2017 Annual Report

2017 Annual Report

2018 marks the 7th anniversary of Shia Rights Watch. Over the past seven years, our organization and our team have grown from a Washington, DC-based minority rights group to an internationally renowned institution active in both the United Nations and the International community.
Our qualitative and quantitative research and development teams work together to present unique tools to mediate religious conflict and systematic discrimination of minority groups all over the world. Our organization offers holistic data to promote peace-building endeavors in both regional governments and grassroots entities with the hopes of one day reducing prejudice against religious minority communities.
Shia Rights Watch’s dedicated team of volunteers work strenuously to make sure incidents of Shia Rights violations are documented meticulously and are profiled such that they can be used in the prosecution of anti-Shiism in the high courts. Our team members prioritize humanitarian action, putting their utmost effort into holding SRW accountable.
In 2018, Shia Rights Watch has trained a team of researchers and conflict resolution practitioners in the creative facilitation of dialogue and outreach, allowing them to exceed their geographical and social limitations. Given the technological and informational advancements of our times, Shia Rights Watch believes in a global community in which time and location are continuous.
Each year, we look back to our past work and think of ways to develop tools that would help the global community to either prevent or confront Shia rights violations. Our organization aims to sponsor, mediate and facilitate dialogue between the Shia community and their governments, giving them autonomy to design a strategy that would allow their society and state to work hand in hand towards building an environment free of violence.
I am proud of our team and encourage anyone who can help to join the Shia Rights Watch team, and use their creativity, momentum, and ambition towards building a global community that lives in peace, respect, and acceptance.

Mustafa Akhwand
Executive Director of Shia Rights Watch

Beside moral obligation, human rights and democracy are the essential foundations of secure and functioning societies. Safe countries are ones with the most productive politicians, prosperous economies, satisfied citizen and successful developments. Therefore advancing liberty, honoring human rights and dignity, and global prosperity through reciprocal respect between governments and their constituents are a must.
The Shia Rights Watch monthly and annual reports demonstrate the scope of on-going Shia rights violations and the need for immediate international commitment to stop and prevent anti-Shiism. Violence prevention can lead to a more stable and safer society in which people can reach their full potentials.
Shia Rights Watch reports are meant to provide policymakers, journalists, human rights activists and prospective researchers with an accurate accounting of Shia rights violations in different parts of the world. This NGO also hopes these reports will help governments, civil society leaders, campaigners, and individuals reflect on the state of human rights in their countries and work to promote accountability for violations and abuses.
Human rights are where interest and values meet, not only to serve nations but to make them safer places.

Hawraa Zakery
Researcher and Human Rights Advocate


The world has gone through significant changes during 2017. Changes have been predominantly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and are inclusive of, but not limited, to the following:
● Kurds considered minorities within Iraq and Syria declared independence referendum.
● Saudi Arabian prince Mohammad bin Salman reformed the hierarchy of the kingdom by launching anti-corruption committee, threatening and arresting a number of princes and businessmen. This nation also promised historically unknown freedoms for Saudi women.
● Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, abandoned Qatar by cutting all relations with this country.
● Unnecessary and on-going Saudi-led war in Yemen killed on average 100 civilians each month according to the United Nations and resulted in the outbreak of cholera in Yemen.
● ISIS has lost ground in Syria and Iraq which is a great victory but suggests the expansion of ISIS to a new shelter in neighboring countries .
These events may have happened independently of each other, but together they represent a powerful shift in politics of the region. A change in power has profound effects on minority groups.
For the sake of this report, and to keep the focus on Shia Muslims, we look at some of the significant changes in the countries in which Shia Muslim rights violations has become a growing concern.

Countries of Concern are countries in which Shia Muslim rights violations have been reported over the past decade. Nations with temporally and systematically prolonged abuses are listed under Countries of Concern (CC), and countries with sporadic incidents of violence are listed under Watch List (WL).
Countries of Concern: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Watch List: Algeria, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Lebanon, Madagascar, Nigeria, Turkey, United Kingdom.
Nations listed under CC and WL are monitored in frequency and severity of violations in an ongoing database, which is used to suggest policy measures to governmental and non-governmental peacekeeping endeavors.
This annual report reviews anti-Shiism in each of these countries and suggests analyses to understand trends of violation better and take measures to prevent future incidents.

Reduction of Anti-Shiism?

Although restrictions and political pressure continue in some countries, the overall number of fatalities published in 2017 has decreased compared to previous years. SRW is happy to share with its members and audience that their advocacy, support, consultations, and representation in the United Nations along with cooperation and hard work of other human rights NGO’s and entities have resulted in more awareness of Shia Muslim minority around the world.
Although the loss of one life is way too many, any reduction of violation and causality is good news. Shia Muslims, in a noticeable number of countries, enjoy more freedom and safety. Shia Muslims of Oman, Kuwait, and Azerbaijan have reported feeling safer than before compared to many neighboring countries. Even Iraq had fewer casualties than previous years.
As a human rights NGO, there is always a concern that reduction in numbers could be as the result of systematic neglect of media outlets toward this population. However, the overall living standards, satisfaction and freedom of expression and religion of Shia Muslims have improved as per local activists and grassroots interviews. SRW continues to advance human rights availability and enhances the lives of all humankind, especially those isolated by repressive governments.

Highlights of the year

The following are some of the episodes that have directly affected the life of Shia Muslims in 2017.

Saudi Arabia: First Military Crackdown of Shia Muslim

Although Shia Muslim rights’ violations have been reported in this country, in the past, most violations took place behind closed doors. The first quarter of 2017 was an eventful and unfortunate time for Saudi Shia Muslims as national forces openly attacked and seiged Shia Muslim towns and cities, arrested peaceful protestors, and limited resources to this population.
Such crackdown did not stop, however, midway through the year, launches of anti-corruption committee shifted the news’ focus from anti-Shia Muslim activities to the arrests of multi-millionaires such as Prince al-Waleed Bin Talal, the world’s wealthiest individuals. Shia Muslim violations are hardly covered by news agencies, and new changes in politics took away the very little that was included.
Mohammad bin Salman also promised to give more freedom to women, allowing them to drive, obtain a driver license without their male guardians’ permission, and to attend sports games. Women rights activist are thrilled with the new promises and changes that result in social and political participation for women. However, there is no sign of more freedom for other minorities in the kingdom. Local activists report more freedom for women could be a cover up for many violations happening within the nation.

Bahrain: Civilians Try in Military Court!

In a historic decision, on April 2017, Bahrain’s king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, approved a constitutional amendment to Article 105(b) of Bahrain’s constitution granting military courts the right to try civilians. Military courts in Bahrain were previously limited to prosecuting members of the armed forces or other branches of the security services and could only try civilians under a state of emergency. Under the new amendment, the courts have the power to prosecute any civilian accused of threatening the security of the country.
As a result any pro-democracy movement, critique of the king, and assemblies to demands equality and right are considered “threatening,” activists, who happen to be mainly Shia Muslims, will be tried in military courts.
Although this amendment took place in 2017, in 2011, seven men went on trial in a military court as the country’s first-ever civilians to be tried before such court. SRW believes the Bahraini government has gone out of its way to ratify anti-Shiism into its laws.

Afghanistan: ISIS and Taliban Hand in Hand

In an unusual cooperation between Taliban and ISIS, on August 4th, 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 were reportedly taken a hostage and transported to different regions.
The governor of the district, Sharif Aminyar, told The New York Times, “Despite several demands for air support and special forces, the demands were ignored by central government.” . On the 15th of August, three mass graves were discovered in the area containing bodies of more than 40 people including beheaded women and children.
Although there are many similarities between ISIS and Taliban, these two groups have not publically collaborated in the past. Since ISIS has lost ground in Syria and Iraq, the fear of them looking for new shelter has raised.
Lack of local governmental support to Shia Muslims, in addition to the existence of Taliban created the environment in which ISIS could find a haven, and that is worrisome for both Shia and their rights activists.

Pakistan: New Fears

The insecurity and lack of protection of Pakistani Shia Muslim once again manifested in the year 2017. Beside ongoing targeted attacks, roadside shootings and explosion, fear of increased anti-Shiism interrupted the life of Pakistani Shia. This July, approximately 1,000 Shia, on their way back from a pilgrimage from holy sites in Iran and Iraq, found themselves unable to continue at the border between Iran and Pakistan in the town of Taftan. The pilgrims preferred to put up with the harsh environment at the border than risk traveling through Pakistan unguarded as historically many buses were attacked in similar situations.
Facing so much insecurity and lack of governmental support either prevents Pakistanis from attending pilgrimages or creates more fear and disturbance in their lives.
In the past year, Pakistani Shia Muslims took to display their power by peacefully protesting their concerns. Incited by the increased frequency of violence, civilians voiced their needs and worries.

Africa, New Home for both Shia Muslim and Anti-Shia Muslim

Africa is the most recent target of anti-Shia groups as it is home to the fastest growing Shia Muslim population. In countries such as Nigeria and Madagascar, Shia Muslim leaders have been attacked, their education centers been raided, and Shia security threatened. As the Shia Muslim population grows in this part of the world, SRW’s concern of establishment of anti-Shia Muslim groups grows too. More importantly, as ISIS is losing ground in Syria and Iraq, Africa could become a safe haven for this terror group and their supporters.
Now that this continent has opportunities for both groups to grow, it is vital that Shia Muslim populations take measured to be safe and to create rapport and collaborate with local authorities to prevent possible violations.

Dangerous Associations

Shia Muslims are citizens of different countries of the world and come from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, political views, etc. In the past it was to the benefit of the local governments to associate Shia Muslims to Iran, and as a result, withdraw their support from their Shia population.
SRW has published a number of articles, presentations and informative sessions to educate the international committees about the falsehood and danger of such association. Shia Muslims are not dependent on any governments. Governments and international committees have to separate the general Shia Muslim public from specific groups with political agendas. SRW requests that all international entities, governments, scholars, and researchers distinguish the general Shia Muslim population from any specific government, political or militant group. Shia Muslim have strong citizenship manners as honoring and respecting their country and law are part of their faith requirements.

There has yet to be an accurate account of the Shia Muslim population. Their numbers are unknown. Shia, no matter where they live, have been a targeted minority. Whether discriminated against by their governments, local or international terrorist groups, or individual extremists, this population keeps a low profile as a survival mechanism. As a result, there is no country in which the quantity of Shia Muslims is known.
This article intends to offer a fresh look at this population.
The Middle East is home to 24% of the global population and all countries in the Middle East are Muslim nations. The total population of the Middle East is estimated to be 218 million. A lack of information fuels belief that the majority of the Middle Eastern population, all countries combined, are non-Shia. However, that claim is inaccurate.
More than 120 million people live in Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain, all of which are majority Shia Muslim populated. Take note Shia exist in other countries as minority populations. If we were to add the probability of Shia existing as minorities to nations in which they exist as the majority, the Middle East would comprise more than 50% Shia Muslims.
Based on the population of Shia Muslims in majority in the aforementioned nations, more than 50% of the Middle East are Shia. It is accurate to say this region of the world, in general, is a Shia Muslim majority area. Regardless of leadership, this group is the number one most killed, arrests, tortured, pressured and interrogated in their homelands and elsewhere.
In other words, in the Middle East, Shia Muslim are the majority in numbers but a minority in rights.


Anti-Shiism: Trends, Numbers and Locations

To view trends of anti-Shiism, SRW has collected data on cases of direct, systematic and cultural violence against Shia Muslims. Anti-Shiism is defined as the ac

tive targeting of Shia Muslims to limit their visibility and expression. SRW emphasizes that Shia Muslims are constituents of all nations around the world, and thus data is international. Information in regards to the case of anti-Shiism is collected by local respondents, self-reports, and through international news sources.
The year 2017 stood witness to a total of 6,388 cases of anti-Shiism in the nations of Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Madagascar, Algeria, and Nigeria. It is important to note that Shia rights abuses listed in this report are a summary of incidents that have reached SRW. Violations are not limited to those in this report. Further, cases of cultural discrimination or the isolation of Shia individuals are qualitative data that was not highlighted in this report.
More information can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.
The nature of violations is specific to each nation. Types of violence include, but are not limited to death by unnatural means, injury via malice, abduction, arrests, limitation in religious expression and congregation, all of which are detailed in the sections below.

NOTE: Nations below are presented in alphabetical order.


Amidst conflict in Afghanistan, Shia Muslims live in peril. Anti-Shiism propagates in the nation by the extremist organization and systematic discrimination. Terror groups such as the Taliban and ISIS continue to target Shia centers of education and religious practice. Passenger vehicles carrying Shia pilgrims to and from major holy sites in and out of Afghanistan are also identified and targeted. Within the first half of 2017, the United Nations reports 1,700 Shia civilians have been killed as a result of anti-Shia sentiment.
Attacks are mediated to allow for mass exposure. They occur mainly during holy months and in crowded areas. The month of Ramadhan stood witness to the extensive targeting of Shia mosques and centers. Previous to Ramadhan, in a speech, ISIS leaders renounced Shia, called for their cleansing and promoted the month of Ramadhan as the best month for anti-Shia action.
Attacks in Afghanistan have centered mainly Shia populated areas of Kandahar, Baluchistan, Kabul, Mirza Olang, and Tala was Barfak.
The single most gruesome incident of anti-Shiism was in late December when ISIS affiliates detonated three consecutive IED’s in a building in west Kabul. The date coincided with the anniversary of USSR invasion of Afghanistan. Over 50 people were killed, and 84 were injured when the first bomb exploded in the basement of the building, where a Shia center of the congregation was located.
In addition to increased direct violence from terror groups, the lack of prosecution of previous acts of anti-Shiism continue. The government fails to provide security for Shia populated areas, and despite advocacy, Shia Muslims are treated as second-class citizens. Ethnic groups such as the Hazara are discriminated against due to their religious identity.


Pilgrims traveling home from a trip to Iraq for the annual Arbaeen ritual were detained upon entrance to the country. Sources report over 400 Shia Algerians were treated in a discriminatory fashion, harshly investigated and forced to wait long hours for a two week period following Arbaeen. Religious material such as prayer stones, prayer books, and attire were seized by government forces.
Such a scale of anti-Shiism was new for this country. However, this incident may be the first sign of systematic anti-Shia sentiments.
History of Shiism in Algeria reaches back to the Middle Ages when the western region of the nation was a segmented ruled by the Idrisid Dynasty. Among the immigrated Shia Muslims are native Ismaili Shia Muslims with roots in Kutama Berbers who converted to Shiism in 909 CE.


