There was a significant decrease in Shia deaths this month compared to last month, and a decent increase in the amount of Shia injured when one observes the statistics from July. The amount of Shia abducted decreased by nearly half, and the amount of Shia arrested this month more than quadrupled. There were over 300 Shia deaths, more than 600 injuries, and in excess of 50 arrests this month. The numbers average out to almost 10 Shia deaths per day, 20 injuries per day, and nearly two arrests per day. Shia killed, injured, arrests, abducted compared to last month. Estimations of numbers over nearly etc. number of people killed injured etc per day. Almost all of the countries listed in this report are repeat offenders, but the United States joins the list.
This report will analyze the data compiled on Shia deaths, injuries, and arrests that occurred between August 1st and August 31st. The data for this report was gathered from a variety of different sources. The most well-known incidents of anti-Shiism were retrieved from stories that are reported to Shia Rights Watch by eyewitnesses. Each incident is thoroughly evaluated for both authenticity and relevance. For an incident to be included in this report it has to show clear intent to target Shia Muslims on the basis of religious beliefs. The subsequent sections will present and analyze the data gathered by Shia Rights Watch for August.
In August, Shia Muslims were victims in nine countries: Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Pakistan, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, and the United States. There were a total of 306 Shia Deaths this month, and 635 injuries as well. Ten abductions took place while 53 arrests occurred.
Iraq currently has the threat of being fragmented, by the encouragement of people within the United States government as well as the allegations of corruption within the Iraqi government. Major political figures have advocated for a three separate states for Iraq to break into; the Sunni state, Kurdish state, and a Shia state. This action would further sectarian/ethnic tensions in the region, and make countries with disgruntled people more likely to take desperate measures to hold onto power. This creates a problem for Shias in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, and others where the government will do what they can to cling to power even if the threat is nonviolent protesters and international attention.
The allegations of corruption stem from the Sunnis being deposed from their positions when Sadam Hussein was removed from power, and the Shias gained the same positions of power when they took control of the government. Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has agreed to reforms which would include more Sunnis and Kurds into the government, but this can be dangerous for Shias because there is a possibility for revenge. All parties need to let the things that occurred in the past remain in the past, and move forward to create a functioning country.
Unfortunately, Iraq had another bloody month that was similar to July. In August, there were 275 Shia deaths in Iraq and 603 injuries; as opposed to the 365 Shia deaths and 555 injuries of July. The most significant days were August 11th, 14th and 16th where the amount of deaths and injuries soared from tragedies. All three days had injuries in excess of 120 Shias and more than 20 Shias die. Daesh took the time to execute and crucify five Shias on video that was released on August 20th, and released another video on August 31st burning four Shia alive. This senseless violence against Shia needs to stop, and Shia Rights Watch condemns these acts.
The Saudi Arabian Coalition forces finally made headway in the Southern part of Yemen with soldiers on the ground, but the indiscriminate offensive on the North continues with air strikes. There are legitimate concerns about if there will be retribution against all Shias once the country is back in the hands of the Sunnis in the South. Not all Shias fought with the Houthis or Ansarullah, but it is likely that revenge will be sought arbitrarily.
All of the Shia deaths that were recorded were a result of Saudi Arabian Coalition forces performing air strikes and harming civilians. There were at least 22 deaths from air strikes, and 17 of those hit teachers and children preparing exams for students who missed them due to the civil war. The attack on the teachers was carried out in Amran, and the other five Shias were killed in Sadaa. 22 people is an increase from last month’s 16 dead Shia, but last month also had 18 injuries whereas this month has zero for Yemen.
There were only six recorded Shia deaths this month in Syria; compared to the nine of last month. Although there was a slight decrease in the amount of Shia murders, there was a significant increase of injuries from zero in July to 32 in August. All of these casualties came as a result of Syrian rebels launching rockets, mortars and homemade explosives into the Shia towns of Fuaa and Kafraya. The numbers recorded from Syria are the bare minimum, because it is difficult to get information in or out of the war torn country. It is especially difficult in Shia towns that are surrounded by Daesh or Al Nusra Front.
Pakistan continues to become a safer place for Shia Muslims, because Shia Rights Watch only has record of three religiously motivated attacks on Shias for the month of August. This month has the lowest amount of murders for Pakistan all year. Two of the murders were carried out by takfiri groups, and the third is supposedly unclear if it is driven by sectarian hatred. A Shia man, Abid Hussain, was killed in Parachinar by the terrorists of Sipah e Sahaba, and a Shia policeman was shot to death in Quetta by the Deobandi group Razan Mengal. Police claim that it is not clear whether a Shia man, Syed Ameer Haider Shah, was killed for sectarian reasons or if it was his advocacy role in anti-terrorism courts. However, the modus operandi matches the previous terrorist anti-Shiism killings from previous reports where unknown motorcyclists open fire on the target and mysteriously get away.
Bahrain arrested 51 Shias this month which is significantly above their current average of arrests per month of about 37. Two of the arrests conducted this month were executed at the Bahrain International Airport, which targeted Shia religious clerics as well as Human Rights Leaders. The human rights advocate, Sheikh Salman Maitham claims he was arrested and then taken to be tortured. The bulk of the arrests from this month were performed arbitrarily on protesters without a warrant where the government rounded up 47 dissidents. Ibrahim Sharif re-arrested after failing to show remorse for his involvement in demonstrations against the government in 2011.
