Week of 10/11/15
On October 13th, Bahraini Security Forces were spotted removing Ashura banners in the villages of Shahrkan, Al-Malkiya, Sehla, Bu Quwah and Isa Town. In twitter posts that emerged from Bahraini activists, pictures show members of the security forces in the streets with the flags and banners in their hands. This is just the latest form of discrimination displayed by the Bahraini government against the Shia majority in the country. While many Shia activists remained imprisoned, the Bahraini government works to add insult to injury by interfering with the religious expression of this community. The removal of these flags and banners without proper reasoning is a restriction of the expression of religion for Shia Muslims.
Actions by the Bahraini government have become regular occurrences during Muharram as in 2014 Bahraini security forces interrupted a service in a Shia mosque by throwing multiple tear gas canisters inside. This attack was captured on video and posted on YouTube by Shia Rights Watch. The United States Department of State has been notified about the attack last year and is currently investigating it. Shia Rights Watch condemns the limitations placed by the Bahraini government on the free expression of Shia Muslims within their country.
Arms sales by the United States and Western Europe to Bahrain have been a concern for human rights activists for years now and it seems as if the campaign to halt these sales is gaining steam. In the United States, a petition that calls for the government to ban arms sales to Bahrain has gained about 15,000 signatures. The petition entitled “No Weapons For Bahrain” was created by Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, RootsAction.org Code Pink, and World Beyond War. The petition request that some weapons not be sold and delivered to the Kingdom of Bahrain until certain human rights benchmarks are met.
While the United States Department of State has the power to halt weapons sales to countries if they have a questionable human rights record, many have complained that other interests have been allowed to take precedence over human rights in the country. Shia Rights Watch supports this petition and calls for the halt of arms sales to Bahrain until significant human rights improvements are implemented.
In Bahrain, yet another violation to the right to a fair trial has been revealed as Sheikh Salman was denied the ability to meet with his lawyers. Sheikh Ali Salman is a Shia opposition leader who has been detained for his role in peaceful protests. Since he has been in prison the court and prison administration officials are not allowing him to send or receive notes from his lawyers before his trial. In addition to this, the administration officials have refused to respect the confidentiality between Sheikh Salman and his legal team.
In his own words Sheikh Salman stated “I am a prisoner of conscience who has been denied self-defense and my lawyers have been denied the right to present argument and evidence”. The tampering in the legal defense created an unfair balance between the state and the defendant. This is a clear violation of due process and in turn Shia Rights Watch urges that Sheikh Salman be released immediately.
Sheikh Ali Salman was sentenced to four years of prison last June and he is currently appealing his case.
Update- in an update from Sheikh Ali Salman’s trial in Bahrain, news has emerged that Mohsin Alalwi, a member of the Sheikh’s legal defense team, was removed from the courtroom during proceedings. According to those present at the time of the removal, the Sheikh’s defense panel began to complain before the court about the denial of confidentiality between the Sheikh and themselves. In his statement before the judge Sheikh Salman stated “the international community has looked at my case and the world has disapproved the malicious and politicized charges against me”. In addition he vowed to continue to fight for democracy and freedom by saying “I will continue my peaceful political activism until democracy is achieved. This is my national duty and that brings me to find solutions for the crisis through dialogue”.
On October 5th dozens of Saudi clerics released a statement that praised ISIS by calling them “holy warriors” who are “defending” the Arab country. Also they stated that ISIS should be trusted because should they fall it would mean the fall of “one Sunni country after the other”.
This statement made by the Saudi clerics led to quick condemnation by high level UN officials. Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary General’s special adviser on the prevention of genocide and Jennifer Welsh, the UN special adviser on the responsibility to protect issued a statement that condemned the statement issued by the Saudi clerics and expressed their alarm in the rise of rhetoric that that has been used to incite violence.
Their statement said “such rhetoric can aggravate the already extremely volatile situation in Syria by drawing religiously motivated fighters to join all parties to the conflict, thus escalating the risk of violence against religious communities”
Unfortunately Shia Muslims have been the victims of much of this violence provoking speech. In Iraq and Syria, Shia Muslims are facing nearly daily bombings and that can be traced back to the words of clerics that call them dogs and infidels.