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Incidents of Anti-Shiism, January 2021

Shia Rights Watch has recorded 245 cases of anti-Shiism in the month of January. Incidents of direct violence occurred in the countries of Bahrain, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. 

Shia Rights Watch notes that the true effects of anti-Shia violence, including but not limited to generational trauma, cannot be quantified. We continue to monitor and report conditions faced by Shia Muslims all over the world in efforts to raise awareness and reduce human rights violations. 


The Kingdom of Bahrain stood witness to 10 incidents of anti-Shiism. 

Four of those incidents have been arrests. Early in the month, the son of orator Hussain Mahdi Sahwan, Muhatir Sahwan was arrested. Authorities based his arrest on his participation in a commemorative gathering.

On the 10th of the month, authorities arrested Miqdad Al-Ajimi and Hassan Al-Ajimi in raids in Abu Quwa. 

Later in the month in Manama, Ali Hussain was arrested upon his summoning to the local police station. In Ma’ameer another young man was arrested by authorities without a warrant. 

On the 29th of January, attendees at the Sitra Cemetary were arrested as they visited the gravesite of their loved ones. 

Despite being a majority, Shia Muslims continue to be prosecuted on the basis of their religious identity. Participation in commemorative gatherings has been used as a basis for detainment. While the congregation of Shia Muslims has long been criminalized in the Kingdom of Bahrain, recent waves of the coronavirus have been used as an excuse to further limit religious expression among Shia Muslims. 

Family of those arrested report harsh conditions for prisoners. The family of Sheikh Ashour reports a lack of contact with him for months. They expressed immense concern as evidence of torture was previously seen on the cleric. 

Further reports have been made by detainees in Bahrain’s detention centers, one of which is Jaws Prison, of violence and abuse. 


With 116 injuries and 58 deaths, Iraq stood witness to the highest number of Shia rights violations in the month of January. 

On the 21st of January, two bombings in central Baghdad killed 32 and injured 110 others. Early in the day, a suicide bomber lured a crown around himself by feigning illness. He detonated his explosive vest as a crowd gathered. Another perpetrator targeted aid workers with a secondary detonation. 

The January attack was the second double bombing in Tayaran Square since 2017. 

Other attacks occurred in Diyala, Amara, Anbar, Mosul, Salah-d-Din, and Najaf in the form of individual assassinations and bombings. 


January 16 marked the fourth anniversary of the expiration of the 45-day caveat in which the release of Shaikh Ibrahim Zakzaky was ordered by the Abuja Federal High Court. The order has yet to be carried out. 

Late in the month, Malama Zeenat Ibrahim tested positive for Covid-19. 

Protesters took to the street in protest to harsh conditions faced by the Zakzaky couple. Two were killed as authorities used excessive violence to meet protestors. 

Late in the month, Malama Zeenat Ibrahim was temporarily released for treatment and the deceased protestors were laid to rest. Justice for those killed in peaceful protest has yet to be instituted as no action has been taken by authorities. 


Early in the month of January, ISIS assailants attacked a coal mine in Mach and killed 11 miners after identifying them as Shia Muslim. The miner’s hands were tied behind their backs and shot close range. Sources report that several victims’ throats were also slit. Upon discovery, the bodies were blood-soaked and bruised; six were dead, and 5 others died en route to the hospital. The miners were of the minority Hazara group. 

The act of anti-Shiism incited anger all over Pakistan. Demanding justice, the family of victims refused to bury their loved ones for close to a week. Bodies of the miners were placed on the road and Hazara groups gathered demanding the presence of Pakistan’s Prime Ministers Imran Khan and explicit action to protect the group against extremism. 

On the 18th of the month, the detonation of an explosive device place on the side of the road in Quetta led to the injury of two people. 

Shia Muslims in Pakistan, namely those of the Hazara group are frequently targeted by extremist assailants. Despite frequent attacks, little has been done by the government to protect the population. 

Saudi Arabia

The sentencing of six Shia Muslims has been reported to Shia Rights Watch. Renowned eulogist, Mohammad Bujabara was among those sentenced. Bujumbura was sentenced to the detainment of 9 months. The eulogist was arrested on October 4, 2020, along with eight others for participation in Arbaeen commemorations in al-Asfar.   Five others were sentenced to four months. 


A bombing in Aleppo left six dead and two dozens others injured. A car bomb detonated killing civilians, three of which were children. The incident occurred in Afrin City, Aleppo on January 30. 


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