In 2017, crackdowns against freedom of religion and expression continued leading to the detainment and even death of native Bahraini Shia.
Despite government aims of deterrence, the house arrest of Shiekh Isa Qasim has incited more protest among Shia communities. Sheikh Qasim was revoked of citizenship in 2016 and now is limited to the confines of his home in Diraz. The single most incident of arrests occurred in May, two days after Sheikh Qasim was convicted, security forces raided Sheikh Qasim’s home and arrested 286 protesters called upon the government to free Sheikh Qasim. By reports of the Interior ministry, five were killed as well.
Post-2011, Bahraini Shia has taken to the streets in protest of their lack of representation in legal affairs. Bahrain is comprised of a majority Shia population but is led by a minority non-Shia group. In addition to lack of representation, Shia in Bahrain is limited in expression and freedom of congregation. Human rights activists report a systematic slowing of internet speeds, cutting off phone lines as well as limitations in travel. In 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, a holy month for Shia Muslims. Religious centers such as the al- Sadiq Mosque in Diraz continue to be banned in attendance and congregation.
In 2017, news of sexual violence against detainees and prisoners raged. In May, human rights activist Ebtissam al-Saegh reported torture and sexual assault while in detainment. Later, on July 3rd, Yousef Ali Riza said being sexually harassed by guards in his prison cell. Prisoners are held and treated in the worst of conditions. In August, Abdel-Jabbar and Ahmed Mansoor, two minors detained were subjected to electric shocks while in detention at the Dawar 17 police station. Ebrahim Sarhan, an activist, was tortured, punched and kicked while being interrogated. Sarhan was stripped down and threatened as well. Detainees report being treated with malice and prevented in the most basic right of medical care.
Those arrested face maltreatment to a record extent. 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. Local respondents report fast failing health of hunger strikers. Ebtissam al- Saegh says losing over 7 Kilos, 15.4 lb, of weight in the first few weeks of her detainment.
Not only are those held unlawfully mal-treated, but families of activists and critics of the Bahraini government are also harassed. In numerous cases were close relatives of humanitarian activists, even those living outside of the Bahraini Kingdom, called upon and tortured, being used as leverage upon critics of the restrictive Bahraini policies.
Despite international humanitarian efforts, trends of anti-Shiism continue as before in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Dialogue among activists and the government is practically nonexistent, and violence progresses.


Attacks on Shia Muslims continued in 2017 as terror organizations targeted Shia populated areas. Although overall violence in Iraq is high as a result of ISIS activity, Shia Muslims have primarily been targeted by their religious identity. A high proportion of the attacks recorded have occurred in the capital of the nation, Baghdad. Baghdad is home to an explosion per day. Attacks carried out are in commercial areas such as shopping centers and marketplaces in the form of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s). The most significant incident of anti-Shiism was in May in the city of Karrada. Two bombs were detonated, one in an ice cream parlor and another near a government building during rush hour. The explosions resulted in the death of over 80 civilians and injury in 50 others.
On average, an IED is detonated in Baghdad. One local states, “We are never sure if we will return home from the simplest of trips; even going to the market is a risk.” A substantial majority of explosions occur in popular shopping centers and civilian areas. Attacks are coordinated to be the busiest times to guarantee the most number of casualties. Furthermore, bombs are detonated consecutively to target not only people in specific areas but also aid workers.
Shia populated areas of Iraq lack sufficient security. Despite the recognized trend of attack prominence in densely Shia populated areas, the Iraqi government has yet to manage said areas and adequately reduce violence. Iraq is home to prominent Shia holy sites, and thus must be able to guarantee the safety of pilgrims.
Dangers of increased attacks exist as a result of a decrease in geographical ISIS stronghold. As per SRW analysis, civilian targets have grown with the decline in ISIS power. Iraq continues to be a haven for ISIS extremists, terrorist groups, and radical individuals. Although fewer bombings and casualty numbers seem lower than 2016, Iraq is far from safe for the Shia minority.
In the second half of 2017, a high frequency of mass graves was discovered. These graves hold the bodies of hundreds of civilians killed as a result of direct violence. Bodies may also be of those reported as injured or with undiscovered trauma. Medical research shows that many of those recovered displayed signs of extreme malnutrition. SRW notes that the death count of those found in mass graves was not initially in reported death counts. Further, SRW warns the trend of reduced casualty count in Iraq may be a result of unreported death.


Due to the islands vast resources, prominent Shia businesses have set grounds in Madagascar. In the past five years, two incidents of anti-Shiism have been seen, the second of which was in 2017.
Yanish Ismail was kidnapped and held for ransom by 14 armed assailants on his way back from a funeral.
The Ismail family have since paid the ransom and have left Madagascar due to the nation’s lack of security. Due to the island nations lack safety for Shia Muslims, Shia businesses and investors have reduced their business ventures in this country, substantially affecting the economic development of the nation.


In September 2017, Malaysian authorities arrested 200 Iraqi Shia Muslim students from Kuala Lumpur as they attended a Muharram commemoration. The authorities also arrested the Iraqi ambassador along with his wife and children. All arrestees were released after diplomatic interference. Malaysia banned all Shia Muslim related activities and publications year ago, but this time they did not even respect diplomatic immunity that this group had within the Iraqi embassy.
Despite Malaysia’s rich cultural diversity, tolerance for Shia Muslims is nonexistent. Shia Muslims are not recognized as a religious entity and their practices are considered unlawful. Fueled by anti-Shia education, marginalization of Shia muslims increases day by day. Due to the lack of recognition by the nation’s constitution, Shia Muslims are left without facets to pursue justice. Anti-Shia incidents in 2017 point to an increase in structural and direct violence against this population by the nation’s authority.


In the past five years, Nigeria has displayed exponential growth in its native Shia Muslim population. However, along with it, extremism and anti-Shia sentiment have also grown. Governmental forces have repeatedly targeted Shia Islamic centers in the Kunduna region. In continuance with the arrest and detainment of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky in 2015, the Nigerian government continues to limit expression and aims to contain the Shia community. Zakzaky and his wife were ordered to be released by the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court
however the couple is yet to be freed. The court also awarded them 50 million NGN (Equivalent to approximately 138,500 USD) and a temporary residence. There has been no regulatory compliance with the court’s ruling.
In late December, sources reported Zakzaky has lost vision in his left eye entirely and is losing sight in his right eye. Since their violent detainment in 2015, Zainab Zakzaky still has a bullet lodged in her chest. Despite him and his wife’s deteriorating health, medical attention is restricted.
Letters of appeals were sent to President Buhari calling on him to “embrace peace and obey the laws of the land” as he had asked Shia Muslims to do in his 2017 New Year’s message by Femi Falana, the Zakzaky’s lawyer. Falana further called the government’s lack compliance to the court’s ruling as a sign of a “weak state.”


Shia in Pakistan is among the highest tier of society. A significant portion of Pakistan’s professional is of the Shia faith. Despite their political, economic and social success, Shia in Pakistan remains targeted for their faith. Terror organizations identify and target officials who identify as Shia, killing them and their close associates.
In addition to targeting individuals, Shia populated areas are home to violence. Shia education and religious centers are also targeted. Anti-Shia sentiment is apparent in attacks in Pakistan as they take place in Shia majority locations of the main cities. The incidents stand in support of anti-Shia beliefs that Shia individuals are not Muslims and are seen as unworthy of fundamental human rights.
Terror organizations remain proactive in Pakistan. Groups like Lashkar-e-Jhagvi (Lej), an extremist 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. Organizations such as Tehreek-i-Taliban (TeT) and Lej have killed over 2500 Shia Muslims in Pakistan.
Attacks orchestrated are sporadic yet detrimental. Over the span of 2017, there have been a handful of significant explosions that have killed and injured over 100 civilians. These attacks are mainly in religious places of worship as well as religious education centers.
The fear generated by attacks similar to this one has caused some Shia to avoid traveling alone. Even the government fears that people of the Islamic sect travel at their peril. In July 2017, around 1,000 Shia on their way back from a 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 have requested to be escorted by the security forces, but their application has not been granted yet.
Sources report negligence on the part of the regional governments. Shia Muslims feel their operations have been “impeded” by lack of procedural security measures and primary access to electricity and local management.
Although Shia makes up at least one-third of the 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.
The lack of government response to anti-Shiism in the form of prosecution points to existing systematic discrimination against the Shia population. With close analysis, one can see a trend of authority involvement after cases of anti-Shiism, and that in response to immense and widespread Shia protests.
Furthermore, not only does the Pakistani government fail to carry out due procedure, new laws such as the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act of 2016 allows for prosecution of allegedly “blasphemous” social media posts. 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 regulation is used as a means of limiting expression and speech in the nation.
Shia populations are most dense in geopolitically essential areas of Pakistan and chaos in those regions create regional distress. Thus, despite their social isolation, Shia individuals hold great power for influence. In early July, after a protest in response to twin Parachinar terror attacks, provincial governor Iqbal Zafar distributed the equivalence of 5,000 USD to those injured in the bombings and approximately 9,000 USD to families with lost loved ones on behalf of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Reparations distributed were in response to occurring protests. Although there is substantial discrimination against Shia Muslims, the Pakistani government realizes growing dissent in Shia populated areas results in regional instability and can lead to increased foreign involvement in the nation.

Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is home to significant shifts in politics and economy as of 2017. With the rise of Mohammad bin Salman as the crown prince, Saudi Arabia continues to undergo a claim of modernization of the Kingdoms rights system. Bin Salman led an “anti-corruption” committee by which over 11 Saudi Princes and officials were arrested. Many hoped bin Salman would pave the way for intergroup dialogue within the nation and possibly even lead to reduced anti-Shiism. However, 2017 in Saudi Arabia consisted of everything but reduced religious discrimination.
In late June, Saudi forces seized the town of Awamiya. Entrances to the city were closed, and discriminatory bullets and mortar rockets were shot damaging existing infrastructure. The government claimed aims of renovating the area. However, violence exhibited towards residents suggests otherwise. The al-Musawarah neighborhood, home to historical structures dating back to the Ottoman empire has been mostly demolished by soldiers. Demolition of homes and businesses has led to a shortage of water, electricity and gas supply. Residents state that renovation in other sections of the nation did not require demolition and claimed the government had targeted Awamiya to limit Shia activities. Later in May, the government changed rhetoric from “restoration” to “anti-terrorism” to justify the use of arms.
In addition to damages in infrastructure, systematic use of violence against town residents has to lead to the death of over ten people and the arrest of numerous others. Passage of public service vehicles such as ambulances endangered the life of residents. In multiple cases, bodies of residents shot were left on the street, locals state. One resident reports, “No one has been able to leave their houses to go to work, school or even get food as people are afraid to move” because of the numerous armored tanks and forces that roam the town. By mid-June, snipers shot upon civilians wounding over 40 civilians, many of which were women and children. By August 2017, over 488 homes and hundreds of businesses were destroyed.
For decades, Shia Muslims have lived as second-class citizens in their native Saudi land. Despite ongoing systemic violence and years of repression, the occupation of Awamiya was the first official act of direct violence. While Shia Muslims report living under a “glass-ceiling” by which their professional and economic advancements are limited by their religious identity, 2017 witnessed the first significant government operation in mass destruction of Shia residential areas. Furthermore, the lack of humanitarian engagement in the occupation of Awamiya is worrisome. Despite the demolition of major historically S

hia regions and the arrest and torture of residents, the international community watched in silence.
Across Saudi Arabia, over 100 people have been arrested. Due to the indiscriminately violence against the Shia population, 51 have been killed, and 64 others have been wounded. A significant number of those killed and injured are women and minors amidst crackdowns in Awamiya.
Figure 1. displays trends of anti-Shiism in Saudi Arabia in 2017. June stood witness to the highest number of violence in correspondence to the seizure of Awamiya.
The majority of deaths and injury came from snipers perched upon buildings who shot at passersby. The lack of medical resources in the town augmented death tolls post-violence. As the entrance and exits of the city were restricted, ambulances were prevented from entering the city. Further, aid was precluded to those injured as people feared going out of their homes.
Arrests took place concurrent with the seizure of Awamiya as troops ransacked the area and targeted activists in the region.
The second most frequencies of anti-Shiism occurred in October. Muharram, a month by which Shia Muslims take to commemorate the death of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, fell parallel to October. SRW notes that because Muharram has the largest congregation frequency, terror organizations use this time to target the a large number of Shia Muslims.
Compared to previous years, death tolls in Saudi Arabia were high, pointing to an augmentation of violence against Shia individuals. As seen in figure 2. 22% percent of violations were deaths, and 27% were injuries sustained from government violence.
The term “other” consists of illegal raids and setting of personal property on fire as forms of coercion and induction of fear. Threats to family members and loved ones were also included in the “other” category of anti-Shia violations.



There is a fine line between human rights and political benefits. Politics are to serve people of nations; human rights are to ensure their dignity and humanity. Despite international efforts to merge the two, politics and human rights remain polar, to a certain degree. As a result, politics is left for governments to manage and rights are left for citizens to demand.
Shia Muslims, with their long history of nonviolence, impactful contributions to science, humanity, economy and social good, have always been attacked. Discrimination towards Shia Muslims is not because of their faith or religion, but because this population stands up for justice and calls out prejudice. They demand rights and dignity, not only for themselves but all.
SRW invites the readers to pay particular attention to the location of anti-Shiism, in fact not only anti-Shiism but the area in which most human rights violations take place. Countries with limited democracy, governments that prioritize power over leadership, societies in which higher education is a privilege rather than a right, and nations with a high number of unemployment have the most human rights violations. In such communities, Shia Muslims and their pro-democratic actions are considered “threats to national security.” Shia Muslim who live in free countries, in which their dignity is valued and have freedom of religion and speech, are prosperous and peaceful educators, businessmen and women, social-good contributors and more. As an example, there has not been a single terrorist action carried by a Shia Muslim in Europe and America.
Therefore, SRW highlights that Shia Muslim is not killed or discriminated against because they cause problems with their ideologies or practices, but they are neglected because they believe in the power of humankind and openly invite all to take part in making their societies a better and more welcoming place.

