Late August 2020 coincides with the Holy month of Muharram. Shia Muslims face heightened rates of human rights violations in this month as their open and visible rituals make them targets for anti-Shiism.
In advance of Muharram 2020, threats of arrest and detainment of mourners have been announced by authorities in nations like Bahrain. In Iran, religious entities have been told they cannot hold processions while major markets and businesses remain open with little to no COVID-19 precautions.
Every year, Shia Rights Watch issues an advisory for members of the Shia Muslim community and law enforcement who actively seek to reduce anti-Shiism.
Moreover, the public is encouraged to report anti-Shiism to authorities and use #Muharram2020 to share their experiences and perceptions they face as they practice their faith.
To the Shia Community;
Know your Rights
- As constituents of your nation, you have civil liberties. Familiarize yourself and your community with your nation’s defined human rights and freedom of religion and take advantage of them.
Comply with Health Measures Against COVID-19
- Protect your community and practice through complying with health measures.
- Meet your local, state and national COVID-19 regulations
- Read and implement Shia Rights Watch Muharram 2020 Guidelines Against COVID-19.
Build a relationship with your community law enforcement
- Approach your community law enforcement and communicate your observations for the month of Muharram.
- Seek consultation from your local police department on the placement of security measures such as camera systems and alarms.
- Ask for increased security. In many communities, police can provide protection for your institution, given your coordination. Keep in mind that increased security measures must be requested in advance.
- If needed, obtain the necessary congregation permits in advance.
Reach out to Government Representative
- Meet with the governor and mayor of your town. Have a conversation about your concerns. Reach out and open a line of communication.
Be cognisant of your non-practicing community.
- Recognize that you are a part of a broader community that may or may not commemorate Muharram.
- Respect local regulations.
- Reach out and communicate an increase in activity to neighbors and surrounding institutions.
- Prepare and provide brochures or pamphlets, educating others on the significance and relevance of Muharram.
In case of a human rights violation, Know Your Resources!
- In case of an emergency, contact your local police immediately.
- Contact Shia Rights Watch to inquire about rights-based counseling and broadcast.
To national and local authorities:
Be aware of the increased risk of anti-Shiism and increase security measures
- Congregation and religious expression are critical in Muharram rituals. Increased visibility and dense populations of Shia ease anti-Shia violence, and thus, Shia communities are at a higher risk of abuse.
- Extremist organizations are willing to target Shia Muslims at the cost of civilian and non-civilian lives – Protecting Shia Muslim lives is protecting everyone.
- Organize increased security according to Shia distribution in the area.
Include Shia community leaders in civil planning
- Reach out to community leaders in the preparation of security measures and possible changes in traffic patterns
- Allow open-air venue options and health provisions for mourners to reduce transmission of COVID-19.
- Leaders within Shia communities have first-hand knowledge of the rituals and concerns of their respective communities. Including them in civil-planning can reduce the cost of additional measures.
- Inclusion of local communities allows for cohesion and is linked with increased bi-directional cooperation in policy.
Provide training to non-Shia members of the security enforcement
- Access implicit bias and train against discrimination in law enforcement
- Educate law enforcement about Shia beliefs and rituals
- Members of law enforcement are not exemptions to discriminatory cultures in the larger society. Local and National authorities must address implicit bias within their security personnel to ensure the law is carried out unbiased.