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Incidents of Anti-Shiism, November 2019

Incidents of Anti-Shiism, November 2019

In November, Shia Rights Watch continues its oversight on anti-Shia incidents all over the world. Events noted in this statement are a collection of violence against Shia Muslims reported by grassroots activists and reporters. The organization notes that ongoing cases that follow up incidents cited in the previous analysis are not included in this monthly report. 

In addition to raising awareness, Shia Rights Watch uses Monthly Analysis to highlight events that address the Shia community. One such event was held by the Muslim Students Association and the Black Muslim Initiative and the Islamic Center of New York University, titled, “Making the Marginalized Mainstream: Being the Minority within a Minority.” At the event, university students discussed minority identities and physical appearances. Participants noted feeling marginalized by their “own community” based on their Shia beliefs and even more perception of discrimination based on skin color. Nawal Ali, a panelist at the event noted the hidden power of being a minority, “Even though I might have felt I wasn’t part of the mainstream, being different is your superpower,” Ali said. “I don’t know if mainstream should be our goal, but by being unapologetic we might be a window to Islam for somebody else, educating them.”  

Shia Rights Watch commends New York University for creating a space in which minority groups such that of the Shia identity can speak out and express their experiences. 

Shia Rights Watch notes in advance that incidents of violence, including death, injury, and social capital damage in the turbulent nations of Iraq and Iran, are not included in this statement. This organization notes that surveillance of anti-Shiism in these nations is ongoing. Due to the nature of the conflicts, however, Shia Rights Watch does not present findings in this report. More information on these conflicts and statements of this organization can be found on ShiaRightsWatch.org. 


Anti-Shiism remains a prominent source of conflict within the Kingdom of Bahrain. In November, an approximate 100 people have been arrested and sentenced without proper due process; 43 of arrests occurred within the first half of the month.

Sources report that arrests occurred prominently through midnight or early morning raids.  According to international accords taken up by Bahrain, the arrests are deemed unlawful on multiple accounts.  

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention,” and that “anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.”

Individuals were not charged at the time of arrest, according to family members present at the time of arrests. Moreover, defendants are not given opportunities to address allegations through appropriate legal means. 

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9:  “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should the occasion arise, for the execution of the judgment.”

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 14: “To be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing; to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it” 

Once taken to detainment centers, Bahraini Shia are met with inhumane conditions. Sources within Jaws Prison note the centers deteriorating infrastructure. Moreover, prisoners report excessively time in solitary confinement relative to international norms. Prisoners report spending 23 hrs a day in cells

Conditions are even more heinous for those who suffer from medical conditions, pre-existing and acquired during their time in detainment. Early this month, the family of Hassan Ali ‘Abd al-Twana’ and Ayoub Adel expressed concern over their health citing negligence in Jaws prison. Adel has been refused medical attention for the second year despite rapidly deteriorating conditions.  

Not only do prison officials refuse to provide medical attention, but they also forbid provisions supplied by family members. Detainees are prohibited from communicating with family members. 

Many have protested against the aforementioned conditions. Among those in protest is Ali al- Hajee, who has uptaken a hunger strike of approximately 90 days.

Prisoners in Jaws, however, report increased violence as a result of protests against lacking conditions in Jaws. 

In November, two minors were among those arrested. Abdul Hadi Rajab, one of the underage individuals, arrested. The youth are currently held among adult detainees, despite the ratification of international treaties that calls for the separation of adults and minors. 

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 10: “Accused juvenile persons shall be separated from adults and brought as speedily as possible for adjudication. The penitentiary system shall comprise treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their reformation and social rehabilitation. Juvenile offenders shall be segregated from adults and be accorded treatment appropriate to their age and legal status.”

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 14: In the case of juvenile persons, the procedure shall be such as will take account of their age and the desirability of promoting their rehabilitation.

Saudi Arabia

For years, human rights activists have called for the halting of arms sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In increased recognition of Saudi Arabian involvement in violations against humanity, numerous nations stopped selling arms to the Kingdom-nation. 

In November, South Africa halted the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. South Africa cited a violation of a provision prohibiting the transfer of weapons to third-parties and failure to comply with facility inspection.

The countries director for conventional arms controls within the defense ministry, Ezra Jele, noted conventions of human rights and United Nations resolutions as part of the basis of the decision. 

The halted sales make-up one-third of South Africa’s arms exports. Many have criticized the defense ministry’s decision citing loss of jobs, income, and prospects for future diplomacy. Shia Rights Watch, however, honors the halting of business based on human rights violations. The organization notes that while the decision may affect the nation’s economy in the short term, the decision signals values that, in the long run, benefit the country domestically as well as internationally. 

An increasing international sanction on sales to Saudi Arabia enforces called for actions by both limiting the Kingdom and by signaling expectations. 

Human rights violations in Saudi Arabia are extensive, especially towards religious minorities. In a single incident in November alone, eight pro-democracy activists were arrested by Saudi officials. Abdulaziz al-Hais, Sulaiman al-Saikhan al-Nasser, Wa’ad al-Muhaya, Musab Fuad, Fuad al-Farhan, Abdulmajid al-Buluwi, Abdulrahman al-Shehri, and Bader al-Rashed were intellectuals and writers were taken from their homes in Riyadh and Jeddah. Arrests were arbitrary as no specific crime was cited by the plainclothed, un-announced officers who raided homes. 

Those arrested face unknown futures. Shia Rights Watch warns against a fate like that of Hussein Ali Abdulaziz Al-Ribh, a 38-year old Awamiyah resident who lost his life while in detention in Dhahban Central Prison near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Ribh was taken in a house raid in August 2017, from his home. Activists closely following the Al-Ribh’s case fear his death to be a result of torture and medical negligence. 

Shia Rights Watch calls on the international community to continue sanctioning human rights violations, not just in the Saudi Kingdom, but all agents of violence. Actions taken today can have substantial long term impact, especially when they are made in collectives. 


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