From SRW to Shia Muslims:

SRW recognizes the decades of ongoing conflict Shia Muslims have had to endure. Shia Muslims all over the world face direct, systemic and cultural discrimination by their religion. SRW believes the first front against human rights violations. Hence, SRW promotes the use of dialogue and peaceful protests as a means of raising awareness against oppression. * Shia Muslims must first build an active, educated and aware populace that promotes justice and condemns anti-Shiism.
* Minority groups have the right to demand equality in their communities. However, SRW warns against the use of violence to demand rights. At its core, Shia Islam denounces violence while encouraging education and peace-building endeavors.
* SRW encourages active participation of Shia Muslims in their nations legislative process such to show active citizenship.
* Further, Shia Muslims must contact their national officials volunteering participation in dialogues and planning that directly, and indirectly effects their communities.
Ways to become directly involved in the ongoing peace-building projects can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.

From SRW to Leaders and Governments:

* SRW invites governments and Shia Muslim leaders to take steps towards building a better rapport and mutual respect.
* We further encourage taking advantage of nonviolence and peaceful approaches Shia Islam offers to create communities in which people from all faith, ethnicity, religion, color, and background live happy and productive lives.
* Shia Muslims and their governments must rebuild broken bridges, re-establish trust and open communication avenues.
* Attacks against Shia Muslims are dense on religious occasions such as Ramadhan and Moharram, and that in religious centers. Protection of major Shia centers on religious occasions can reduce the casualty count significantly.
* SRW invites governments to allocate resources and management to the protection of Shia Muslims ,especially in these two holy months.
* Further, SRW encourages the co-creation of security plans by both Shia Muslims and their governments. Cooperation between Shia Muslims and their policy makers instills trust in both parties and thus can lead to long-term positive social change. While state leaders are the official decision-makers in the nation, Shia Muslims are targets of a significant portion of violence.

* SRW calls for a unity of command in planning of security measures, and a unity of effort by which national officials and Shia Muslims constituents both carry out measures to reduce violence.
* This NGO also invites governments to establish relationships with their Shia Muslim communities through their leaders and Marja’. Marja means “source to imitate/follow” or “religious reference,” is a title given to the highest level Shia leaders. Maraji’ (plural of marja) are influential resources within the Shia communities, thus they can be a great source of encouragement for human rights involvement.
* We invite governments to free political prisoners and treat detainees with fairness as a sign of their intention to rebuild healthy relationships with their Shia Muslim constituents.
Respect to rights enhances life for all: Shia Rights Watch wishes for 2018 to be a peaceful year for all humankind.



International Religious Freedom 2016 Report- Shia Rights Violations

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor International Religious Freedom released their 2016 Report detailing human rights violations, including some of what Shia face around the world.

At Shia Rights Watch (SRW) we welcome this report and the attention given to the important issue of human right. Shia Rights Watch hopes to see more detailed report in following years with more collaboration between State Department and right NGOs.

We believe highlighting minority rights in such reports will raise attention to these groups and result in more international effort to recognize and protect human rights of all.

Saudi Arabia

Shia clerics and activists who advocated for equal treatment of Shia Muslims were arrested, and the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr was executed after being convicted on a number of charges including inciting terrorism and sedition.

The government convicted and imprisoned individuals on charges of apostasy, blasphemy, violating Islamic values and moral standards, insulting Islam, black magic, and sorcery. A pattern of prejudice and discrimination against Shia Muslims continued to occur with respect to access to public services and equitable representation in government, educational and public-sector employment opportunities, and judicial matters.

There were attacks during the year targeting Shia worshipers.

On July 4, there were two attacks, one in Medina against the Prophet’s Mosque, a holy site for both Sunnis and Shia, and the other in Qatif.

On January 29, suicide attackers killed four and wounded 18 in an attack on Shia al-Ridha Mosque in al-Ahsa province.

Authorities arrested Shia clerics and activists who advocated for equal treatment of Shia Muslims, and one Shia cleric was executed after being convicted of numerous charges including inciting terrorism and sedition.

Authorities continued to engage in instances of prejudicial treatment and discrimination against Shia Muslims with respect to access to public services, equitable representation in government, educational and public-sector employment opportunities, and judicial matters.

Authorities have arrested more than 1,000 Eastern Province Shia since 2011 in connection with public protests demanding greater rights for Shia. Shia Muslim groups that track arrests and convictions of Shia reported more than 300 persons remained in detention in prisons throughout Eastern Province and others remained subject to travel bans. Most were held on charges involving nonviolent offenses, including participating in or publicizing protests on social media, inciting unrest in the country, and insulting the king.

Shia mosques were generally required to use the Sunni call to prayer, including in mixed neighborhoods of both Sunni and Shia residents.

The government neither recognized nor financially supported several centers of Shia religious instruction located in the Eastern Province; it did not recognize certificates of educational attainment for their graduates or provide them employment benefits, which the government provided to graduates of Sunni religious training institutions

Shia were reportedly not represented in proportion to their numbers in academic positions in primary, secondary, and higher education and virtually all public school principals remained Sunni, while some teachers were Shia. In Najran, which has a high concentration of Ismaeli Shia, some Shia principals were hired but Najran University’s administration allegedly continued to discriminate in the hiring of Shia professors, according to a Shia academics.

The government continued to exclude Shia perspectives from the extensive government-owned religious media and broadcast programming. Shia bookstores were reportedly unwilling or unable to obtain official operating licenses.

Shia Muslims managed their own mosques under the supervision of Shia scholars. Most existing Shia mosques in Eastern Province did not seek official operating licenses, as doing so would require asking the government to extend its explicit endorsement of these mosques. The government did not finance the construction or maintenance of Shia mosques. Authorities prohibited Shia outside of the Eastern Province from building Shia-specific mosques. Construction of Shia mosques required government approval, and Shia communities were required to receive permission from their neighbors to start construction on mosques.

Multiple reports from Shia groups cited discrimination in the judicial system as the catalyst for lengthy prison sentences handed down to Shia Muslims for engaging in political expression or organizing peaceful demonstrations.

Reported instances of prejudice and discrimination against Shia Muslims continued to occur with respect to educational and public sector employment opportunities. Shia stated they experienced systemic government discrimination in hiring. There was no formal policy concerning the hiring and promotion of Shia in the private sector, but some Shia stated that public universities and employers discriminated against them, occasionally by identifying an applicant for education or employment as Shia simply by inquiring about the applicant’s hometown. Many Shia reportedly stated that openly identifying as Shia would negatively affect career advancement.

Although Shia constituted approximately 10 to 15 percent of the total citizen population and at least one-quarter of the Eastern Province’s population, representation of Shia Muslims in senior government positions continued to be much below their proportion of the population, including in national security-related positions in the Ministry of Defense, the National Guard, and the MOI. There was only one Shia minister in the national government. There were no Shia governors, deputy governors, or ministry branch directors in the Eastern Province.

Sunni clerics continued to employ anti-Shia rhetoric in Sunni mosques during the year, according to local reports. In a May interview on the Saudi Al-Majd TV channel, for example, one cleric referred to Jews as “enemies of (Islam). In fact they are at the top of the list.”

At least two attacks occurred during the year that targeted places of worship. A suicide bomber detonated himself on July 4, the last day of Ramadan, killing four security personnel at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, a holy site for both Sunnis and Shia. Also on July 4, two suicide bombers attacked a Shia mosque, the Faraj Al-Omran Mosque in Qatif, Eastern Province, killing only themselves. On January 29, suicide attackers killed four and wounded 18 in an attack on Shia al-Ridha Mosque in al-Ahsa Province.

Instances of prejudice and discrimination against Shia Muslims continued to occur with respect to private sector employment. Social media provided an outlet for citizens to discuss current events and religious issues, which sometimes included making disparaging remarks about members of various religious groups or “sects.” In addition, terms like “rejectionists,” which Shia considered insulting, were commonly found in public discourse.


The government continued to question, detain, and arrest Shia clerics, community members, and opposition politicians. It convicted a Shia cleric on charges of giving an unauthorized sermon, and revoked the citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qassim.

After Qassim’s supporters staged a sit-in demonstration around his home, police sealed off access to the neighborhood where Qassim lived, detained over 70 individuals in connection with the sit-in, and judges sentenced two Shia clerics to prison terms for participating in the sit-in.

The police continued to restrict entry and exit into the predominately Shia neighborhood though the end of the year.

In December an appeals court agreed with an earlier appeals court and resentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary General of the Shia opposition political society Wifaq, to nine years after he continued to appeal his 2014 conviction and four-year sentence on charges of inciting hatred and promoting disobedience to the law.

International human rights organizations published reports stating Shia prisoners were vulnerable to intimidation, harassment, and ill-treatment by prison guards because of their religious affiliation. Shia community representatives complained about what they said was ongoing discrimination in government employment, education, and the justice system

Representatives of the Shia community reported the continued higher unemployment rate and lower socioeconomic status of Shia were exacerbated by continued discrimination against Shia in the private as well as the public sectors.

On August 31, a court sentenced Sayed Majeed al-Mashaal, former leader of the Ulama Islamic Council, to two years in prison based on accusations he had calling on the population to rally outside Qassim’s house.

On August 18, a court convicted Sheikh Ali Humaidan of “illegal gathering” and sentenced him to one year in prison for his involvement in the sit-in.

On August 14, police summoned Sheikh Maytham al-Salman for questioning and held him overnight, on suspicions he had participated in the sit-in in Diraz. Police reportedly refused four requests by him to have a lawyer present, saying they had no orders to allow a lawyer to be present. They reportedly kept him awake in an interview room for more than a day without allowing him to change his clothes or take a shower and required him to remove his clerical robe and turban, which he said was a measure intended to “insult and intimidate a Shia cleric.” He was released on August 15, and as of year’s end a date had not been set for his trial.

The government continued to not provide regular statistics on detainees, but according to a report on Jaw Prison published in January by the government-funded Prisoner and Detainee Rights Commission, the courts had sentenced 1021 of the 2468.

Local human rights organizations and activists stated individuals imprisoned were overwhelmingly Shia.

International NGOs reported Shia prisoners were vulnerable to intimidation, harassment, and ill-treatment by prison guards because of their religion, which at times led to coerced confessions. Some Shia prisoners at Jaw Prison and at the pretrial Dry Dock facility reported they were not allowed to practice their faith freely.

Human rights activists reported discrimination against Shia in education continued. They stated the government hired foreign teachers over qualified Bahraini Shia teachers

Activists also continued to report the interview panel for university scholarships asked about students’ political views and family background if their name or address suggested they might be Shia, and believed the panels used such information to select out Shia.

The activists said many top scoring Shia applicants continued to receive scholarship offers in less lucrative or less prestigious fields.


In November several groups in Karachi protested after the police arrested Allama Mirza Yousuf Hussain, a prominent Shia cleric, and Faisal Raza Abidi, a Shia and former senator. Hussain was arrested under a law meant to curb the misuse of loudspeakers for hate speech for allegedly instigating violence during a speech in May at the funeral of rights activist Khurram Zaki. Hussain was released on bail a few days later.

Sectarian violent extremist groups targeted Shia houses of worship, religious gatherings, religious leaders, and other individuals in attacks resulting in 25 people killed and 19 others injured in 16 separate attacks throughout the country, according to a public database of attacks.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), claimed responsibility for two attacks in Shikarpur that injured 13 people at a Shia mosque and congregation hall on September 13.

Media reported that two men on a motorbike threw a homemade explosive device at a Shia congregation hall in Karachi on October 17, killing one child and injuring 20 others. Lashkar-e-Jhanvgi al-Alami, a cell of the Sunni LeJ, claimed responsibility for the attack.

On October 29, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a Shia gathering in Karachi’s Nazimabad area, killing five and injuring six. Lashkar-e-Jhanvgi al-Alami claimed responsibility for the attack.

Terrorist groups also continued to target the predominantly Shia Hazara community. Suspected militants shot and killed a Hazara man in Quetta on December 8. Gunmen in Quetta killed two Hazara Shia men on August 1, with JuA claiming responsibility for the attack.

Throughout the year, unidentified attackers targeted and killed Shia, Hazaras, and Ahmadis in attacks believed to be religiously motivated, including multiple attacks during the Islamic month of Muharram.

On November 11, three Shia students were shot by unknown gunmen on a motorbike; one of the students died from his wounds.

On October 7, gunmen shot four Shia men in two separate incidents in Karachi, killing one. Prominent Shia civil society activist Syed Khurram Zaki was shot and killed in Karachi on May 7 in an apparent targeted killing.

Four Shia were killed in two separate incidents on May 5 in Dera Ismail Khan in KP, prompting protests in the area.

On April 8, unidentified gunmen in Karachi killed three men outside a Shia mosque in Karachi.

Unidentified assailants regularly targeted the predominantly Shia Hazara community. On November 30, unidentified assailants killed a Hazara woman in Quetta.

On October 4, gunmen boarded a bus in Quetta and shot five Hazara Shia women, killing four.


Shia Muslims, although holding some major government positions, said the number of positions did not reflect their demographics and complained the government neglected security in majority-Shia areas.

The ISKP publicly claimed responsibility for attacks killing over 100 members of the Shia community.

In June unknown militants kidnapped 17 Shia Hazaras from a bus in the northern province of Sar-i-Pul. A provincial council member said the Taliban likely had abducted the passengers to exchange them for a local commander who had been detained by Afghan forces during clashes the day before. The incident came two days after the Taliban killed 13 people and took several others hostage after ambushing a bus convoy in Kunduz province

In July a suicide bombing targeted a protest attended primarily by members of the Shia-majority Hazara community, killing at least 97 and injuring more than 260.

In October gunmen entered the Karte-Sakhi mosque and opened fire on worshippers gathering to mark the Shia holiday of Ashura, killing 17 worshippers and wounding 58, including women and children. The ISKP claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The Taliban were responsible for a number of kidnappings of Shia Hazaras and continued to threaten clerics with death for preaching messages contrary to the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam.

In November a suicide bomber struck a gathering of Shia Muslims commemorating Arbaeen, a Shia observance of loss and grief, in the Baqir ul-Uloom mosque in western Kabul, killing at least 30. ISIS subsequently claimed responsibility.

