Incidents of Anti-Shiism, July 2019
Anti-Shiism events have been witnessed in many countries, such as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Most violation reports are from Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Bahrain. Anti-Shia violations include but are not limited to, imprisonment, physical and emotional torture, limited or no access to medical assistance, hate speech, explosion, and executions.
- 53 civilians killed during explosions and protests,
- 198 wounded during bomb attacks, by police brutality in demonstrations, and explosions,
- 159 arrested and 39 received sentences,
- Four damages to properties, such as cars, mosques, houses, and markets by terrorist attacks,
- In total, 453 violations against Shia were reported.
It is important to reinforce that the reports are only a sample of anti-Shiism violations. Any violations not cataloged in this report are still valid and deserve to be recognized. Shia Rights Watch notes that violence against Shia Muslims is underreported by victims and by media outlets since many religious minorities live in fear of further persecution.
The main form of violation in Afghanistan was explosions by terrorist groups; 27 people were killed and 94 were injured during three separate attacks. Two of the attacks occurred early in the month in Khwaja Sabz Posh and Ghazni, and the last one in the Khakhriz district.
The first attack on July 6, carried out by the Taliban, killed 14 people, among them four were children and wounded 40 others. The explosion occurred in a market near a very populated Shia area. The second attack was also very alarming to the Muslim and Shia community. The Islamic State carried out a bomb attack on a Shia Mosque, leaving two dead and 20 wounded. It is not the first time the attacks on the worship site occurs. The attacks represent the increasing violence against all Muslims. Attacking any holy ground is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that states on Article 18 that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.”
Therefore, the attack on the Shia Mosque should not be tolerated.
On July 17th, another incident in Afghanistan left 11 people killed and around 34 others injured. Many of those injured were children. The attack was accomplished by a landmine explosion that injured and killed visitors of the minority religious site.
The attacks on the Shia population in Afghanistan have been happening throughout history, and the month of July shows no exception. The violations are extreme and must be contained in many ways as possible, by advocacy and dialogues. Therefore, it is essential to continue with the efforts to always advocate for minority rights in this country.
Anti-Shiism varies in nature in Bahrain, but no matter the violation, the country continues to be unsafe for the Shia majority. The violations are constant, ongoing, and non-stop. Anti-Shiism during July was expressed in the forms of executions, medical negligence in prisons, contaminated food, and prohibition to pray in individual religious sites.
Activists suffered from a tremendous amount of torture during the years they were arrested and confessed to crimes also while under extreme torture.
During July, another hunger strike was seen in the Jaw Prison. A cancer survival teen, Ahmad Al-Arab went on a hunger strike after being put into solitary. Al-Arab was also denied medical treatment for his injuries. Many detained Shias are denied essential health and medical treatments.
Other prisoners have reported food contamination, and one of them stated that “either you die of hunger or poisoned by the food.” The jaw prison administration has refused to comment on allegations of lacking prison conditions.
The situation in this Kingdom is extremely worrisome to the Shia community. Authorities are once again depriving Shia of their rights to practice their faith.
In an incident this month, “people were summoned by the police and ordered to sign a pledge not to organize congregational prayers at mosques.” Congregational prayers are opportunities for the community to join together under a singular identity. By denying the right to gather, authorities aim to dispel Shia traditions and identities.
Later in the month in the Kingdom of Bahrain, three Shia activists were executed. The charges were under “terrorist crimes,” and Bahrain described the allegedly attacks as “orchestrated by Iran-based ringleaders.” Labeling Bahraini activists as foreign agents is outrageous and extremely bad for, not only the government of Bahrain but also for activists. First, this action marginalizes and discredits the work that activists were doing in the country. Secondly, by labeling, the government opened doors for foreign influence, since the activists can no longer rely on its government, they may begin relying on others. Shia activists have expressed a lack of connections to foreign influences, yet they continue to be labeled as outsiders in their nation-state.
Moreover, following the execution, a jailed Bahraini Shiite Cleric, Sheikh Isa Al-Qaffas, was assaulted by an officer at Jaw Prison for mourning the death of the two activists.
The United Nations strongly condemned the executions of these activists, yet the government took no action to release other activists or engage in peacebuilding dialogue.
Meanwhile, international rights groups have repeatedly criticized the regime for marginalizing Bahrain’s Shia majority. These violations should not be tolerated, and more efforts to eradicate and prevent violations should be established, not only by the government but also by the international community.
Similar to June, another attack on a Shiite mosque occurred. The attacks on mosques are becoming more frequent and violent, a demonstration that the violations against the Shia majority are still very present in Iraq.
Two suicide bombers detonated their vests near a Shia mosque on July 15th in Baghdad, killing five and leaving more than 14 injured. Later on, ISIS claimed responsibility for the atrocious and violent attack.
