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Incidents of Anti-Shiism in November, 2018

Shia rights violations continued in November.  Anti-Shia incidents were witnessed in some countries. Most violation reports are from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan,  and Afghanistan.  Anti-Shia violations, including but not limited to, imprisonment, physical and emotional torture, limited or no access to medical assistance, hate speech, explosion, and executions.

Shia Rights Watch notes that violence against Shia Muslims is largely unreported by victims and unreported by media outlets.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi kingdom has been under international pressure to explain its involvement in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the crown prince, at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2nd. Although Saudi Arabia has said the prince, heir to the throne of the world’s top oil exporter, had no prior knowledge of the murder the world is refusing to accept that answer given the country’s long history of suppressing its oppositions. The killing of Khashoggi affected the high-profile investment summit in Riyadh as prominent businesses and media groups have pulled out.  Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 project, the master project of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is strongly dependent on overseas investment.  The killing also prompted some political critiques too. U.S demonstrators called for an end to the Saudi-led military campaign in neighboring Yemen, which was launched by Prince Mohammed in his role as defense minister in 2015. However, since Saudi Arabia plays a fundamental role in maintaining security in the Middle East this country is given the green light to maintain its human rights violation without the fear of facing serious political consequences. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis told U.S. senators,  in a closed briefing, that “I must note we are seldom free to work with unblemished partners … Our security interests cannot be dismissed, even as we seek accountability for what President Trump described as the ‘unacceptable and horrible crime’ of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” Mattis stated to reporters.

Khashoggi’s murder is becoming a worldwide challenge, testing countries for their human rights priorities and political interests.

Political interest of the international committee has contributed to more violations against minorities in Saudi Arabia. Shia, the largest minority group within this kingdom, has been oppressed throughout the history of this kingdom without any international intervention. Based on most recent reports 34 Saudi Shia are on death row, including four minors. Twelve of these Saudi prisoners are at risk of “imminent” execution.


Afghanistan witnessed some explosions throughout the month mainly in Kabul.  At least 73 civilian casualties are reported throughout the month, with more than a hundred wounded individuals, some of which are in critical condition. Some of the explosions such as one in Malack Asqar, Kabul targeted Shia population and some targeted civilians in mixed communities. Therefore it is unclear how many of the killed belong to the Shia community. Shia Rights Watch advocates for the human right for all.

Election and peace talks between the government and Taliban have created more opportunity for unrest in the country. President Ashraf Ghani announced the formation of a 12-strong team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, but an implementation of any deal will take at least five years.

“We seek a peace agreement in which the Afghan Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society,” Ghani said, adding that any deal must fulfill certain conditions, including respecting the constitutional rights of women.


The election was the hot topic of November as Bahrainis voted in parliamentary elections on the 24th.  The polls opened in Bahrain on Saturday to elect a new parliament, but absent from the ballot is the country’s Shia dominated the opposition, whose most prominent figures are serving lengthy prison sentences. It’s the second election in Bahrain since mass protests led by the country’s Shia majority erupted in early 2011. Rights groups say this election is taking place in a repressive environment that is not conducive to free elections. Human Rights Watch noted that in June, King Hamad signed legislation that disqualifies opposition candidates from these elections by banning anyone who belonged to a dissolved political organization or who was previously convicted and sentenced to more than six months in prison from running for political office.

Shia rights violations are constant and ongoing in Bahrain and do not stop even after arrest. Bahrain prisons have become the worst known prison.  Two Bahraini detainees, Naji Fattal and Ali Al-Haji, have been transferred to solitary confinement after the release of audio recordings in which the prisoners allege torture and other abuses.  Fattal and Al-Haji also claimed that they were being denied access to desperately needed medical care to treat injuries they sustained during the grueling torture. Medical negligence is widely practiced in Bahrain’s prisons, according to activists.  Sheikh Mirza al-Mahrous who is suffering from illness in his colon, and Ammar Sahwan who needs medical attention due to gun wounds are other examples of inmates whose right to access medical attention is denied under Bahraini authority supervision.

Families of prisoners report that their visitation time has been reduced to half an hour in a month. Previously we have reported that inmates are forced to pay for their mandatory prison uniform. There are also reports of prisoners who’s location and detention status is not revealed to their families such as Ali al-Rayes who was arrested in October, yet authorities refuse to share any information on his case with his family.

November stood witness to the detention of minors. At least five minors have been reported detained by authorities due to their participation in pro-democracy protests.

After the Prophet of Islam’s birthday, the prisoners reported that they were told not to participate in any celebratory rituals.


Anti-Shiism varies in nature in Pakistan. In the past Shia population were threatened by roadside bombings and suicide explosions. More recently, an increased trend of hate speech has been reported. Witnesses reported that a cleric in Punjab critiqued his audiences for attending a Shia woman’s funeral.  He told the attendees that they are “no longer considered Muslims” and must “convert to Islam.” He further told them that “if they are married, their marriage has to be re-done.” This behavior was previously observed in Saudi trained clerics in Malaysia and  Indonesia. The clerics use their platforms to spread anti-Shia ideologies and encourage people to keep a distance from Shia individuals because they are considered non-Muslim. This NGO believes hate speeches are directly linked to increased motivation in suicide bombing such as one that claimed at least 25 Shia Muslims lives and injured dozens outside the door of a religious seminary in Hangu’s Lower Orakzai area on November 23rd.


Iraq continues to be an unsafe place for its majority Shia. An explosive device placed in a farm claimed two farmer’s lives in Diyala.

Different areas of Baghdad witnessed some explosions. Roadside bombs killed four civilians in Baghdad, another three civilians were wounded by a different roadside bomb south of Baghdad, and a third roadside bomb exploded near a commercial shop in the district of Al-Turath district south of Baghdad, wounding three civilians.

Three killed, five wounded in explosion east of Baghdad: A roadside bomb in Sadr City killed three people and wounded five others.

A civilian was killed, and two others were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded east of Baghdad roadside bomb near the northern Iraqi city of Aden killed two civilians and wounded four others, police said.

In a separate and unique case, unknown gunmen shot a cleric when he was near his house in a residential area of Basar. The cleric has since died from complications as a result of the gunshot.


Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan remain the most dangerous countries for Shia Muslims. SRW invites all countries to respect human rights of Shia Muslims as this population has proven to only participate in peaceful activities. We also urge all governments to free all prisoners and return any seized belongings.


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