Pakistani government is currently rallying forces to send as escorts, but the effort is taking long. Conditions are breaking down, but the pilgrims would rather put up with the harsh environment than risk traveling through Pakistan unguarded.

Pakistan is growing increasingly dangerous to the livelihood of Shia Muslims. ISIS’s growing influence in Afghanistan is emboldening Pakistani Deobandi groups to act in likeness with ISIS’s cruelty. Their intention to annihilate the Shia population is daunting considering the Shia make up one third of Pakistan, but that’s not discouraging some from picking them off little-by-little. The Pakistani government needs to further engage this issue by implementing special protection in Shia-dominated towns like Quetta in Baluchistan. If neglected, the issue can easily find its footing on a slippery slope to sectarian violence.

Saudi Arabia

Al Awamiyah, in the Qatif region of eastern Saudi Arabia, remains a contentious town as Saudi forces maintain their siege. The town itself dates back to the Ottoman Empire 200 years ago, and the town’s historic center is being demolished. The constant raids have injured large numbers of civilians, and Saudi forces have responded to protests with a tight crackdown against its opposition.

The Kingdom carried out four executions of Shia Muslims for their participation in protests in Al Awamiyah.  This area has been under extreme lock-down since July 26th. 

The Shia population has been promised safe conduct of leave. Before, however, soldiers milled the streets firing at anyone walking by. Vehicles packed with luggage exited the city hanging white T-shirts as white flags with hopes that soldiers won’t fire upon said vehicle. A group of Asian migrants were forced to strip and lie on their stomachs in the middle of the street. Al-Musawarah, a neighborhood with structures dating back to the Ottoman Empire, is falling victim to Saudi bulldozers. 
Saudi raids continue in the region, as just days later, two men were shot and wounded on 11 July. On July 13th, a court in Saudi Arabia has postponed the trial of Shia cleric Sheikh Hussein al-Radhi over his pro-democracy comments as Riyadh presses ahead with its heavy-handed crackdown on members of the Shia community. In another raid on July 15th, Hassan Abdullah, Ja’far Mubayrik and ‘Saadiq Darvish were killed by Saudi forces.

Saudi troops, equipped with heavy weapons, attacked Al- Awamiyah town, damaging and destroying several homes, business and historical sites. Residence were asked to stay home while the government shut down their internet and phone lines. Two Shia reported killed during the attack on July 26th. Just four days later, three men were killed in a raid in a parking lot. On July 29th, Saudi snipers shot and killed Ali Mahdi al-Sobeiti and Hussain Abdullah al-Sobeiti on the road to an Awamiyah.

The Saudi Arabian Supreme Court upholds the death sentences of 14 Saudi Shia after an unfair mass trial and it is a worrisome reminder of the country’s lethal crackdown on dissent. Fourteen Shia waiting to be executed are following:

  1. Hussain Muhammd al-Muslim
  2. Muhammad Mansur al- Mansure
  3. Mustafa Ahmad Darwish
  4. Fazil Hussain Labbad
  5. Saeed Mihammad al-Sakafi
  6. Salman Amin al-Quraish
  7. Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat
  8. Muneer Abdulah al-Adam
  9. Abdulah Salman al-Sarih
  10. AbdulAziz Hassan al-sahwi
  11. Ahmad al-Rabia
  12. Ahmad Feisal al-Darwish
  13. Hussain Hassan al-Rabia
  14. Abdula Hani al-Tarif

The lack of proof of serious allegation is a serious development, as SRW, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International point out a sharp rise of death sentences for Shia Muslims carried out by the Kingdom.

Syria

The town of Hama was home to death of two Shia women and the injury of 11 others as a suicide bomber detonated his vest. Sources report the diffusion of two other bombs at the site. The bomb caused extensive damage to the Imam Muslim Mosque and a bus station nearby.

In 2017 alone, there have been over 240 deaths as a result of anti-Shiism. The attacks were propagated by anti-Shia extremists taking advantage of the social and political distress in the nation.

Nigeria

On Friday, 7 July, the Federal High Court in Nigeria rejected the suit of Shia cleric

Ibrahim Zakzaky. Zakzaky brought forth a suit through which he meant to sue the Nigerian government for $5.6 million in damages over a December 2015 attack in which the Nigerian government killed 347 Shia Muslims including Zakzaky’s three children in the city of Zaria in the northern state of Kaduna. The dead were then buried in a mass grave.

The Shia population is a small minority of the Muslim population. The demographics of all Nigeria include 50% Christians and 50% Muslims.

Afghanistan

A car filled with explosives rammed into a bus and detonated killing 24 people and wounding 40. The attack occurred near a prominent Shia cleric’s house, so it is unclear whether the bus was the actual target. June saw two other attacks targeting the Shia population.

The Hazara ethnic group make up a large portion of Afghanistan’s Shia population. For decades, the Hazara have been under attack by extremist organization and have lived a marginalized life. Increased attention is needed on the case of Hazara’s when addressing anti-Shiism in Afghanistan.

Kuwait

Late July, Kuwaiti officials suspended license for a locally operated Shia TV station, ceasing their operations. While Kuwait historically has displayed acceptance and inclusion for their Shia population, a recent increase in targeting of Shia media and scholars can be seen.

Shia Rights Watch in concerned of increasing actions limiting the freedom of speech in Kuwait.

Conclusion

The month of July stood witness to just over 260 deaths and with 53 injuries as a result of anti-Shiism. SRW estimates the death rate to increase as many of those injured were in critical condition and treated in areas with limited medical resources.

Shia Muslims continue to live in fear as they are ostracized in their home nations, and arrests of Shia activists and scholars continue in the Gulf states and the surrounding nations. The increased incidents of anti-Shiism are consistent with those estimated in previous reports. With arrests and ill-treatment of prominent activists such as Ibtissam al-Saegh and Nabeel Rajab, anti-shiism remains as strong as ever.  

In Saudi Arabia, the siege in al-Awamiya continues. Despite international efforts, the death count continues to rise. Many of those killed by government shootings are women, children, and immigrant workers. Activists and humanitarians are standing up to the injustice, but are facing the backlash from governments and other major actors. Shia Rights Watch calls for governments across the region to increase protections on Shia and other religious minorities, and to reverse and stop all ill-treatment of these populations. SRW urges the Saudi government to reverse their sentences condemning fourteen protesters of the al-Awamiya raids to death. Shia Rights Watch demands the release of all pro-democracy activists and religious scholars in the Gulf nations. Further, Shia Rights Watch condemns the siege on Awamiya and warns of the dangers of continued marginalization in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and across the region.