A day later, a suicide bomber killed 14 civilians and wounded 17 in a bomb blast outside a Shia mosque in Balkh province

Shia leaders urged the Shia community to avoid any violent reaction that might escalate tensions between Sunnis and Shia, and asked the government to investigate the incident and take necessary steps to protect Shia.

In September 8  Hazaras traveling from Bamiyan to Kabul were reportedly kidnapped in Wardak province, just 150 meters away from a police checkpoint.

In another incident, a group of militants stopped two passenger vans in Ghor province. The militants singled out five passengers they identified as Hazaras, and took them away at gunpoint.

According to government contacts, the Hazaras were kidnapped by the Taliban, who were hoping to exchange them for one of their commanders. One student was killed when government forces attempted to secure their release, while the rest were later freed when tribal elders intervened to mediate.

In Ghazni, a student was killed during a clash between the Taliban and government security forces following a Taliban attempt to abduct 6  Hazara students.

In October the Taliban abducted 25 Hazaras traveling on the Kabul-Bamiyan Highway.


Reportedly “Intolerant groups,” disrupted religious gatherings, illegally closed houses of worship, and widely disseminated materials promoting intolerance.

Shia Muslims and Christians reported threats of violence and intimidation for gathering in public or attempting to return to their hometowns to celebrate holidays.

Other local regulations forbid or limit the religious activities of minority religious groups, especially Shia and Ahmadi Muslims.

Local governments selectively enforced blasphemy laws, permitting regulations, and other local regulations in ways that affected various religious groups. For example, local governments issued decrees banning Ahmadi and Shia teachings, and reportedly did not act when threats were made against these groups.

Government officials and police sometimes failed to prevent “intolerant groups” from infringing on others’ religious freedoms and committing other acts of intimidation. Police did not always actively investigate and prosecute crimes by members of “intolerant sectarian groups.”

Other religious minorities such as Ahmadi and Shia Muslims and Christians faced problems even when seeking approval to move to temporary facilities while a primary place of worship underwent renovation. Religious minority communities said administrative suspicions and inaction blocked renovation or construction of new facilities even when they fulfilled the legal prerequisites.

Ahmadis and Shia reported discrimination in the administration of public services if they chose to leave the religion column blank on their KTPs

NGOs warned of rising anti-Shia sentiment in East Java, the heartland of the Nahdlatul Ulema (NU). According to reports, local NU-affiliated imams continued to block reconciliation and the return of Shia internally displaced people (IDPs) to their homes in a case that has continued for several years. Several days before Eid al-Fitr, certain local Sunnis in East Java prevented hundreds of Shia IDPs from returning to their homes on Madura for the holiday. They threatened to kill Shia who tried to return and harm people who assisted them.

More than 300 Shia reportedly remained displaced and unable to return to Madura. Anti-Shia rhetoric was also common in some online media outlets and on social media.

On April 1, hundreds of people calling themselves the Aswaja (Adherents to the Sunnah and the Community), a loose coalition of a number of NU and Persatuan (an Islamic educational organization) schools, broke up a gathering of 100 Shia women in Pasuruan district south of Surabaya. The women were celebrating the birthday of the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima, an important event in Shia tradition. Police, military, and district public order forces who were present to safeguard the event responded to Aswaja’s demands, and after two hours the Shia dispersed.

In North Maluku, on August 24, seven members of the Shia Jafariyah congregation led by Nawawi Husni were subject to intimidation by local residents after holding a religious event in Marikurubu Subdistrict. Local police were deployed to ensure the safety of the Shia members. The police later evacuated the congregation to the police headquarters after local residents tried to damage their houses. The Shia eventually returned safely to their homes.


In the wake of the June 2015 bombing of the Imam Al-Sadeq Mosque, the government continued to order the Shia community to commemorate Ashura and other holidays indoors; it retained other steps it defined as security measures that affected all non-Sunni religious groups.

The government questioned several imams, and in some cases banned some of them, for making what it considered provocative statements harmful to national unity.

In January the government prevented several foreign imams from entering the country because it accused them of “terrorism and sectarianism.” The government permanently prohibited four imams from speaking in mosques because of comments they had made, which the government disapproved.

The government kept in place the ban on outdoor religious observances, for what it stated was security concerns, instituted following the bombing of the Imam al Sadeq Mosque in June 2015, which killed 26 persons.

All Ashura activities for the Shia community were required to be conducted inside closed structures rather than at outside locations. The government did not permit public reenactments of the martyrdom of Hussein or public marches in commemoration of Ashura.

Some Shia leaders said discrimination continued to prevent Shia from obtaining training for clerical positions as well as leadership positions in public sector organizations, including the police force and the military/security apparatus.

The government continued to prevent the establishment of Shia religious training institutions. Shia who wanted religious training had to seek training and education abroad. The College of Islamic Law at Kuwait University, the country’s only institution to train imams, provided some Shia jurisprudence courses but did not permit Shia professors on its faculty.

According to Shia leaders, the lack of Shia imams continued to limit their ability to staff Shia courts thus causing a backlog of personal status and family cases. To address the backlog and shortage of staff, an ad hoc council created by the government under the regular marital issues court to apply Shia jurisprudence continued to function. The establishment of a Shia Court of Cassation, approved in 2003, remained delayed, according to Shia leaders, because appropriate training for Shia to staff it was unavailable.


Shia religious leaders who did not support government policies reportedly continued to face intimidation and arrest.

The government continued to monitor the statements and views of senior Shia religious leaders. Shia religious leaders who did not support government policies or supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s views reportedly continued to face intimidation, arrest, and imprisonment on charges related to religious offenses.

Critics stated clerical courts were used to control non-Shia Muslim clerics, as well as to prosecute Shia clerics who expressed controversial ideas and participated in activities outside the sphere of religion, such as journalism or reformist political activities.

On August 16, Vice President for Legal Affairs Majid Ansari declared cases of individuals and entities who insulted the president would be tried in the Special Clerical Courts.

According to Amnesty International, Shia cleric Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi, serving an 11-year sentence after conviction on charges including “moharebeh” and “abusing his clerical flock,” was transferred to a medical clinic on January 19 to treat recurring stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, but was returned by prison officials to his cell the same day without undergoing full treatment.

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Nekounam, who was originally arrested in 2015, remained in prison in Qom despite appeals for his release on medical grounds to the Special Clerical Court after he suffered a stroke during the year while in solitary confinement, according to Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA). Reportedly, the authorities brought him before the Special Clerical Court in June for further investigation.



The United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) reported ISIS IEDs caused at least 5,403 casualties (1,167 killed and 4,236 wounded), amounting to half of all verified casualties in the first half of the year.

After forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians from subdistricts of Mosul to Tal Afar, ISIS killed 172 civilians held in al-Jazeera secondary school in the Hay al-Khadraa neighborhood of Tal Afar, according to UNAMI. Reportedly, among those killed were 43 Yezidi and Shia girls and women who had been enslaved by the group since June 2014.

Coordinated ISIS bomb attacks continued to target Shia neighborhoods, markets, mosques, and funeral processions, as well as Shia shrines.

On July 3, a coordinated bomb attack in Baghdad resulted in the deaths of more than 300 and injuries to hundreds more. A few minutes after midnight, a suicide bomber in a truck targeted the mainly Shia district of Karrada, busy with late-night shoppers for Ramadan.

A second roadside bomb was detonated in the suburb of Sha’ab, killing at least five.

On April 4, there were multiple coordinated suicide bombings, including two in the Shia-majority southern provinces of Basrah and Dui War. Five people died in Basrah and in Dui War, and 14 people were killed and 27 wounded at a restaurant popular with Shia PMF fighters. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

ISIS fired chemical weapons into the Salah al-Din villages of Tara and Basheer on March 16 and May 2, respectively. The attacks injured more than 400 victims, who were primarily Turkmen Shia civilians. ISIS fighters continued their practice of claiming responsibility for these attacks via social media postings.

According to the mayor of Sinjar, as of September 27, mass graves containing the remains of ISIS victims were under investigation.

NGOs reported ISIS continued to kidnap religious minorities for ransom. According to officials from a Turkmen Women’s Association, ISIS militants had kidnapped and held 500 Turkmen women and children from Tal Afar and Mosul since June 2014. A Shabak member of the Ninewa Provincial Council said ISIS held over 250 Shabak people (most of whom are thought to be Shia) captive, and had executed three Shabaks in October.


The government continued actions against Shia Muslims engaged in religious practice.

In October the Selangor State Islamic Department (JAIS) detained 50 Pakistani nationals believed to be Shia Muslims at an event to mark the day of Ashura.

In November the Melaka State Islamic Department arrested 15 suspected members of what authorities said was a “deviant” Shia group. Those arrested were free on bail pending trial as of the end of the year. Under state sharia law, each faced up to three years in jail or a 5,000 ringgit (RM) ($1,115) fine for “insulting Islam.”

The government prohibited publications, public events, and public debates that it stated might incite religious disharmony. Officials at the federal and state levels oversaw Islamic religious activities, distributed sermon texts for mosques to follow, used mosques to convey political messages, and limited public expression of religion. In January JAKIM released pamphlets, flyers, and other promotional materials that said Shia Muslims were potential “radical” threats.

The federal and state governments continued to forbid religious assembly and worship for groups considered to be deviant Islamic groups such as Shia, Ahmadiyya, and Al-Arqam.

In August a court in Kuala Lumpur upheld the government’s ban of four books by novelist Faisal Tehrani for allegedly spreading Shia teachings.


On November 14, Nigerian security forces clashed with members of the IMN who were marching from Kano city to Zaria, resulting in an indeterminate number of deaths and injuries. According to the police, nine people died, including members of the police, while the IMN said 100 of its members were killed and 87 detained. Other reports estimated several dozen dead and well over 100 injured as a result of the violence. Members of the Shia group were embarking on their annual symbolic pilgrimage to Zaria, Kaduna State, to mark the end of the 40-day period of remembrance of the death of Imam Hussein.

Katsina, Kebbi, Kano, and Jigawa States banned religious processions just prior to the annual Ashura processions, performed by Shia Muslims worldwide in remembrance of the death of Imam Hussein.

On October 12, mobs and security forces in a number of northern states attacked Shia participating in the processions, killing at least 15 people. Authorities subsequently arrested hundreds of Shia and charged them with disturbing the peace. The Islamic Human Rights Commission said it echoed the IMN’s statement that the arrests and charges were “an embarrassment to the nation” and called on authorities to release those detained, among whom were women and children, describing them as “prisoners of conscience.”


According to the international NGO Forum 18, Inqilab Ehadli, a Shia Muslim, was arrested in January and transferred to the secret police Investigation Prison for allegedly supporting the Muslim Unity Movement. A human rights activist reportedly told Forum 18 Ehadli had been in poor health when arrested and as of April was in critical condition in a prison hospital. No further information on his case was available.

In May authorities and the police demolished a Shia seminary in Nardaran reportedly in order to widen a street that residents said could not be widened. Community members filed a complaint with the judicial authorities. No further information was available about this case as of the end of the year.

In February President Ilham Aliyev participated in the opening ceremony of the Shia Imamzade religious center in Ganja after its extensive renovation.



Some government entities continued to use anti-Shia rhetoric in the country.

In January Al Azhar canceled a competition entitled “The Spread of Shia Islam in the Sunni Community: Reasons, Dangers, and How to Confront It.” According to press reports, the cancellation was due to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar’s desire to promote unity and fraternity among Muslims.

On November 5, the press reported that residents in Ezbet Talata village in Damietta Governorate filed a complaint about a teacher who had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam and whom they alleged was preaching the Shia faith to her students. Residents had learned about her conversion after she called in to a Shia satellite channel. The Ministry of Education subsequently transferred the teacher to another school in a different village. When her landlord in the new village learned that she was a Shia he evicted her, according to the mayor of Ezbet Talata. The teacher returned to Ezbet Talata but residents there ostracized her, the mayor told the press in a video interview.

Representatives of some Salafist groups, including the Coalition of Muslims in Defense of the Companions and the Prophet’s Family, published negative remarks about Shia Muslims.

On February 1, the group threatened to sue the minister of culture for “spreading Shia ideology” when the minister rejected their calls to confiscate Shia books exhibited at the Cairo International Book Fair.


Nonstate actors, including a number of groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United States and other governments, such as ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN, also known as al-Nusra Front), targeted Shia, Alawites, Christians, and other religious minorities.

ISIS destroyed churches, Shia shrines, and other religious heritage sites.

JAN and other rebel groups continued to subject the surrounded Shia villages of Fu’a and Kafraya to periodic violence.

Antigovernment protests, particularly those that occurred under the auspices of extremist groups, and publicity materials from antigovernment groups continued to include anti-Alawite and anti-Shia messages as well. For example, JAN sponsored several protests in Idlib in which some protestors carried signs against Shia Islam, and the group erected billboards in the province declaring that “the Shia are the enemies of Islam.”


ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing of a Shia preacher, Hadith Abdur Razzak, who was stabbed to death in Jhenaidah on March 14.

Bi-Annual Anti-Shiism Report


The first half of 2017 has been a turbulent time for Shia Muslims all over the world. Anti-Shiism, or the active targeting of Shia Muslim to limit their visibility and expression, was prevalent in across the globe.

Shia Muslims, including their sub groups, make up approximately 50% of the total Muslim population. Although exact data of Shia demographic remain impossible to collect due to extreme marginalization, a study of current cases of anti-Shiism have been documented by Shia Rights Watch researchers and activist.

This report is a compilation and analysis of trends in anti-Shiism in the six months of January to June 2017.  In this report, cases of anti-Shiism in the nations of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Madagascar are examined. Violations include arrests, vandalism, deaths by unnatural means, and injuries.  It is important to note that Shia rights abuses listed in this report are a summary of incidents that have reached SRW. Violations are not limited to those in this report. More information can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.


Gulf Nations

Anti-Shiism in Gulf nations has skyrocketed after the Arab Spring of 2011. In fears of an up rise, Gulf countries, specifically Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have increased limitations on their critics.   Pro-rights protests in these nations are thwarted with the utmost violence.


Shia Rights Watch_AntiShiism

The Kingdom of Bahrain has been home to systemic suppression of human rights. Bahrain is a Shia majority nation headed by a non-Shia monarchy. Unlike democratic efforts of other Arab countries in the Middle East, efforts for rights and recognition have remained unnoticed for Bahraini citizens.

