Incidents of Anti-Shiism in September 2019
The month of September corresponded with the holy month of Muharram. Shia Rights Watch took special attention towards violence that targeted Shia Muslims in their religious congregations. A special report that highlighted acts of violence in the first ten days of the Holy month can be found here.
In addition to highlighting violence against Shia Muslims in the month of Muharram, Shia Rights Watch notes actions taken by national governments to protect Shia Muslims and Shia rituals.
In Sri Lanka, Colombo authorities increased security around Shia religious centers upon information of nationalist groups planning to disrupt Shia processions. The identified groups were given restraining orders by Colombos Magistrate court. More information on Sri Lanka’s efforts to protect Shia rights can be found here.
In Pakistan, authorities increased health and security services in cities dense with Shia populations. Across Pakistan, approximately 40,000 forces were enlisted to protect Shia rituals. Traffic was lead away from areas that were home to Shia Centers, and such regions were secured with national security forces. More information on the protection of Shia rights in Pakistan can be found here.
Shia Rights Watch and communication recognized the two nations was made with their embassies in acknowledgment of measures taken to protect Shia rights.
Within the first ten days of September, an approximated 30 Shia clerics, reciters and program leaders were summoned and arrested by Bahraini authorities. The arrests came after authorities gave warning of increased restrictions to congregations and public expression. Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa announced crackdowns against Muharram commemorations. He stated that Manama’s security services would be ‘monitoring’ the worshipers and that “raising slogans or pictures of religious or political figures or foreign parties … will not be allowed.”
Names of those arrested and detained can be found on SRW report specific to violence during the first ten days of Muharram.
Restrictions were even more enforced in detainment centers. Many identified reciters were separated from general crowds and place in solitary confinement. The general population was told they could only congregate between the hours of 7 to 9 pm.
Later in the month, accounts of torture were released by the family of Hussain al-Sahlawi who has been detained since 2012. Authorities at Bahraini detention centers have on multiple occasions used torture as a means of extracting forced false confessions.
Other detainees are restricted in their communication rights. Osama Al-Saghir has reportedly been deprived of his communication privileges for refusing to end his hunger strike.
Al-Saghir was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison after being arrested at a peaceful sit-in outside the home of Bahrain’s highest religious authority Sheikh Isa Qassim. Al-Saghir is one of over 600 detainees on a hunger strike. Hunger strike participants have taken a stand against lacking medical attention and subpar conditions in detention centers.
Specialized Criminal Court Saudi Arabia has sentenced Shia cleric and human rights activist Sheikh Mohammed al-Habib to 12 years in prison and imposed a five years travel ban on him which will be carried out after his term. Sheikh Habib was recently released after three years of arbitrary detention.
Seven of those 12 years are based on alleged violations to a legal pledge. Five years of his sentence is part of a second case that punishes his support of protestors.
The case of al-Habib is yet again another example of the lack of real reform by Kings Mohammad bin Salman.
The nature of minority groups makes them the most vulnerable in detriments of conflict.
Shia Muslims in Kashmir faced particular restrictions by the enforcement of Indian-led security forces. In attempts to quell possible political rallies, authorities announced a curfew and a ban on the congregation. Shia neighborhoods were warned of arrests on the day before Ashura (the tenth day of Muharram). Ongoing processions were met with violence that resulted in the injury of 12 locals.
The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) called on the people of Malaysia in advance of Muharram to “always remain vigilant upon the spread of [Shia] deviant teachings in this nation…The Muslim Ummah must become the eyes and the ears for the religious authorities when stumbling upon activities that are suspicious, disguising under the pretext of Islam.”
The JAIS is funded by one of the most wealthy states in Malaysia and has largely unchecked powers. On September 8, 23 Muharram program attendees in Gombak were taken to the Islamic Complex and told to denounce their beliefs. Those taken were released with warnings of re-arrest. Among those taken were women and children.
Shia Rights Watch notes that anti-Shia broadcasts have to lead to a cascade of anti-Shia sentiment which could endanger all religious and ethnic minorities in Malaysia. Moreover, the lack of government intervention against anti-Shiism signals approval of violent actions against minority groups.
Restrictions against the Shia population continue in Nigeria as forces attacked Shia processions in four different states. The mourning processions consisted of mourners peacefully chanting condemnation against those who propagated violence against Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad. The attacks lead to the death of 12 and the injury of numerous others.
Sheikh Mu’ayad Musawi, religious clergy, a doctoral student of Islamic Studies at the University of Baghdad and a father of four, was killed by gunshot in the outskirts of Baghdad. Musawi was invited to a supposed congregation by the phone. He was killed upon arrival by unknown gunmen.
The identity of the assailants has yet to be discovered. Shia Rights Watch worries of an increase in isolated assassinations that target supporters of Shia Muharram programs.