Bahrain Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa created a social media campaign that claimed to protest Iranian intervention in Bahrain’s affairs, but quickly turned into a hatred campaign against Shia. Some called for the complete annihilation of Shia, and the Interior Minister has verbally attacked Shia in the past. The heath condition of a prominent Bahraini political prisoner has taken a turn for the worse after prison officials did not provide him with medical treatment. A former Bahraini lawmaker is detained after a trip to Iran on charges of financing terrorism, but al Wefaq claims he is being persecuted under laws that criminalize peaceful political activism. Human Rights Watch declared Sheikh Ali Salman’s trial unfair as his lawyer was not allowed to present exculpatory evidence, and he was sentenced to four years for three freedom of expression charges.
Last month, the United States government lifted their arms embargo on the Bahrain government, and this is part of a larger strategy to appease the Salafi Sunnis of the Middle East. The Sunni Arabs are concerned about the United States becoming too close to Iran, and as a result are using that as leverage to gain permission to bomb the Kurds, Shias in Yemen, and more. This is a dangerous strategy for foreign policy in general, but the arms embargo is necessary to limit the amount of damage the Bahraini government can inflict on their own people. Luckily, Senators Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio crossed party lines to create a bill that would reinstate the ban of arms to Bahrain until their human rights abuses on activists, opposition parties, and peaceful dissenters are resolved.
On August 12, ten Shia Hazaras were abducted in Ghazni Province as they were headed to the capital of the province. The terrorists opened fire on several cars, and were able to take at least ten Shias with them. Tribal leaders are working to retrieve their people, but these efforts have proved to be almost entirely fruitless in the past.
The abductors could be the Taliban, rogue Taliban members, or Islamic State members. It is impossible to know at this point who committed the act, because the Taliban have targeted the Hazaras before. However, the Taliban should be busy conducting their Spring and Summer offensive against the government and foreigners working in the country. The Taliban is not as monolithic as some Western sources would have one believe, and there is currently infighting from the choice of a new Taliban leader from outside Afghanistan. Some previous Taliban fighters have left the Taliban to join Daesh in Afghanistan, because they feel the Taliban is not as harsh as they want. Other Taliban have gone rogue for a combination of those reasons.
Doctor Rasim al-Nafees and Sayyed Tahir al-Hashemi were arrested in Cairo after they left Egypt for a trip to Iran to attend the Ahlul Bayt World Assumbly. The two were held for several hours while Doctor Nafees possessions were confiscated, and Mr. Hashemi’s passport was revoked. There were reports of crackdowns on dissidents and Shias since the coup de tat led by al-Sisi took control back in 2013. This report only confirms that Egypt is back to their repressive tactics from before the Arab Spring in 2011.
Indonesia appears to becoming more radicalized every month, and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight. This point cannot be demonstrated more than when there was a Sunni-Shia religious dialogue this month, and there was discussion about Shiism as a dangerous ideology as well as a deviant form of Islam. In the last week of August, there was a conference in Surbaya which almost ended in Shia being declared kafir (infidels) or misguided. There was also an incident in Sampang where 168 Shia Muslims were chased from their homes three years ago by a mob of 500 people, and told that they are not allowed to return to their homes unless they abandon their faith. The situation for Shia in Indonesia is volatile at the least, and deadly at its worst. The government needs to take steps to diffuse the anti-Shiism present in the country.
In an unexpected turn of events, there is one incident of anti-Shiism in the United States this month. A Shia mosque is proposed for an area in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, and residents spoke publicly that Islam is a religion of violence as well as anti-American. This would ordinarily be considered an instance of Islamophobia, but some residents were not persuaded when a Shia man stood up to remind the residents that Shia have been victims of ISIS and religious persecution for 1400 years. However, the vote to approve the mosque has since passed unanimously, and without any comments on the day of the vote.
The amount of Shias killed by bombs this month decreased by 35% while the amount injured by bombs increased by 5%. Air strikes were much more deadly this month, but that is not surprising considering the lack of food, water, shelter, and medical supplies in Yemen currently. The amount of Shia killed using a combination of methods had decreased by 16% from July. The Syrian rebels utilized thousands of rockets and mortars to bombard two Shia towns, but they had a less than 4% accuracy rate. This shows that they may have someone to procure the items or make them, but they are not properly trained to utilize the weaponry effectively. There were five executions of Shias in Iraq this month, and they were carried out by Daesh in the town of Kirkuk. Daesh released another video at the end of the month where they burned four Shias alive. Shooting Shias seems to have fallen out of favor with terrorists, and this is most likely because they can do more damage with a bomb. An explosive vest, belt, or explosives laden car is easier to hide than an rifle as well. Arrests have increased from 11 to 53, and abductions have decreased from 18 to 10.
There is clear Instability in the region brought about by allegations of corruption in Iraq and Lebanon, US support for the policies of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and falling oil prices lead to a volatile combination in the Middle East. These economic, political, and defense issues create an environment for Shias to be discriminated against, abused, and human rights to be taken away. There is a possibility for another revolutionary movement if strong rulers show their weakness, and the people decide to take back their country from those that do not represent their interests.