The six month period between January and June 30, 2017, a total of 982 people has been arrested. Arrests were with aims to suppress protests. Some were arrested in peaceful protest and others by night time raids. Bahrain has shown little mercy in suppression as 84 of those arrested are minors, and 28 are women.

Approximately 30% of the total arrests, 286, were in a single day in Diraz, Bahrain. On May 23, an armed attack on protesters killed five and wounded dozens. Protestors had arranged a sit in around the home of Sheikh Isa Qassim, who was sentenced to one year in prison and revoked of citizenship earlier that month. After Qassims arrest, the town of Diraz was blockaded, and residents were subject to checkpoints and travel restrictions. Phone and internet lines were cut off for significant hours in the day to limit media contact.

-Protest Met with Violence-

Although protests and demonstrations have been peaceful and demonstrators are unarmed, Bahraini forces meet them with the utmost violence. Bird shot pellets used by forces have led to the death and permanent injury of many protestors and bystanders. Travel restrictions and discrimination have left those injured without medical care as ambulances cannot enter the town and hospitals are ordered not to treat injured protestors. Those arrested report harsh torture and violence in detainment. Ebtissam al-Saegh, a prominent activist has testified sexual assault and coercion of false confessions. Human rights activists striving for democracy in Bahrain report verbal and physical assault as well as threats to thier dignity and even family.

The government’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue has created a rift between it and its citizens. Sources say, Bahraini citizens, do not trust the government. This mistrust, one can relate to the lack of sufficient representation in legislation and years in the suppression of rights by officials. Furthermore, sources report that the extent of Saudi involvement in Bahrain undermines the Bahraini government. Many feel as though dialogue with Bahraini officials are insignificant as officials are under the influence of Saudi policy.

-Future of Bahrain-

With many children and women under arrest, the future of Bahrain is widely destabilized. Children arrested are not able to attend school and in many cases, are not given the opportunity to make up missed work. The current lack of national stability because of direct violence creates an opportunity for foreign involvement in Bahrain. Mistrust and lack of cooperation among protestors and the government have also led to a shift in national identity. SRW predicts a decreased rate in Bahrain’s educated population. Further, due to the increased detainment of women and the high rate of mortality for Shia men, SRW predicts a rise in single parent families and even orphan children. These predictions are further supported by the approximate 780 sentenced Bahraini citizens and the revocation of 92 others. To this point, over 60 people have been given life sentences. The numbers are expected to rise as Bahrain has issued death sentences for many activist despite a de facto moratorium on the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia

Although Shia in Saudi Arabia have practiced their faith in hiding and have lived under marginalization for decades, the last six months note augmentation of violence against this population.

Shia in Saudi Arabia have lived under pressure to conform to the nation’s extremist ideology and forgo their own identity. Since the origin of the kingdom, Shia Muslims have been marginalized; their towns provided the least government funds- lacking in infrastructure and maintenance. Despite their living quarters being home to one of Saudi’s largest oil drills, Shia Muslims are left in the worst of the nation’s conditions of life. Drilling has caused air, and noise pollution and the citizens of the Eastern province are allowed minimal say in policy. While they at least make up over 20% of the population, Shia Muslims lack adequate representation in the government.

-Sources of Anti-Shiism-

Anti-Shiism in Saudi Arabia is fueled by social and religious indoctrination. In numerous cases, Saudi clerics have announced Shia Muslims as outsiders and have deemed them unequal to the nation’s majority Wahhabi population. These beliefs are furthered through educational books and lessons. Information on sources of anti-Shiism can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org

Shia Rights Watch_AntiShiism

-Continued Violence-

In the first six months of 2017, the nature of anti-Shiism in this nation shifted. What was once a structural and cultural discrimination becoming direct violence. In mid-May, a siege in the town of Al-Awamiyah became a public attack on this religious sect.  The siege began around 3 am. All entrances to the city were closed, and forces shot at buildings and automobiles. Residents were forced from their homes and business were closed.

The government’s claim of aiming to “renew the district” is undermined by social media hashtags and trends used by Saudi forces calling for a “cleansing” of the kingdom from Shia.

The government is threatening the identity of Shia Muslims by demolishing historical sites in Al-Awamiyah. With the demolishment of the al-Baqee cemetery in 1925, Shia in Saudi Arabia lives in fear of not having a presence in their home nation. Further, the decision to “renew” was taken without any representation from the residence, thus adding to their unwillingness to trust the government’s claims.

In attempted to maintain order, forces shot indiscriminately at civilians. The death toll in Saudi Arabia has reached 20. Javad al- Dagher of two years and his family were among those killed. Over 40 people have been wounded in the strife; 15 others have been arrested and face the harsh and unforgiving climate of Saudi prisons. Until now, 14 people have been sentenced to death.

-Regional Instability-

Anti-Shiism in Saudi Arabia has not only incited conflict in the nation; it has led to regional instability. Some state the source of anti-Shiism in Saudi Arabia is fear of Iranian expansion in the region. However, Shia in Saudi Arabia, as well as other nations in the region, have renounced such association.  By pressuring their citizens and falsely associating them with a foreign power, Saudi Arabia is increasing insecurity in the Middle East.


Shia Rights Watch_AntiShiismPakistan stood witness to the death of 193 and wounding 466 others. Incidents of anti-Shiism occurred mainly in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), Punjab and Baluchistan.


Attacks were carried out by LeJ, TTO, and SeS. Regions of high incidents of anti-Shiism span Pakistan and are mainly cities with a semi-open border with Afghanistan. All attacks occurred in public locations. Both attacks in Parachinar, Kurram Region, occurred in densely populated regions of town.


The targeting of a single population by a number of the nation’s biggest terror organizations points to an existing collective culture of anti-Shiism in which different groups compete to be the most successful.  The willingness of these groups to put aside rivalry and work together in orchestrating attacks show the extent of cultural violence against Shia Muslims.

The lack of justice in cases against minority groups in Pakistan are due to existing discrimination within police forces. Many activists have reported a slow cases processing and lack of follow-up on incidents of anti-Shiism.

-Undiscovered Powers-

After the June 24 attacks in Parachinar, governor Iqbal Zafar, on behalf of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, distributed Rs 500,000 (appx $5000) to those injured and Rs 1,000,000 (appx $9000) to families of lost loved ones. Compensations came after cross-country protest. Shia Rights Watch estimates, at a minimum, $780,000 was given out by Iqbal Zafar. The Pakistani government aims to compensate death of human life with money, not understanding that conflict cannot be resolved by monetary means. The money handed out to victims of the Parachinar attacks was a means of suppressing protests. The government’s actions display a lack of understanding of the Shia population as Shia in Pakistan are educated and in the position of power as lawyers, doctors and policy makers- money is not a limited resource for many.

Shia Muslims in Pakistan inhabit geopolitically significant areas. Baluchistan, for instance, is rich in natural resource reservoirs and is a key strategic region for Pakistan-Afghanistan diplomacy. Punjab is one of the most economically prosperous regions of Pakistan. Instability in any of those regions creates instability in the area, and thus with the pressures of neighboring countries, the government of Pakistan does the most to reinstate order.

Shia Rights Watch_AntiShiism

However, counter terrorism effort is misplaced. On June 11, Taimoor Raza was sentenced to death over Facebook content in Okara, Punjab by a “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act of 2016” which aims to restrict cybercrime offenses. Pakistan’s officials fail to provide effectual security and prevention of hate-crime against Shia communities. Officials are willing to provide monetary compensation to limit social unrest. Shia Rights Watch suggests increased efforts of crime prevention and increased education. Thus, far, post-conflict compensation has been far more expensive that any peace-building effort, and until steps are taken to limit the growth of extremism, in stability in Pakistan will continue.


Shia in Syria populate the cities of Deir al-Zour, Haoula, Khan al-Asad, Idlib, Nubul, al-Zahra, Hama, al-Foua, Keferya, Homs, and Zarzur. To this point, the conflict in Syria has led to the death of over 400,000 people, a significant portion of which are Shia Muslims in addition to political conflict, Shia in Syria suffers from targeted killing by active terror groups such that of ISIS.

Shia Rights Watch_AntiShiismDiscreet numbers of anti-Shia incidents are limited due to the turbulent status of the nation. However, despite limitations, SRW estimates continued targeting of Shia Muslims as per ground sources as well as the statistical prevalence of attacks on Shia towns and cities.

The largest reported incident of anti-Shiism was in the village of al-Foua, and Kefarya in which a suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying children evacuated from the town- 150, 72 of which were children, were found dead because of the explosion.

Sources in Syria report an attack on the city of Hama as the next largest reported attack in Syria. Of the 50 killed, 24 were women and children. Medical personnel in nearby hospital report death by blunt force trauma by rocks and stones. Despite immense efforts, retrieval of bodies was not possible as many of the bodies were dismembered beyond recognition. The extent of damage to the deceased points to an ideology that views Shia as non-human.

Among incidents of anti-Shiism are double bombs killing 40 Iraqi pilgrims visiting the Zainabiya Shrine and wounding 120 others.

ISIS and their affiliates are fueled by anti-Shia sentiment taught by the Wahabi school of thought. The coordinated attacks which target pilgrims and evacuees point to an anti-Shia agenda consistent with the Wahhabi ideology.


Iraq remains one of the most turbulent locations for Shia Muslims. ISIS infiltration and lack of government security create an opportunity for anti-Shiism. In the first six months of 2017, 260 people have lost their lives, and approximately 250 people have been injured as a result of anti-Shia sentiment.

Consistent with a five-year trend, Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad remain one of the most targeted areas. As early as January, suicide bombings claimed the life of 20 and injured more than 60 people in a marketplace in the district of Jamila. A week later, a car bombing killed 48 and left tens of others injured.

Karbala was also home to Shia Muslims killed in the past six months. In the Musayyib district, east of Karbala, a woman detonated her vest killing 34. On the same day, a bomb at the entrance of the city killed 4, and a failed explosive was cleared from the holy Shrine located in Karbala.

Same day bombings are signs of existing extremist networks that remain prosperous despite anti-ISIS efforts.

Iraq is home to many important Shia shrines and historical sights. These locations ensure a constant influx of Shia Muslims to the nation. Thus, Shia Rights Watch calls for a plan of security that is unique to this nations traveler entry.


In the first half of 2017, the world stood witness to an explicit expansion of ISIS forces. Early June, ISIS forces detonated explosives in two key political locations in Iran: the parliament and the Khomeini Mausoleum. The setting of the incident was highly symbolic to the Revolution of 1979.


Terrorists entered the administrative building as constituents, some women, and detonated explosive vests killing 12 and wounding 40 others. ISIS later released video accounting for their time within the parliament building inducing fear of increased ISIS activity in the nation.

In addition to increased tensions in the region, this incident was a show of anti-Shiism as ISIS forces targeted one of the most Shia populated countries in the Middle East.  Attacks in Iran point to a definite shift an anti-Shiism.



Due to the islands vast resources, Madagascar has been home to increased Muslim immigration. Mid-May, Yanish Ismail, son of a prominent Shia businessman was kidnapped by 14 armed assailants as he was attending a funeral.

Ismail’s case is the second incident of anti-Shiism in the past five years. SRW fears a wave of anti-Shiism in this nation. Roots of hate crimes, SRW predicts, spreads from existing anti-Shiism in other countries.

Shia Rights Watch_AntiShiism


From January to June 30, 17 lives were lost, and 23 were injured as a result of anti-Shiism.   Of total incidents, 65% of attacks occurred in the month of June. Early June, a motorbike bomb detonated outside Jama Mosque of Herat, killing 7 and wounding 16. Later that month, a terrorist targeted a Shia mosque outside of Kabul. After exchanging fire with police, he entered the mosque kitchen and detonated his explosive vest. The incident led to the death of four and left seven others injured.

The Hazara ethnic group are frequently targeted as they are identified in features and widely recognized as Shia Muslims. Structural anti-Shiism in Afghanistan has led to a lack of protection and prosecution of this ethnic community.

Mass exposure was guaranteed in both attacks as terrorists targeted Shia mosques, and that in the month of Ramadhan. Muslims regard Ramadhan as a holy month. However, anti-Shia organizations such that of ISIS and the Taliban do not consider Shia as Muslims. Previous to Ramadhan, in a speech, ISIS leaders renounced Shia, called for their cleansing and promoted the month of Ramadhan as the best month for anti-Shia action.


Global Trends of Anti-Shiism

A macro-scale analysis of cases of violence against Shia Muslims shows significant trends. Such patterns can be used to analyze Anti-Shiism and plan peace building endeavors.

Analysis of anti-Shia cases points to widespread cultural violence because of miseducation. For decades, the Wahhabi school of thought has promoted education dehumanizing Shia Muslims. Some historians have identified the political and economic basis of such education. More information on historical cases of anti-Shiism can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org. Anti-Shia education can be found in the Middle East and North Africa, and such education has become a cultural feature. A culture that undermines Shia Muslims as human-beings with fundamental rights has allowed hate-crime by a violent group to prosper. In addition to ideological targeting, anti-Shiism occurs because of misrepresentation of Shia Muslims. For instance, sources report anti-Shiism in immigrant populations who see Shia Muslims as the source of insecurity in their jobs. Their lack of awareness of who the Shia are lead them to criminalize Shia and the Shia struggle for recognition.

In some cases, explosions are coordinated by time, date and location. Synchronization, analyst claim, tells tales of existing networks and communications among different terror organizations with a shared ideology. The fact that most the attacks were suicide bombers point to the extent at which attackers hold the anti-Shia ideology.

The setting of attacks is in confirmation that attacks reported in this report were not random, but targeted towards mass Shia populations. Attacks are aimed at limiting Shia visibility and expression.


Anticipating the Next Six Months

Prosecution of agents of Anti-Shiism is practically non-existent in the aforementioned nations. In states in which the national government leads anti-Shia efforts, justice seems far-fetched for many. In Pakistan and Iraq, anti-terrorism efforts do not meet minority efforts thus endangering Shia constituents.

Shia Rights Watch anticipates a spread of anti-Shiism to other regions of the world. In both Europe and South Asia, incidents have been seen. Although these events were isolated, they did cause infrastructure damage, physical and psychological damage to Shia Muslims in those areas. Details on incidents in South Asia and Europe can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org.