Although Iraq went through a period of relative calmness, attacks on Shia civilians continue and, before July, other suicide bombings took place in the capital.
The situation in this specific country during July was extremely troublesome. The detention of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife continue to be the main focus for turbulence in the country, and the health of the Sheikh continues to deteriorate. Toxic elements, such as lead and cadmium were found in his blood. Those substances are elements that are associated with neurological impairment, and the consumption of it can cause a burden of heavy metals in the body.
While the Sheikh’s health continues to deteriorate and even with all the protests, the Nigerian court ruled out an extraordinary application for bail on medical grounds, leaving it almost impossible for the Sheikh to be released.
Due to the extreme circumstances of the Sheikh, a wave of protests took place in July in Nigeria. The first wave of demonstrations was turned from peaceful to violent after the police opened fire and killed two when protesters tried to enter the assembly; 40 Shiites were arrested, and three were wounded because of the tear gas.
On the second wave of protests to free Sheikh Zakzaky, 65 were arrested, and 38 members of the Shiite Islamic Movement were brought before the court to answer to a criminal charge, where all pledged not guilty.
During another protest in Abuja, the Nigerian Army opened fire and killed one supporter and injured two others.
On July 22nd, there was another deadly attack in Abuja. The protests in Nigeria continued to escalate in the hands of the authorities. The police fired tear gas and opened fire against members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, which led to a confrontation between protesters and the police; 13 Shias were killed, including a journalist; many were injured.
After these protests, other incidents occurred. First, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria accused the Nigerian Police of holding on to at least 15 corpses of protesters that died during the manifestations. Secondly, after arresting some of the protesters, 3 of them died in custody due to wounds inflicted during the violent protests.
Also, after the deadly protests, the Nigerian Court declared the Shiite movement as a terrorist group, stating that “Any person engaged or associating, in any manner that could advance the activities of the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), shall be treated as a terrorist, enemy of the state, and a subversive element and shall be brought to justice.” This statement can lead to many implications, such as labeling because it impacts the perception of others on what the group is.
Conflict in Nigeria is still escalating, and yet the international community continues to monitor conditions passively. Nothing has been done to protect the Shia community against all the violations, and the terms in this country are far from improving.
It is imperative that the violations are addressed in Nigeria, through advocacy for human rights to protect the rights of all Shia minority, and prevent future violence.
The security forces of the country put in place in the city of Quetta stringent security measures in the form of inspections and checkpoints. The measures were claimed to be as a means of protection for Shia Muslims.
Unfortunately, the actions intended to protect the lives of Shia only increased the separation between the Hazara Shiites and society. The measures did not solve the anti-Shiism violations that the Shia community is going through in the country of Pakistan.
Violations of anti-Shiism in the nation of Pakistan are directly sourced from the extremist organization and culturally reinforced by State agents. Recent efforts much like that of increased security measures have been taken in response to local protest. Yet, the measures put in place have to lead to reduced mobility of Shia and non-Shia residences in the area.
On July 2nd, Saudi Arabia’s forces attacked the province of al-Qatif and raided the area. According to locals, the security forces opened fire near an apartment complex in town, and many residents reported having their houses invaded. Later in the month, the Specialized Criminal Court of Saudi Arabia handed down a death sentence to the Shia anti-regime activist, Ali Al-Rabie, from Qatif. The report came as Saudi authorities executed two brothers, Ahmad and Hossein, on April 23 over their political activism.
Saudi Arabia is known for subjecting its violations towards the Shia community, especially by exposing prisoners to various forms of extreme torture. These apparent violations, as well as the blatant disregard for human rights displayed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, cannot continue if we wish to foster hope for a more equitable world. Measures should be taken to prevent incidents from happening again and to continue to advocate for human rights for all, precisely the Shia community.
Far from countries with Shia majority in the Middle East, violations against this population exist.
This month, the violations occurred in London, where islamophobic protesters expressed opposition against all Muslims. Many carried out phrases saying, “no more mosques.”
Last month, cities in Germany and again in the city of London, violations against the Muslim community were reported, including attacks on mosques and the Quran, an action that should not be tolerated by the International community.
Trends in anti-Shiism in July point to continued violence against Shia Muslims. It is essential that strict measures are taken and advocacy is increased to prevent any anti-Shiism from happening, and an increase in security for this population should be established in all countries were violations were reported. The international and regional communities must work in solidarity against these violations if any change is to be seen.
Shia Rights Watch promotes actions aimed at increasing tolerance and reform for human rights all over the world. Shia Rights Watch invites all countries to respect the rights of not only Shia Muslims, but all minority groups.