Incidents of anti-Shiism will continue to rise in the next six months unless efforts to decrease hate crimes are taken. Incidents of anti-Shiism tend to grow in holy months, especially in Moharram, a month many recognize as the corner-stone of the Shia identity. Moharram begins in September 2017, and with it, Shia processions will be in danger of violence unless measures to protect this population takes place.

  • Dialogue between governments and constituents
    • Both activists and government officials must realize dialogue and cooperation are the only means of building understanding and coexistence in their nations. Common aims must be identified and used as the basis for building a prosperous nation.
  • Increased activism of Shia Muslims in their communities
    • As the most powerful force against anti-Shiism, Shia Muslims must empower their communities for self-expression. Shia Muslims must build a presence in their nations by being ideal citizens in their countries in the international communities.
  • Education on human rights for all minority populations
    • Minority communities must be aware of their rights as given by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and their nation’s constitution. Minority populations must be able to recognize discrepancies in their rights and take peaceful steps in raising awareness.
  • Raising accurate media coverage
    • The media is a major medium for raising awareness and education. Shia Rights Watch calls upon media outlets to check accuracy and provide un-biased coverage of Shia Muslims.
    • Shia Rights Watch further encourages active Shia communication with local and international news sources. Shia communities are the best first line defense against anti-Shiism, thus they must work with media outlets to raise awareness in regards to their communities and remove misconceptions.

Rising Tide

The Shia Rights Watch report entitled “Rising Tide” is 18 pages, detailing incidents of violence and intimidation against Pakistani Shia Muslims between 2012 and 2016.The report gives a detailed account of how this already oppressed group has been marginalized further in recent years through systematic violence and lack of protection. At least 914 attacks and 4,598 killing or wounding is reported. The report is based on interviews, site visits, articles, NGO reports, and other human rights reports. articles, NGO reports, and other human rights reports.

Download Printing Version HERE




Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Islāmī Jumhūriya-ē Pākistān, is a country in South Asia. With a population exceeding 180 million people, it is the sixth most populous country in the world. Pakistan is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of four provinces and four federal territories. Pakistan is a federation of four provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan, as well as the Islamabad Capital Territory and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the northwest, which include the Frontier Regions. The government of Pakistan exercises de facto jurisdiction over the western parts of the disputed Kashmir region, organized into the separate political entities Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan (formerly Northern Areas). The Gilgit–Baltistan Empowerment and Self- Governance Order of 2009 assigned a province- like status to the latter, giving it self-government.

The state religion in Pakistan is Islam, which is practiced by about 95-98% of the 180 million people of the nation. The remaining 2-5% practice Christianity, Hinduism, and other religions. Muslims are divided into two major sects: the majority of them practice Sunni Islam, while the Shias are a minority who make up an estimated 5-20%.

Pakistan is suffering a major crisis, in which terrorist groups are continuously committing mass events of violence against Pakistani Shia Muslims.

Terrorist organizations mostly target Shia scholars, activists or those who have senior positions. This report aims to highlight some of the attacks and killings in the country and emphasize the urgent need for change in the Pakistan. Shia Rights Watch (SRW) urges the government of Pakistan should follow up on public denunciations of sectarian killings by securing Shia areas, controlling gun possession, and ordering the immediate arrest and prosecution of the leadership of the terrorist groups, their members, and affiliates responsible for planning systematic violence.

Shia Rights Watch_Rising Tide


Local Pakistani activists have recorded 914 attacks in different locations of Shia-populated areas of Pakistan between 2012 and 2016. Such attacks resulted in the death of at least 2,040 and injury of 2,558 Shia Muslims. The reporters were unable to follow up on the health status of the injured victims due to lack of resources and security limitations. There is also no report on damages due to explosions and targeted killings, but SRW expects significant damage to properties as a result of bombings and attacks. In other words, at least 4,598 people have been reported killed or wounded. Statistics suggest on average, three Shia are either killed or wounded daily due to Shia rights violations in Pakistan alone. In most cases of Pakistan attacks, those three happen to be Shia professionals.

It is important to highlight, this report only included cases that could be fact checked. SRW believes there are more cases that are not reported due to insecurities of Shia population.

Change in Social Structure

Explosions and bombings, in particular, are usually analyzed based on their casualty impacts. However, SRW believes more in-depth and holistic approaches are needed in order to be fair to victims of human rights violations. Explosions not only kill and wound, but they also damage homes, destroy businesses and shops, and destruct inventories, resulting in significant damages, affecting the economic structure of the society.  In addition to economic effects, such incidents create a sense of insecurity. Insecurity results in a lack of motivation to take economic risks, desire for growth, fear of social involvements and even isolation.

SRW is concerned about Pakistani Shia community as they face so much discrimination which results in not only loss of life, but social distractions. As this report, and most other reports on Pakistani Shia highlight, many attacks in Pakistan are in the form of targeted killings. The victims of targeted killings are professionals: doctors, professors, businessmen, and influential lawyers. Targeting the social and political elite allows terror organizations to instill fear into society. The lack of prosecution in Shia deaths empowers terror groups and reinforces their ability to isolate groups within the larger society.

Shia Rights Watch_Rising Tide

Lasting Effects

Anti-Shiism in Pakistan is estimated to change social dynamics. Data reports the majority of Shia killed are male heads of families whose death leave children without fathers and households without income. SRW estimates a rise in populations in need of welfare in the near future as a result of anti-Shiism. Further, SRW hypothesizes a rise in women and children in the workforce to make up for the lack of income. Children will begin working at a younger age and the nation will have a reduction in education rates.

Terror Organizations

The South Asian Terrorism Portal reports 12 different terror groups operating in Pakistan. The largest and most influential of the organizations are Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e- Sahaba, and Tehreek-e- Taliban. United States’ Bureau of Counterterrorism identified these three groups as foreign terrorist organization.

Tekree-e-Taliban, based in Western Pakistan, aims to establish an “Islamic Emirate.” Their specialties include IEDs, suicide attacks, mass casualty bombings, mortars, rockets, assassinations, kidnappings, executions, raids, assaults, and internet operations. Like Jundullah, Tehreek-e-Taliban is a subset of the Afghan Taliban and derives much of its resources from the Taliban.

Shia Rights Watch_Rising Tide


Lashkare Jhangvi (LeJ) is one of the more active terrorist organizations in Pakistan. They’re into IEDs, assassinations, suicide attacks, mortars, grenades, rockets, and raids. LeJ’s ability to collaborate with larger radical organizations makes it highly influential. In an interview with Reuters, Ali bin Sufyan, LeJ al- Alami spokesperson said, “Wherever there are attacks taking place [in Pakistan] Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami is cooperating with [ISIS] either directly or indirectly.” Significant funding flows from al-Qaeda and Arab states. Saudi Arabian money has been traced to organizations such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.

LeJ has joined much of its forces with IS-Khurasan, marginalizing not only Shias but their empaths. In the recent years, LeJ has refocused its demographics, now targeting youth in the early twenties with varying backgrounds but with the same supremacist ideology. Sources report recruitment is targeted to youth with technological fluency. LeJ recruits will frequently use social media to post their most recent kills, which adds to their marketing to gain funds from international extremist organizations.

Terror organizations have propaganda in the form magazines and websites that grant them excellent access to international funds. They roam free enough to openly issue death threats to Shias in local newspapers, describing them as “deserving of death.”

Violation Types

This report examines attacks in the form of bombs, murders, suicide bombings and targeted killings. The majority of attacks on Shia were in the form of targeted killings, specifically, drive- by shootings. In the regions of Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Punjab, Shia individuals were identified, localized and targeted at their businesses or on-route. Specifically, the Shia targeted were individuals significant to their society. Educated doctors, lawyers, and more importantly, government officials were isolated and killed. Frequently targeted shootings that have little prosecution point to a structural and social violence against Shia Muslims.

Shia Rights Watch_Rising Tide

The majority of attacks occurred in the daytime which points to a lack of fear from authorities and the surrounding community. Violators do not think they will be prosecuted for their ill actions because there is a social consensus that the Shia are second- class members of their community because of their belief systems.  The region of FATA remains unique in the data as 80% of attacks occurred in the form of a bomb.

Major Regions 

The aforementioned regions are areas of increased violence against Shia Muslims in descending order. It is important to note these regions have been isolated per acquired SRW data. Although each region has its own uniqueness in culture, similar anti- Shiism trends can be seen.

Anti-Shiism is made possible by regional instability. Lack of border security makes it easy for insurgents from other nations to flow into Pakistan and cause civil unrest. With them, insurgents bring education and anti- Shia propaganda that infiltrates Pakistani grassroots. That, in addition to money made by opioid and counterfeit trafficking, makes terrorism flourish.


In recent years, the region of Sindh has been home to the most Shia deaths. Locally known as Mehran, Sindh is located in Southern Pakistan and is centralizes on Karachi. Once home to Muhajirs, migrants from neighboring nations, Sindh has developed a unique religious culture of its own, as a melting pot of the nation’s largest Hindu population. This Hindu-Islamic mix has given rise to the Sufi religion, which shares aspects of each of the two religions.

From 2012 to 2016, Sindh has been home to over 58% of incidents of anti-Shiism. Of the 530 deaths, 481 of the deaths were the result of targeted killings. Despite the region’s diversity in population, Shia Muslims are targeted. The nature of deaths points to a system of identification of Shia Muslims and their businesses/homes in a community. Further, the freedom for an individual to shoot another individual in a crowded area without fear of recognition and prosecution points to a social acceptance of anti-Shiism.


BaluchistanShia Rights Watch_Rising Tide

In addition to sharing a border, Sindh and Baluchistan share high rates of Shia targeting. Baluchistan in the home to the Hazara population of Pakistan. Originally, the Hazara’s fled Afghanistan’s persecution and sought refuge in Quetta, Baluchistan’s capital city. Political unrest and lack of sufficient government action leave room for extremist groups to thrive.

Historically, the Hazara’s have been in support of the federal government and have a positive track record in maintaining loyalty to the nation. That, in addition to the region’s immense natural resource reservoirs, makes Baluchistan a location of significance. Located on the border of Afghanistan and Iran, Baluchistan is a key strategic region.

Mass targeting of the Shia population in Baluchistan has sparked a new wave of protests. However, despite the government’s initial promises to address anti-Shiism in Pakistan, few long-term changes have been made. Terror organizations continue to thrive economically and socially. So why are so many Shia’s being targeted in Baluchistan? The lack of modern development in this region makes it a fertile ground for insurgents to prosper. Development is further limited as terror organizations target individuals rising to power in any sector. Baluchistan is the home to the second most incidents of anti- Shiism. In a five-year period, there have been 127 incidents of anti-Shiism. The majority of incidents have been in the form of targeted shooting.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Located in the northwestern region of Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is home to 12% of Pakistan’s population. The region makes up 10.5% of the nation’s economy despite being one of the geographically smaller areas. Inhabitants of this region are mainly Pashtun, followed by Tajiks and Hazaras. While small communities of Hindus and Christians exist, Islam is prominent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Shia Muslims consist of a minority population – some of them Ismaili.

War and regional instability have left this region as a hub for the militant insurgency. As the region borders Afghanistan, Taliban influence flows through the area. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is home to 13% of Pakistan’s overall incidents of anti-Shiism, resulting in the death of 274.


In late 2001, the terror organization Tehreek-e- Taliban entered the FATA region, creating an array of unrest. Gradually, the Taliban has increased its influence in the region. Adding to the instability of the region is poverty. Despite the area’s reservoirs of marble, copper, limestone, and coal, increased mistrust among government/non-government organizations and regional leaders makes retrieval of resources very difficult. Economic hardships and the uncontrolled movement from the Afghan border has created a market for opioids and contraband trafficking.

There have been 36 Shia deaths in the past five years. In contrast to other regions of Pakistan, FATA has a high rate of bomb attacks targeted at Shia populated areas.


Punjab is the second largest area and most populated region after Baluchistan. In comparison to Baluchistan, however, Punjab is one of Pakistan’s most economically prosperous regions. Over 95% of Punjab is Muslim, the majority being Hanafi Sunni and a small minority of Shia Twelvers.  Sufism is prominent in Punjab as well. Punjab

In the time period between 2012 and 2016, 158 Shia Muslims have lost their lives to targeted shootings, murder, and suicide bombing. In addition to Sindh, Punjab is home to the nation’s higher rates of attacks on Shia processions.

Gilgit Baltistan

Gilgit-Baltistan is the northernmost region of Pakistan. For years, Pakistan and India have disputed over the region as it can be the perfect input into Kashmir because of its mountainous foray. With a population of more than 1.5 million, Gilgit-Baltistan is one of Pakistan’s most heavily Shia populated areas. This area is of significant geopolitical interest as it allows a pathway to China, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and India.

This region is home to 23 total attacks on Shia Muslims. The majority of those attacks were targeted shootings.

Civil Divide

A Pew Research Center survey taken in 2012 reveals the environment in which religious divides grew in Pakistan. According to the study, which took a sample of 1,450 Pakistanis, 35% reported that they did not consider Shias to be Muslim. Of the 35% mentioned, 50% of Sunnis viewed Shia as non-Muslims. This staggering number is dangerous considering the fact that blasphemy is still illegal in Pakistan. Outward blasphemy may result in death by the mob, as happened in April 2017 when a student was beaten to death by a mob after he questioned the Quran’s teachings on Adam and Eve. According to the Pew survey, 73% of Pakistanis believe in the Blasphemy Laws. Of those questioned, 5% believe that the Blasphemy Laws are geared toward singling out minorities. This 5% consists heavily of Shia and educated Sunnis.

The Pakistani government seems to avoid taking sides in the religious divide, and some politicians have even taken advantage of the conflict. According to the Center for Security Studies, due to these intolerant leaders being local enforcers, the politicians use them to rake in support from the leaders’ respective region. However, in 2014, Taliban militants entered an army-run school, killing 141 people, 132 of which were children. This led to the National Action Plan (NAP), which was a 30-point strategy through which the government would crack down on religious violence including provisions such as special trial courts under the supervision of the army and the stopping of militant outfits and armed gangs within the country.

From 2014 to 2016, 430 people had been executed. This number may seem daunting, but it is undermined by the fact that 80% had no connection to terrorism, and hate speech and literature has not stopped flowing into the public. Even politicians remain unhindered. In 2016, the Pakistani Interior Minister was criticized for meeting officially with an intolerant leader. When questioned, he undermined the NAP and government efforts by stating that the intolerant leader was not a terrorist. Though there has been a drop in violence, the Pakistani government doesn’t seem serious about total religious reconciliation. The Blasphemy Laws, fundamentalist groups, and general intolerance against Shia minorities will keep the religious violence in Pakistan a recurring issue.


As a result of the data obtained of cases of anti-Shiism in Pakistan in 2012-2016, Shia Rights Watch concludes that violations were with the goal of suppressing the power of the Shia community within the larger society by creating fear. While Shia Muslims strive to be a part of their society, extremist organizations aim to limit their social and political involvement. Further, by targeting prominent members of the community, terror organizations create social anxiety, which they hope will suppress the growth of the community by forcing them into hiding. With their actions, terror groups aim to marginalize the Shia identity.

Shia Rights Watch condemns acts of violence against Shia Muslims and all other minority groups. SRW calls on Pakistani authority to hold violators of human rights accountable for their action through just and fair trials. Areas of Pakistan inhabited by Shia Muslims are rich in resources and are strategic openings to neighboring nations. The instability created by extremist organizations have made the retrieval of resources impossible. Increasing security and involving Shia individuals in community building would reduce instability and allow for use to resources in those areas.

History of anti-Shiism in Pakistan has shown that the Shia population is resilient in nature. SRW hypothesizes not a reduction in the population of Shia in Pakistan, but an increase of Shia push for equal rights.


International Religious Freedom 2015 Report with Shia Rights Watch summary

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor International Religious Freedom released their 2015 Report on August 10th detailing human rights violations, including some of what Shia face around the world.

At Shia Rights Watch (SRW) we welcome this report and the attention given to the important issue of human right. Shia Rights Watch hopes to see more detailed report in following years with more collaboration between State Department and right NGOs.

We believe highlighting minority rights in such reports will raise attention to these groups and result in more international effort to recognize and protect all human rights.

The following summary is what is reported by Bureau of Democracy followed by SRW findings that were not included in the IRF report.

  • Afghanistan

Several incidents with the  Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP, showed a targeting of Shia Hazara minorities in kidnapping and beheadings. On different occasions the ISKP targeting Shias resulting in the death of 11, the beheading of four men, two women and one girl. Later in the year the same terrorist organization kidnapped 11 Hazaras  and an additional 30 on a separate incident while also being responsible for the October 9th attack on a Shia religious center in Kabul.

SRW confirmed death of 46 Shia, 57 wounded and 100 arrests.

  • Azerbaijan

The government detained approximately 46 religious leaders and placed limits on the publishing and distribution of religious texts. The response from the Ministry of Internal Affairs was to detain an additional 38 people with charges that human rights activists claim to be fabricated, restrict travel access to the city, and to search homes. Other press reports also show an incident in which Imam Taleh, leader of the independent Muslim Unity movement was severely beaten by Yasamal police.  On March 10th, the government also arrested  theologian, Jeyhun Jafarov with charges of treason.  His religious activities such as leading pilgrimages, television broadcasts, and translation of Iranian literature has led him to still be imprisoned and awaiting at the end of 2015. Lastly, the government has also been accused of demolishing an “unregistered” mosque, placing its founder under investigation.

According to SRW 2015 report, 9 Shia were killed and 35 were arrested in this year.

  • Bahrain

Bahrain, a Shia majority country led by a Sunni government has seen systematic oppression of the Shia through arrests, travel bans, revoked citizenship and more.  The government has detained protesters, journalists, and human rights activists. In June 2015, a court sentence Sheikh Ali Salman to four years of prison.In August the government also issued an additional arrest to Sheikh Hasan Isa.  Government crackdowns on terrorist investigations resulted in 25 Shia to be tried and convicted, with one defendant given the death penalty while other received ten to life in jail. Bahraini authorities have also revoked the citizenship of 72 accused terrorist supports, including both Shia and Sunni. Other acts of anti-shi’ism include discrimination in employment and education in addition to anti-shia commentary in private broadcasts or in vandalism of Shia mosques and the destruction of grave sights.

The Ministry of Interior promised to rebuild the 30 mosques that the government destroyed however only 27 have seen reconstruction. At educational institutes, Shia students applicants are granted less lucrative or prestigious scholarships in fields they did not wish to pursue.  Discrimination is also found in the naturalized process with a Sunni preference, granting Sunnis an expedited process as an attempt to alter the demographic of the nation. On a whole, the larger unemployment rate for Shia shows they are marginalized at large with a lower socio-economic status compared to Bahraini Sunni.

Based on SRW records 393 case of Shia arrest, 97 wounded in attacks and one killed.

  • Bangladesh

While issues of discrimination and religious freedom for religious minorities as a whole is a prominent issue in Bangladesh, the country has seen several incidents of anti-shia crimes. On October 24th, a bomb attack on a Shia Ashura celebration resulted in two deaths and scores injured. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in addition to a November 26  attack on  Shia mosque in Borga that killed one and injured 3. According to the report, religious minorities claim that discrimination also exists in exam questions that drew from the majority religion. Additionally, a lack of minorities teachers resulted in minority students being unable to enroll in classes of their faith.

  • Egypt

Egypt’s 800,000 – 2 million Shia live under an oppressive government. The Egyptian government continues to use anti-Shia rhetoric, harasses the Shia, and takes away their right to worship. The government bans the importation and sale of Shia literature, the media is filled with anti-Shia hate speech, and Shia are seen as deviant from true Islam. A committee has also been formed to investigate any NGO that is suspected of promoting or practicing Shia Islam. The committee has raided institutions, confiscated religious books and arrested leaders. There have also been reports of a retired doctor and others being arrested and sentenced to 5-6 years in jail for “adhering to the Shia faith.” Their crime was transporting Shia CD’s and books. The government has also closed important Shia religious sites, especially during special holidays, saying that She practices are “falsehoods,” with  “no connection to Islam.”

Four Shia arrest was confirmed by SRW during this year.

  • Indonesia

The Indonesian Shia face heavy discrimination and hate speech. The National Anti-Shia Movement (ANNAS) has held several anti-Shia demonstrations, and openly calls Shia the “deviant sect.” Additionally, one mayor banned the observance of a Shia holiday, and posters of anti-Shia rhetoric are common throughout the country, websites, and social media. There have also been accounts of detained Shia being forced to repent and renounce their faith. Additionally, many of the Shia IDPs are not able to return to their homes because the other residents refuse to allow them back in.

  • Iran

While Shia Islam is the official religion of Iran, Shia who do not agree with the practices of the government face strong discrimination, intimidation and arrest. The government closely monitors the statements and views of independent Shia leaders, media outlet, centers and websites. Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi who openly criticized the government is serving an 11 year prison sentence.

SRW reported employees of several independent Shia TVs  were arrested, their donations and properties are ceased and back accounts are freezed.

A shooting in non-Shia city of Khuzestan resulted in two deaths and two injuries in October.

  • Iraq

Iraq has been has been a haven for terrorist groups in 2015; especially Daesh.  The group has sought out minority groups to rape, pillage, and murder minorities in the country.  Hundreds of Shia have been killed by suicide attacks in the last few months.  In a predominantly Muslim country, most Shia are located in or around Baghdad. In June, the Ministry of Human rights announced that 1,000 bodies had been exhumed from mass graves.  These bodies were from a 2014 attack at Camp Speicher.

SRW reported 3861 Shia killed, and 3474 wounded due to anti-Shia activities.

  • Malaysia

With the current restrictions placed on Shia in Malaysia by the government, religious freedom and anti-Shia discrimination is of high concern. The government has continued to forbid non-Sunni practice and barred Muslims from converting to another religion. For muslims in violation of Sharia code, there are imposed fines, detentions and canings.  The Malaysian government continued to detention Shia Muslims for practicing their religion; In October the State Islamic Department issues arrests to 16 people for participating in Shia religious ceremonies stating that there will be punishment for Muslims that deviate from the “true Islamic faith”.  The federal and state governments continued to forbid religious assembly and worship for groups considered to be deviant sects such as Shia.

  • Pakistan

Pakistan has seen an upward turn in extremist activities.  Hundreds of Shia minorities have been killed and injured in the last year by armed sectarian groups.  The groups are targeting Shia houses of worship, religious leaders, and religious gatherings.  Extremist groups are aiming at minority populations based on religious motives.  As the months go by, Shia leaders are reporting more and more hate speech and threats against their people.  It is estimated that upwards of 40 million Shia muslims live in Pakistan. Although it appears the government is against these acts of terror, the violence does not seem to be slowing.

SRW reported killing of 285 Shia, 275 wounded and 6 faith based arrest.

  • Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has had continuous discrimination against the Shia majority on a variety of levels. ISIS has claimed at least five attacks against Shia targets and Shia clerics and activists who advocate for Shia have been arrested; at least one Shia cleric has been executed due to charges of violent opposition. Authorities have arrested more than 1,000 Eastern province Shia since 2011 and groups in Qatif have recorded at least 206 persons remain in prison with others subject to travel bans. At least 30 Shia have been convicted of capital crimes.

Additionally, most mosques have not received official operating licenses because doing so would require the government to explicitly endorse them. The government also did not finance or assist in the construction of Shia mosques.

On May 29th, a suicide bomber killed four Shia attempting to entire a mosque. On August 6th, an attacker carried out another suicide bombing killing 17 people. October 16th a shooter killed five Shia, and later in the month a bomber murdered two people and wounded 26 Shia.

Shia businessmen were also forced to close their shops for all five prayers despite only observing three of the five prayers that Sunni practice.

The government also continued to distribute textbooks with intolerant, anti-Shia materia. Additional reports from Shia groups reveal discrimination in the courts has lengthy sentences would be given to Shia for engaging in peaceful protests.

Based on SRW report 33 shia were killed, 99 wounded and 34 were arrested by the government.

  • Yemen

During evening prayers on September 2, two suicide bombers attacked the Zaydi Shi’a al-Muayyed mosque in Sana’a’s al-Jeraf neighborhood, killing 32 persons and injuring at least 98. After the arrival of paramedics, a follow-on car bomb detonated outside the building. The next day ISIS affiliate Wilayat Sana’a claimed responsibility for the double bombing. Other attacks on Zaydi mosques occurred on March 20, June 17, June 20, July 29, and September 24.

On July 29, a car bomb exploded at the Al-Fayed Al-Hatami mosque in Sanaa, the principal mosque and administrative center for Ismaili Muslims, killing four and wounding six.

SRW confirmed death of 343 civilian Shia and 547 wounded. but it believes the numbers is  higher but could not be recorded due to high risk environment.

  • Nigeria

Human rights organizations reported that army troops killed hundreds of members of the Shia minority Muslim group Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in Zaria, Kaduna State, in December, and buried them in mass graves.

On November 27 a suicide bombing attack on a Shia religious procession passing through Dakasoye, Kano State, killed at least 21.

SRW reported the arrest of community Shia leader Shekh Zakzaky, and killing of hundreds of Shia whose grave are yet to be recognized due to mass burial by army. The army attacked the community during 48 hours window, killing and wounding. According to community members. Some people are still missing. SRW is seriously concerned for the health of Sheikh Zakzaky as his sone reports he is in need of medical aid but is denied access to it.

  • Syria

Anti Shia groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra Front (ANF) targeted Shia dense areas, destroyed Shia shrines, and other religious heritage sites. ANF and some allied rebel groups targeted Druze and Shia minorities in the northern part of the country, claiming responsibility for numerous bombings, including suicide attacks.

In March ISIS also published a video of militants beheading eight Shia in Hama.

After rebels expelled government authorities from Idlib city in March, they surrounded the nearby majority Shia villages of Fu’a and Kafraya, and targeted both with shelling and suicide bombings. The rebels referred to the villagers in Fu’a and Kafraya as “rawafid,” a derogatory term used to refer to Shia Muslims.

In Aleppo Governorate, several rebel groups, including ANF and Ahrar al-Sham, attacked the Shia towns of Nubl and Zahra, which other rebels had been besieging, and portrayed violence against the villages in sectarian terms

Alawite and Shia youth reported Sunni colleagues continued to threaten them in schools and universities due to their religious affiliations and perceived support for the government.

SRW specified 78 Shia killed, 169 wounded and 10 arrests, but it believes the numbers could be higher.

  • Kuwait

A suicide bombing at a Shia mosque in June, killing 26 people and injuring more than 200 others.The government ordered the Shia community to commemorate Ashura and other holidays indoors. Shia continued to report discrimination against them in terms of the training of clergy and employment in the public sector. Shia leaders said discrimination continued to prevent Shia from obtaining leadership positions in public sector organizations, including the police force and the military/security apparatus. BAsed on SRW report there was killing of 27 Shia and 227 were wounded.

  • Libya

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) reported increased hostility towards Shia Muslims and Shia Islam since 2012 at various levels of Libyan society. No specific number of casualty is confirmed.  

  • Morocco

The government to deny registration to local Shia groups which religious leaders and legal scholars said prevented those groups from legally gathering for religious ceremonies or forming associations under which they could operate legally. As the result there were no known Shia mosques.Representatives of minority religious groups said fears of government surveillance led adherents of the Shia faiths to refrain from public worship and instead to meet discreetly in members’ homes.

  • UAE

According to media accounts, the government revoked residency permits for more than 100 noncitizen Shia Muslims, mostly of Iranian and Syrian nationality, during the year.

  • Lebanon

State Department did not specify any anti-Shia activity however based on SRW report a suicide bombing at the southern part of Beirut injured 37 and killed 50 Shia.  moreover faulty association of all Shia with Hizballah has prevented Lebanese Shia from receiving international support and recognition.

  • Madagascar

No Shia rights violation is reported by State Department however according to SRW research five Shia were arrested without explanation and worship center where threaten to be demolished by non state actors .

  • UK

Based on SRW report, a Shia mosque was vandalized in Bradford infusing fear in British Shia community.

  • Somalia

According to SRW sources Mungaab, the mayor of Mogadishu and the governor of the Bandari region vowed to take action against expansion of Shia ideology. He stated “Somalia is a Sunni nation and does not need Shia ideology” according to Somali Current.


Read Full IRF Report

Read Full SRW Report

Shia Rights Watch Bi-Annual Report

Download Printing Version HERE

This Bi-Annual report is based on analysis of monthly reports conducted by Shia Rights Watch. The report summarizes human rights violations toward Shia people in 10 countries beginning in January and ending in June 2016.

Included in this report is a list of countries who have participated, whether actively or passively, in human rights violations against the Shia minority.  We have focused on the following violations: casualties, passport revocation, deportation, arrests, increased sentencing, fines, and denial of basic civil liberties.  This report gives strong evidence that the Shia are clearly being discriminated against.  Although we are not measuring all acts of human rights violations, this report presents undeniably the atrocities happening daily to Shia communities.

It must be noted that Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, India, Iraq, Kuwait, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria are members of the United Nations. This is important because  these countries have all violated the International Bill of Human Rights. Within this bill, citizens of member states pledge to uphold the following rights for all of their citizens: all humans are born free in dignity and in rights, everyone has the freedom to exercise their opinion, expression, thought, conscience, and religion.  All people have the right to education, participation in government, and the right to assemble.  And finally, all people have the right to leave any country and return, a right to a nationality, and a right to a fair trial if arrested or detained.


Summary of Key Findings:

  • Shia Muslims are targeted and unsafe in many countries throughout the world, this report only highlights the top 10.
  • Shia are oppressed regardless of whether they are the minority or majority in population.
  • Shia are targeted by both terrorist groups and governments alike.
  • Shia Muslims face discrimination in the forms of limited speech, religion, and travel, as well as arrests, injuries and death.  

Shia Rights Watch_BiAnnual_2016

Country Reports

SHia Rights Watch_AzerbaijanAzerbaijan

Although Azerbaijan has a majority Shia population of 85 percent, the country does not tolerate any actions pertaining to freedom of speech or religion. The government sees these acts as a criticism of its institution. Following this, there have been two reported incidents of anti-Shi’ism in Azerbaijan this past year. On the 22nd of May 2016, Azerbaijani authorities destroyed a Shia seminary for the purpose of expanding roads, but the seminary was located in a street alley out of the way. Secondly, the government of Azerbaijan banned the import of 732 religious books and disallowed the publishing of five.  The Republic of Azerbaijan is likely to engage in more violations of human rights as the country controls its own media; therefore staying under the radar.


BangladeshThe country of Bangladesh is a very densely populated country that is home to Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists.  Because of the instability of the government, hate groups have moved in and are targeting minority populations. The growing presence of  the Islamic State in Bangladesh has resulted in one incident of Anti Shi’ism in Dhaka this past year. Alleged ISIS members attacked a Shia preacher in southwestern Bangladesh. His body was found with stab wounds in the head and chest. Police have been skeptical about the assailants’ connections to ISIS, and have also displayed a lack of ability to bring those at large to justice.


Shia Rights Watch_IndiaIndia is a very populated and diverse country with many religious groups.  As a rule, religious freedom is tolerated in this country in most areas.  However, on 1 April, 2016, Indian authorities in the district of Lucknow told Shia cleric Kalbe Jawad that he must hand in his passport within the following ten days. According to police, there are many charges against him, but when he asked whether other people with such charges had their passports taken away, he was not given an answer. This leads many to believe that this was an act of anti-Shiism.  In a statement, Jawad says, “A revenge is being taken against me as I have been raising my voice against anomalies committed by the district administration in the Hussainabad Trust.”  Moreover, the cases in which the police are charging him were resolved back in 2013, as the cleric states, “Regional Passport Office (RPO) in connivance with district administration is trying to harass me. The cases against me mentioned in the letter sent by RPO were withdrawn in 2013 and the then District Magistrate Anurag Yadav’s letter on 23 April, 2013 mentioned that.” Three years later he should not still be punished for crimes previously withdrawn, making this seem more like an excuse to condemn him and his religious beliefs.


Shia Rights Watch_Kuwait

Kuwait has a Shia population of 30 to 40 percent.  In the past, this country has shown tolerance to the Shia minority population.  However, in March of 2016, the Kuwaiti government deported 74 people for alleged extremist ties.  A prominent activist, whose name has not been disclosed for safety reasons, has also had his visa taken away. The presence of the Islamic State in the region is not helping matters.  



Shia Rights Watch_Nigeria

Nigeria’s current instability and conflict have resulted in human rights atrocities by a variety of actors and in numerous forms. While Muslims represent a one third religious minority, the Shia sect represents only 5 percent of the Muslim community and has the fastest growing population in the country.  The estimated 1,000 lives lost in December of 2015 set a precedent for the 2016 acts of Anti-Shi’ism, with a released list of 705 missing or killed persons in January. In the same month, a suicide bomber killed 10 civilians. In March, an armed security force halted a Shia procession led by the Islamic Movement. On May 3rd, the government also administered a death sentence to a Shia Muslim. Gunfire in June also resulted in the death of 18 and left 10 wounded.



Shia Rights Watch_BiAnnual_2016


Shia Rights Watch_Pakistan

Pakistan is a Sunni Muslim majority country in which the Shia make up a large minority population of about 20% of the country. Since January, 18 people have been killed and 36 wounded. None of the assailants have been identified in any of the killings. One of the victims was a religious scholar of Shia school of thought named Allama Imdad Hussan Jafri who was slaughtered in Hyderabad, Pakistan. Unknown armed terrorists illegally entered the scholar’s home and killed him.  On 27 June, a bomb was planted on a bicycle near a mall- 3 people were killed and 32 injured in this incident.

One man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for a facebook post deemed religiously offensive. This incident brings the total to 9 people who have been jailed.  Police are still not giving any reason for the imprisonment. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a democratic parliamentary federal republic that recognizes Islam as its official faith.  However, Muslim populations have been under extreme scrutiny, especially the Shia minority. 


Shia Rights Watch_BahrainHuman rights violations are very common in the Shia majority, Sunni led country of Bahrain.  The government has been trying to limit the freedom of speech, gathering, and religion of the Shia population. It is impossible to hold any one person accountable as these incidents are government led. In the first six months of 2016, one Bahraini Shia has been killed during non-violent protesting by police. The government has arrested 231 Bahraini Shia for unjust reasons.  Many Shia have been accused and charged of “terrorist activities” and are jailed under the false pretence of national security. These arrests occurred during Shia led peaceful protests. Jail sentences range from 3 years to life. In addition, 58 people have received increased sentencing on current prison terms. Eight Shia civilians have been forcibly deported based on faulty accusations. It is documented that 30 citizens have had their citizenship revoked and fined including prominent Shia leaders. Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has recently been detained and is still being held. Moreover, on 19 June, the Al- Khalifa regime announced the regulation of “khoms,” or Shia religious tax. The Council of Shia scholars has strongly condemned the government announcement. Bahrain holds the highest amount of human rights violations than other countries. The government is working to change the demographics of the nation and phase the Shia people out by revoking citizenships, deportation, and extensive prison sentences.


Shia Rights Watch_Iraq

Shia in Iraq make up a two thirds majority of the population, showing that the religion has a significant presence in shaping the country’s culture. Iraq has had the largest number of Shia deaths and injuries in the world; thus far 2016 has brought an estimated 1416 deaths and 913 injuries. This trend has been true for the past two years as reported by Shia Rights Watch. The violence typically occurs in the city of Baghdad, which has had a documented 92 incidents this year. Other locations such as Karbala, Muqdadiyah, Madaen, Mahmudiya, and  Kadhimiya have also seen multiple attacks on Shia. Thus far, May has held the highest number of casualties. Typical causes of these deaths are a result from car bombings or improvised explosive devices by non-state actors, resulting from the ongoing war. This is troubling news as Iraq is home to many Shia shrines which in turn draws millions of Shia visitors every year.   The attacks and deaths in June have decreased greatly, as Iraqi security increases during holy times. With June as the month of Ramadan this year, more Shia are protected along with other Muslims. Nevertheless, these acts of hatred and violence should not fluctuate or be allowed to go on regardless of the time of the year.

Shia Rights Watch_BiAnnual_2016

Saudi Arabia

Shia Rights Watch_Saudi ArabiaIt is no secret that Saudi Arabia has a long standing history with human rights violations.  These past months have been no different. On Sunday April 22nd, the Saudi government sentenced Issa al-Hamid, an activist, to 9 years in jail for protesting for his human rights. He is also banned from foreign travel through this period. Al-Hamid is a senior member of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (HASEM). The court found him guilty of instigating people to violate public order, insulting the judiciary, defaming a number of senior religious figures and establishing an unlicensed organization.  Monday April 23rd, Saudi Arabia approved  the death sentence for Shia activist Yusof al-Mosheykhas, in the city of Awwamiyah in the eastern region of Qatif.  He was arrested in January 2014 after attending anti-government protests and charged with an act of terrorism.  In June, 14 Shia Muslims were sentenced to death by Saudi officials.  Nine others were given sentences of 3 to 15 years.  Later that month, Saudi security forces apprehended top Shia cleric Sheikh Jafar Sweileh on political grounds in Qatif. Activists say that the cleric has been arrested for his writings in defense of freedom of expression. Later that month, a Saudi man has been shot dead during a police raid in the country’s predominantly Shia east.  An interior ministry spokesman said Abdul Rahim al-Faraj was suspected of killing security forces personnel, however, there is no proof of these allegations. Illegal arrests are regular and frequent in this country.


Shia Rights Watch_SyriaViolence toward Shia Muslims has grown more severe alongside the current war in Syria, as civilian Shia are associated politically, despite having no international ties. The Shia population in Syria is approximately 13 percent, with Alawites being the leading majority. This past year, 249 civilians have been killed and 404 wounded in several incidents, primarily from suicide bombings and ongoing airstrikes. The city of Sayyida Zeinab witnessed 71 Shia killed and 100 wounded in January, followed by a suicide bombing in Damascus resulting in 143 dead and 200 injured. In June, Damascus lost 20 lives and saw dozens injured.




Complete Overview

Shia Rights Watch_BiAnnual_2016

The figure above shows the accumulated number of Shia casualties between the months of January to June 2016. Syria and Iraq have the highest number of casualties as a result of insecurity created by the war against ISIS. Shia deaths from January to June totaled 1,737 with 1,383 wounded.  The figure shows a clear lack of safety for the Shia population with regional instability and extremism being the main contributions to Shia civilian deaths.


Shia Rights Watch_BiAnnual_2016


The figure above shows total number of Shia human rights violations between the months of January and June 2016. In the country of Bahrain, Shia are the majority.  Meaning in all other countries listed above, this group is a minority.  Bahrain has the highest amount of human rights violations. This is due to its government attempting to keep the Shia oppressed and phazed out of the country altogether following the 2011 protests that have continued since. The current power struggle has only led to more instability, and is creating a current cycle that calls for greater attention from the International community. Examples of violence are deportation, revocation of citizenship, and arrests. Human rights violations  between January and June totaled 481.  These violations include unlawful citizenship revocation, forced deportation, increased prison sentences, and fines.  The Shia people are also denied freedom of expression, the practice of religion, and denied proper education.


Shia Muslims are the largest minority group in the Middle East. Their population is growing quickly. Despite the Shias proven peaceful demeanor, they are targets of everyday conflict.

Shia Rights Watch believes the Shia people, as anyone are entitled to basic human rights.  These basic rights include but are not limited to: the rights to education, employment, freedom of expression, and freedom of religious practice.

The ongoing conflict in Iraq and Syria are big factors in the slaying and oppression of Shia minorities. Terror groups such as ISIS are targeting minority groups, such as Shia, and massacring them. Consequently, once ISIS is involved, it is hard to measure the atrocities enacted among minority groups because government agencies stop intervening. Over 3,000 Shia have been killed and wounded in the first 5 months of 2016.  

Moreover, close to 500 human rights violations have occurred in the first few months of the year.  Most violations were in countries other than Syria and Iraq.  Governments in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain fail to see the significance of minorities and seek to diminish the population altogether.  
It is important to bring light to these violations and raise awareness of all minority oppression; not just Shia.  By doing so, we can bring peace and safety to people’s lives. Moreover, this will stabilize war torn countries and hinder terror groups in the region. 

Shia Rights Watch issues its 2015 Annual Report

SRW annual Casualty Report, depicting cases of anti-Shiism throughout the past year including cases of arrest, injury, murder, and detainment. Based on in depth research of SRW, an average of, twenty-nine to thirty Shia Muslims were killed, arrested, or wounded on a daily basis in 2015.

“2015” reports 5093 Shia Muslims are killed, 5416 wounded, and 431 arrested during between January 1st to December 31st, 2015.  Both state and non-state agents such as ISIS have claimed responsibility for these attacks, making the Shia people largely unsafe in 25 countries around the world; Shia have claimed to feeling insecure in 50% of all Islamic nations.


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International Shia Day

Declaring an International Day was a decision Shia Rights Watch made after realizing the amount of misinformation and lack of awareness that the international community has in regards to Shia communities. The practical significance of the day revolved around raising public and governmental awareness of the human rights violations that occur against Shia Muslims, which go relatively unrecognized by international groups and organizations. Like other International Days, such as International Women’s Day, International Day for Shia Rights allows for an inclusive conversation to occur about the issues affecting that specific group. Moreover, the International Day for Shia Rights allowed for the continued promotion for governmental support in favor of the adoption of H.Res.105 and S.Res.69.

Bahrain; The Lost Generation

  • ISBN-10: 1512057819
  • ISBN-13: 978-1512057812

The Shia Rights Watch report entitled “Bahrain: The Lost Generation” is 48 pages, detailing incidents of violence and intimidation against Bahraini Shia Muslims in 2014. Government sponsored violence has affected the lives of many Shia communities around Bahrain. The report gives a detailed account of how this already oppressed group has been marginalized further in recent years through systematic arrests, torture , and citizenship revocation. The report is based on interviews, site visits, news articles, NGO reports, and other human rights reports.


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Pakistan;Rights Unrecognized

The Shia Rights Watch report entitled “Pakistan: Rights Unrecognized” details widespread militant violence against Shia Muslims in Pakistan. This 24 page long report gives a glimpse into how targeted shootings and mosque bombings have inflicted immense pain on the Shia minority around the country. Pakistani Shia Muslims have been targets of un-investigated violence throughout the history and the oppression continues.

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Download the full report (PDF)